Back to ALl posts

20 ways to optimize ATS Resume: Do's and Don'ts For Every Job Application

Author —
Astley
January 13, 2021

The ATS resume do’s and don’ts for 2021 - what are they?

You do want your resume to make it past the applicant tracking system (ATS) and to reach your hiring manager. The goal is to get hired for the job posting at the company you’ve applied for. 

But surely, you don’t want your resume to be denied in the early stages. 

In this guide, we’ve listed the 20 ATS resume do’s and don’ts as well as our top 5 formatting resume tips we believe every job seeker should know. Before we get into it, we’ll first learn what applicant tracking systems are so you know what you should expect for almost every job you apply to.

What are Applicant Tracking Systems?

Applicant tracking systems are computer systems used by organizations to manage job applications. 

The ATS will read your resume. Then, it ranks and scores your qualifications against the company’s job description. 

Only those applicants who receive high scores will get a call for an interview. Follow the ATS formatting tips below and you will greatly increase the likelihood of rising to the top of the list. 

If you want a quicker solution check out Rezi’s ATS-friendly Resume Templates!

Top 5 ATS Resume Formatting Tips 

1. Be Wary of Graphical Resume Templates

Not all graphical resume templates can be read by the ATS. To be on the safe side, you should avoid overly designed resumes to begin with. The ATS resume format won’t read visual graphics such as tables, columns, colours, and more.

2. Save Your Resume as a PDF

If you’re not using a resume template, use a standard Word document to build your resume. When you do, save your application as a PDF file. Not all ATS systems can read .docx, RTF, and JPG file types.

3. Use a Simple Layout

Do not use images, footers, graphical templates, borders, symbols (bullet points are fine), shading or coloring. The standard resume should start with your header which contains your contact details, followed along by the appropriate resume sections. 

4. Customize Each Resume For The Specific Position Using The Job Description

Every resume you send needs to be personalized and tailored for each company you apply for.

That means you should be referring back to the job description each time you send a new application. A common mistake job seekers tend to make is sending the same resume even if it’s a different organization.

“One-size-fits-all” does not work with applicant tracking systems. 

Use relevant, targeted keywords and phrases for the position being sought. Be specific — i.e., “Adobe Photoshop” instead of “image-editing software”). 

5. Use Keywords and Phrases in Context 

Keywords and phrases are important in beating the ATS. Taking that into consideration, it also means you shouldn’t use them just for the sake of it. Include them into descriptive achievement-oriented bullet points.

When the hiring manager comes to review it themselves and it doesn’t make sense, it won’t do you much good. 

6. Use Rezi's AI Resume Builder

Rezi's AI resume builder ranks your resume based on the keywords you’ve included, and by comparing it to the job description. You’ll be provided with a list of things that you need to include to reach your hiring manager.

It’s really simple. 

You upload the job description of the company into Rezi. Click the button and you’ll have everything you need to secure your interview.

What Are The Do’s and Don’ts of a Resume?

There are 20 key resume do’s and don’ts. Take these into account as you’re writing and editing your application!

1. Do Use Your Personal Connections

Your resume will normally need to be submitted through the company’s ATS. If you make it past the first stage and it reaches your employers, it’s a good idea to include any personal connections in your network that you have inside the company. While it’s not a requirement for the ATS, it can give you a competitive advantage when compared to other candidates!

2. Do Use The Exact Job Position Title You’re Applying For

When applying for a specific position, use that exact job title on your resume. There’s a strong chance it’s one of the keyword requirements and it makes your work experience more relevant, which can position you as an ideal applicant.

3. Do List The Dates For Employment or Education 

Ideally, these should be listed at the right hand side of your resume. It’s a clear and readable location for your reader.

4. Do Include Context Statements 

If you wish to include a context statement describing the organization you worked with, do include that statement after the organization name, your title, and employment dates.

5. Consider Including Section Headers in ALL CAPS

Do consider including section headers in ALL CAPS to make it easy for the applicant tracking system to categorize the information. It would also make it easier for a human reader to skim through and find the key details.

