5 Resume Formatting Rules For The ATS

Besides working through the content for your resume, another area you need to carefully consider is formatting and whether your resume will make it through the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Related: Resume Checklist: Must-Haves & Must-Dos Many employers have come to rely on the ATS to help filter out a select few candidates for consideration with each job opening. In fact, it’s not uncommon for employers to receive as many as 400 resumes for a job opening, but to only pick out the top 20 ranked by ATS software for review by a person.


5 Resume Formatting Rules For The ATS

If you don’t want your resume falling into a black hole, follow these resume formatting rules.

1. File format.

Save your resume as a .doc or .txt file. This ensures your resume can be read by ATS software. The newer version of Microsoft Word will have you saving your files as .docx, but keep in mind not everyone is on board with the updated software. Saving your resume file as .doc ensures it can be read whether the employer is using a newer or older version of Microsoft Word. Note that many Applicant Tracking System cannot read PDF files.

2. Search terms.

The ATS software works by searching for required terms the employer puts in, and the resumes with the most matches to the search terms get a higher ranking. As a job seeker, you may never know exactly what all the terms are, but you can pretty much figure what is a close match. Review the job posting for keywords. Also look at job postings from other employers for the same position for relevant keywords.

3. Punctuation.

Mind how you use certain words on your resume that may be spelled multiple ways. Also, beware of the slash in between two words. For instance, “healthcare” may also be spelled “health care.” Carefully review the employer’s job posting and website to determine the most appropriate match. For words you may use between a slash, like “Auditing/Accounting” or “Software/Hardware,” add a space between the word and the slash. The software may not have the combination of the words with a slash as a term.

4. No tables, text boxes, headers, footers, graphics, images, or special characters.

Simply put, the ATS can’t read it.

5. Don’t add a list of keywords.

If you think you can cover all keyword bases by simply adding a list of keywords at the very end of your resume, you’re going to be disappointed. The ATS looks at specific sections of the resume to find keyword matches, like in Professional Summary, Work Experience, and so on. For a better shot of your resume making it past the ATS, don’t forget these resume formatting rules!

Related Posts

How To Customize Your Resume 3 Tips For Flaunting Your Value On Your Resume How To Make Dates On A Resume Work For You

About the author

Don Goodman’s firm was rated as the #1 Resume Writing Service in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Don is a triple-certified, nationally recognized Expert Resume Writer, Career Management Coach and Job Search Strategist who has helped thousands of people secure their next job. Check out his Resume Writing Service. Get a Free Resume Evaluation or call him at 800.909.0109 for more information. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CAREEREALISM-approved expert. You can learn more about expert posts here. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

In our new YouTube series, "Well This Happened" it's your turn to be the career coach! What would you do if you asked a coworker when the baby was due and she responded with, "I'm not pregnant." Watch the video and cast your vote b posting a comment on Youtube. We'll select one person from the correct answers at random to win free membership to the Work It Daily program. Good luck!

SHOW MORE Show less

If you've ever wondered what a Work It Daily (WID) membership could do for you, a letter we got this week provides a powerful example...

SHOW MORE Show less

There are 3 things hiring managers are trying to initially assess about you in the job interview. This video walks you through what they are looking for and offers insights into the right information to give them. Be sure to check out our free resources mentioned in the video too. They are:

SHOW MORE Show less

Last week during my Office Hours on Youtube, a client asked about how to deal with a workplace bully. After spending many years in corporate HR, I flipped to the other side and became a career therapist. So, I've seen both sides of this situation in the workplace. In this video, I discuss why people struggle to deal with bullies and what you can do to change the situation instantly.

This week, I did something that truly scared me. I sent an email to over 120,000 Work It Daily newsletter subscribers and asked them to answer the question, "What do we do?"

SHOW MORE Show less

A market correction is going to happen. When it does, layoffs will follow. I've been in the HR and recruiting industry for over two decades and have seen three recessions of varying sizes. In the video above, I explain how to tell when a recession is coming and what that means to you and your career. While many people will skip watching this. Or, will watch it and do nothing. I hope YOU are the smart, savvy professional who sees how important it is to prepare for unexpected, unwelcomed career circumstances.

SHOW MORE Show less

In this video, you'll learn how to tell if your career is plateauing due to the Executive Blues. You'll also learn what you can do to fix the problem and get your "executive energy" back so you can keep your career on track and set goals to reach new heights of success!

Want to watch the full video tutorial by J.T.?

CLICK HERE to get access!