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Best Practices for Writing an ATS-Friendly Resume

Hey there, career aligners! Ever feel like your resume is playing hide-and-seek with hiring managers? One minute you’re sending it out, full of hope, and the next it’s lost in the abyss. Don’t worry; it’s not you—it’s the dreaded Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Think of your resume as your personal marketing material—it needs to clearly communicate your value and qualifications while navigating the complex maze of ATS filters. Crafting an ATS-friendly resume is crucial, but it’s as easy as fitting an elephant into a Smart car. Why don’t you just ask me to juggle flaming swords while riding a unicycle?

 

Imagine your resume as a blockbuster movie trailer. It needs to grab attention, tell a compelling story, and leave the audience (or in this case, the hiring manager) wanting more. But before it gets to the human audience, it has to impress the ATS, a digital gatekeeper that scans for specific keywords, formats, and relevant information.

 

Sure, there are plenty of online resume builders out there claiming their templates are ATS-friendly, but without hard data to back it up, I prefer to play it safe. At Laurintium, we’ve nailed down a straightforward yet powerful approach that consistently delivers results. Remember, like any good marketing material, your resume needs continuous tweaking, testing, and a bit of your unique charm. There’s no perfect resume, but with the right strategies, you can significantly boost your chances of getting noticed.

Understanding ATS and Why It Matters

Applicant Tracking Systems are software applications used by employers to automate the initial screening of resumes. These systems scan your resume for keywords, formatting, and relevant information to determine if you’re a match for the job. According to recent studies, about 75% of resumes are never seen by human eyes due to ATS filtering them out. Shockingly, around 60% of these rejections are due to formatting issues alone. This means that even if you have the perfect qualifications, your resume could still be discarded if it doesn’t adhere to ATS-friendly formatting.

 

So, how do you know if an ATS is being used? Here are a few telltale signs:

 

  • Job Posting Details: Look for mentions of “applicant tracking” or “resume screening software” in the job posting.

  • Application Process: If the application process involves filling out detailed online forms that seem to replicate information on your resume, an ATS is likely being used.

  • Large Companies: Larger organizations and corporations are more likely to use ATS due to the high volume of applications they receive.

  • Online Platforms: Job listings on major employment websites (like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Glassdoor) often utilize ATS to manage the influx of applications.

Formatting Tips for an ATS-Friendly Resume

  1. Use Simple Formatting: Stick to a clean, professional layout with standard fonts like Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman. Avoid using fancy fonts, graphics, or tables that ATS may not parse correctly. Leverage different font weights to create visual variety.

  2. Optimize Keyword Placement: Incorporate relevant keywords naturally throughout your resume, especially in the professional summary, skills section, and job descriptions. Tailor these keywords to match the job description to which you’re applying.

  3. Bullet Points for Clarity: Use bullet points to list your achievements and responsibilities. This format helps ATS parse information more effectively and allows recruiters to quickly scan your qualifications.

  4. Avoid Headers and Footers: ATS may have trouble reading text in headers and footers, so include your contact information and essential details in the main body of your resume.

  5. File Format: Save your resume as a PDF or a plain text document (.txt) to ensure compatibility with different ATS systems. Avoid using formats like .docx unless specified by the employer.

Date Formatting and Completeness: Ensure that all dates are formatted consistently (e.g., “January 2020 – Present”) and that your resume includes complete information for each job entry. Missing dates or inconsistent formatting can confuse ATS and result in your resume being discarded. Make sure to fill out all sections thoroughly, including education, work history, and any certifications.

Leveraging Feedback and Insights

An often overlooked aspect of resume crafting is the importance of feedback. Seek input from trusted colleagues, mentors, or professional resume reviewers. While there is no perfect resume and everyone may have different presences or thoughts, it can still be useful. They can provide valuable insights and identify areas that may need improvement. I can write a resume like MJ can slam dunk, I hasve a knack for reading between the lines and finding the story in every client. What my clients tell me is most invaluable to them is my ability to extract – often times they underestimate just how much they have to work with in terms of skills, experiences etc. which means they are trying to build a Lego set without realizing they’ve left a bag of parts in the box. If you are going to get feedback, remember to be specific in your request – what do you want the reviewer to focus/comment on, how would you like the feedback – marked up in the document or via email. It’s the little things that make this process easier but help your reviewers to give you the best feedback. Whatever you do – always keep a master .docx version and use version control – this is Resume 101 but you’ll be surprised how many emails I receive “Lauryn do you still have a copy of that version of my resume from 2011… the one where we …”

 

At Laurintium, we offer personalized resume reviews that not only focus on ATS optimization but also on how well your resume tells your unique story – and yes we do have that version from 2011 – let me just go get that from the archives!

The Role of Networking in Resume Success

While an ATS-friendly resume is essential, remember that networking plays a crucial role in job hunting. A well-networked professional is more likely to get their resume into the hands of decision-makers, bypassing the ATS altogether. Attend industry events, engage in online professional communities, and connect with recruiters on platforms like LinkedIn. Personal referrals can significantly increase the chances of your resume being seen by the right people.

Conclusion: Crafting Your ATS-Friendly Resume

Crafting an ATS-friendly resume requires a blend of technical know-how and strategic content placement. It’s both an art and a science and mastering it takes time. By following these best practices—using simple formatting, optimizing keywords, and continuously testing your resume’s effectiveness—you’ll increase your chances of passing through ATS and landing interviews.

 

Remember, it’s all about testing and experimentation—don’t aim for perfection or take a one-and-done approach. Your resume is a living document; it will evolve, change, and multiply into many versions tailored to the roles you are applying for. Each version should tell the best story for that specific opportunity.

 

Stay proactive in updating and refining your resume to reflect your latest achievements and skills. Let your resume tell the story of your professional journey, highlighting your growth and the unique qualities you bring to each role. With persistence and attention to detail, you can create a resume that not only navigates ATS but also impresses hiring managers with your qualifications and potential.

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