6. Do Include Certifications

If you are working towards a certification that is a requirement for the position, include it on your resume! Just make sure you include a phrase such as “Pursuing (name of credential)”.

7. Do Check Your Email After Making an Online Application

Some applicant tracking systems acknowledge submission. However, these automated responses may be diverted to your spam folder. That’s why it’s important to check your email every so often so you don’t miss that opportunity!

8. Do Upload Your Resume

If given the choice, upload your resume rather than cutting and pasting sections into text boxes. When it is eventually forwarded to a human reader (i.e. your recruiters), it will look much more attractive.

9. Do Be Mindful of Special Characters and Accents

Some words and phrases can be misinterpreted by an applicant tracking system — for example, accented words. The word “résumé” itself is not ATS-friendly. The ATS does not recognize the accented letters. Instead, it reads it as “r?sum?.” 

10. Do Try to Keep It a One-Page Resume

One-page resumes work best for the ATS and your hiring managers. By condensing everything into a single page, it’s easier to read through and tends to leave a stronger impression.

11. Do Use Sans-Serif Fonts

Resume fonts such as Calibri, Ariel, and Roboto look professional and modern. It’s more up to date and gives your resume a smooth look.

What Should Not Be On a Resume?

There are 9 things you shouldn’t do on your resume. Keep these in mind for every job application you send!

1. Don’t List Your Credentials Next To Your Name

I’m referring to MBA, CPA, GPA, etc. Don’t include these next to your name. Instead, put that information on a separate line.

2. Don’t Include Skills You Don’t Possess

Don’t try to fool the applicant tracking system into selecting you. Anything on your resume needs to be substantiated in an interview, or increasingly in a skills-based test beforehand. Lying on your resume in general won’t get you far.

3. Don’t Mix Different Fonts

The format and style of your job applications should be consistent. It’s more sensible for the recruiter and easier to identify/remember. If you’re mixing fonts between your cover letter and in your resume, it won’t look as professional. 

4. Don’t Feel The Need to Create a Stripped Down Document

In the old days you would save documents in .txt format with absolutely no formatting before submitting it online. That’s because your resume will eventually be seen by a human being, so using some simple resume formats such as bold, caps, and bullet points will improve your resume’s readability..

5. Don’t Center Your Text

Make sure your experience section is left aligned — otherwise, the ATS may have trouble “parsing” your resume.

6. Don’t Abbreviate Your Credentials

The ATS is about matching the keywords from the job description to your resume. It’s best to write out any full keywords rather than abbreviating those credentials.

7. Don’t Write in Big Paragraphs

Use bullet points instead. When you write in big paragraphs, it’s difficult to highlight key pieces of information and make it readable for the hiring manager. There are no resume formatting issues with this as well as it’s readable by the ATS.

8. Don’t Include Personal Information

Don’t mention your gender, current salary, or nationality on your resume. It’s not necessary. Your contact details are the only main personal information employers should know that need to be on your resume.

9. Don’t Forget to Follow Instructions

Don’t forget to follow the job application guidelines. Just sending over your resume without following specific instructions is a red flag for employers. They may request things from you such as a cover letter. If you’ve been requested something and you fail to submit it, it can show incompetence. 

Conclusion 

There you have it — the big list of resume do’s and don’ts. Follow these rules and the ATS will be your best friend.

We understand that writing a resume is challenging enough. 

That’s why over 120,000 job seekers and users trust our AI resume builder to ATS optimize their application. We’ve built an app where you only have to focus on resume writing and not the format itself. 

You’re only a few minutes away from sending a resume that can land your next interview!

This article's author, Astley, is an avid content marketer who specializes as an SaaS copywriter. Learn more at Minimalist Copy

Related Articles

Go to blog

How to Beat The Applicant Tracking System Easy

An applicant tracking system is recruiting software employers to use to find the best candidates for a job opening.

February 25, 2021

62 Important Resume Skills to Use On Your Job Application (With Examples)

There are two main types of skills to put on a resume that every ATS and hiring manager will expect.

July 20, 2021