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How to Make an ATS Friendly Resume - Myths, Tips, & Expert Advice

Learn what an ATS friendly resume is and debunk Applicant Tracking Systems myths. Focus on articulating your value to stand out in competitive market.

In today’s competitive job market, there's so much focus and noise around ensuring that your resume is ATS friendly. In fact, many resume writing services boast their ability to help you "bypass the ATS" or "beat the ATS." So many articles have been published on this topic that job seekers are left confused and scared.

What Does ATS Friendly Resume Really Mean?

It’s true that it's not enough to have a well-written and visually appealing resume. You need a solid search strategy and an understanding of how you uniquely add value to cut through the clutter. In addition, you will also need to pass through many layers of gatekeepers. As scary as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) seem, you don't actually want to bypass them.

What is an ATS or Applicant Tracking System?

An ATS is a software used by companies to manage and filter through the large number of resumes they receive for job openings. These systems scan resumes for specific keywords and qualifications, and function like a digital filing cabinet to store and manage candidate data.

While there is a scoring feature of ATS, many (most of the recruiters I've ever met actually) don't use this feature as widely as resume services or scanning tools would have you believe.

What Makes a Resume ATS Friendly?

What many less-than-scrupulous companies are actually helping you with is ATS parsing, which is only one function of ATS.

What is really meant by ATS friendly is a resume that is optimized to be automatically parsed by the ATS so that candidate data can be placed into the corresponding fields in internal systems.

You don't need to pay for this service. Using standard headers such as Profile, Skills, Experience, and Education will help the ATS accurately identify and automatically translate content into the correct fields.

You can also (although it's annoying) manually copy and paste content from your resume into the corresponding fields in ATS. For example, if the ATS does not correctly parse your education info, you can manually update it in the ATS before submitting your application.

One tip I suggest is to create an ATS version in plain text that is super easy to copy and paste.

Why is an ATS Friendly Resume Important?

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Big resume companies that do not take the time to consult and collaborate with each client sell things like ATS compliance. In reality, the value of a resume is to help you understand and clearly articulate the value that sets you apart in a competitive market. They are your guide to help draw you the stories and achievements that connect the dots for recruiters.

Articles by unscrupulous resume writing companies state things like: "studies have shown that up to 75% of resumes are rejected by ATS before they even reach a human recruiter. This means that even if you have the necessary qualifications and experience, your resume may never be seen if it’s not ATS friendly."

With a little more digging, there are really no formal studies that have shown this. In fact, in a myth-busting article by the Tech Recruiter, https://thetechresume.com/samples/ats-myths-busted.html, they state: "CNBC published the article 75% of resumes are never read by a human—here’s how to make sure your resume beats the bots. This article only references sources from companies who make a living selling resume services and claim that they provide resumes to “beat” this system. There is no hiring manager or tech recruiter backing up the contents."

Do I Need to Use an ATS Friendly Resume Template?

Using an ATS friendly resume template is another sales tactic. When you apply to a job, the document that you upload will be stored, whether in PDF, .doc, .docx, or plain text format.

ATS may not be able to PARSE a .doc, but the version that you uploaded will be stored.

In fact, the claim goes beyond being wrong, to borderline unethical. If you apply for a job, the company is legally required to consider your application. 

In the same article, recruiter Katherine Dumanoir who works at Amazon states the following:

"There's no ATS weeding out your resume. If you apply to a role, a company legally has to consider your application. At Amazon, if you are no longer under consideration, it was not an ATS that omitted your resume. It means that your profile/ resume didn't align with the BQs needed for the role and the team has chosen to move forward with others. This is the purpose of large tech companies having "sourcers"."

Use Keywords from the Job Description

Another big claim is that one of the main functions of an ATS is to scan resumes for specific keywords and qualifications. There is a scoring feature within ATS, but the real reason you need to have keywords is so that you can ensure you are speaking to the qualifications of the role.

For example, it would be pretty difficult to make your application for an HR Manager role credible without words like employee engagement, retention, and benefits, right?

To increase your chances of getting through the initial recruiter screen, make sure to include keywords from the job description in your resume.

Carefully read the job description and identify the keywords and skills that are mentioned. Then, make sure to include these keywords in your resume, especially in the skills and experience sections.

Use Simple Formatting

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To ensure your resume is easily readable by HUMANS, the actual people who hire people, use simple formatting. 

You don't need to use only Arial or Times New Roman like many of these ridiculous claims state.

Way back when, before technology advanced to what we have in 2024, ATS parsing was processed via OCR or ocular recognition technology. This meant that parsing was impossible if you used non-standard fonts.

Let's be real here. In 2024, cars are driving themselves. You really think enterprise technology cannot read a font other than Arial or TNR?

As Amy Miller, LinkedIn top voice, Amazon recruiter, and author of www.recruitinginyogapants.com states: "When you upload your information (either by applying directly to a role, utilizing "Easy Apply" on LinkedIn, or uploading a general resume for broad consideration) you are IN the ATS. You don't get "past" it to a new place. You're in the ATS, and your information is processed. You're attached to a req, you're moved to different stages, you're ultimately hired or rejected or withdrawn from consideration. You're STILL in the ATS. Where real live people can see your data. Focus on making your data relevant."


In today’s job market,  there is enough for candidates to worry about. Whether or not their resume is ATS friendly shouldn't be one of them.

What candidates do need to focus on is identifying focus roles to target their searches for, getting super clear on their unique value proposition, and crafting relevant, quantified resume content that supports their candidacy.

There are no hacks, no secret tricks, no robots eating resumes.

Avoid fighting invisible resume bots and focus on clearly articulating value. That's the secret that will help you stand out in a sea of applicants and land your dream job.

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