ATS Resume Template: Plus 9 Tips for Creating an ATS Friendly Resume (2021)

A well-written resume can take hours to create and polish. 

So it’s understandably discouraging when the document you spent hours crafting doesn’t make it past the dreaded applicant tracking system (ATS). 

An ATS is software that’s used by hiring teams to help them collect, scan, and rank submitted resumes. 

And you’re not wrong to be apprehensive. More than 95% of large companies use an ATS to analyze resumes and 75% of resumes are never even read by a human. 

Luckily, there are ways to beat the bots – and design a resume that performs well on an ATS scan. 

Below we’re going to outline how applicant tracking systems actually work, present an ATS friendly template, and share nine ATS resume tips to create a resume that will increase your chances of getting to the next step in the hiring process!


What is an applicant tracking system (ATS)?

An ATS is essentially software that prescreens resumes. And although ATS systems can differ by company, they’re all designed to quickly analyze resumes according to specific algorithms. 

As you can imagine, large companies receive thousands of applications every month. An ATS can significantly speed up the overall recruitment process by reducing the amount of required manual (i.e., human) review required. 


How does an ATS work?

Consider an ATS to be a type of gatekeeper for hiring managers. It ranks candidates by most to least qualified and shows the hiring team who might be the best fit for the job. 

If a resume is formatted correctly and includes the right keywords – and passes the ATS screening – it’s typically then reviewed by a human decision-maker. These elements are essential to get right to ensure that you make it past this first screening step.


ATS resume template for Word

Check out this free 2021 Word resume template optimized specifically for ATS scans. Designed for all types of experience levels — from beginner to experienced — this template is easy to download and add in your details. 

ATS resume template

Download the free template here.


How to create an ATS friendly resume

Customize the above template by following these nine tips. 


1. Don’t get fancy with your resume.

There are times when glitz and glam are appropriate in the business world. Your resume is not one of those times. 

Fancy templates with different fonts and graphics are difficult for ATS’s to interpret. Your information gets scrambled in the system and never even makes it to the hiring manager. Create a straightforward resume that’s easy for an ATS to scan. 

One way to do this is to order your information chronologically (i.e. organize experience from most recent to oldest). Avoid fancy graphics, italics, and underlining. Also avoid unique fonts. Instead, go with common fonts like Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial and a standard 11 point font size.

It might hurt if you’re the creative type, but trust us; an ATS isn’t grading you on creativity.


2. Include standard headings

Write section headings that an applicant tracking system can easily understand and organize.

Think of an ATS as being an older, traditional recruiter who has 30 years of experience under their belt. Creative headers like “Why I’m the Perfect Fit” or “Where I Graduated” aren’t going to resonate. It actually confuses the system.

Here are standard resume headings that are recognized by ATS software:

  • Profile
  • Education
  • Work Experience
  • Skills
  • Volunteer Work
  • Certifications

You can also refer back to the ATS friendly resume template for standard section headings. Another tip? Don’t combine certain resume sections together as an ATS might not be able to properly organize the information.


3. Optimize your resume for keywords

The right keywords are the bread and butter for your resume. An ATS scans for keywords that match with the job description. Include exact keywords that show an ATS that you’re qualified for the job.

To do this, scroll through the job description and make a list of the keywords. Say that you’re looking at a job description for a marketing manager position. Keywords might include:

  • Marketing Campaign
  • Sales and Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Public Relations
  • Adobe Photoshop

Include these keywords 2-3 times throughout your resume. 

Also, keywords like “go-getter” and “hard worker” aren’t going to cut it for an ATS (or a hiring manager for that matter). Use specific keywords that are on the job description rather than vague buzzwords.


4. Customize your resume to match the job description

A company programs an ATS to score resumes by specific criteria. Your resume needs to match the criteria set in a specific job description as closely as possible to make it to the next level. 

Maybe the job description says you need to have two years of experience with SEO. A qualifying question in the ATS might then be, “How many years of SEO experience do you have?” 

If you say “one year of experience,” the system will likely automatically reject or lower your score since you don’t meet the criteria. Tailor your resume to the job description as much as you can (without making anything up) to help your resume get through the ATS scan. 


5. Remove tables, columns, headers, and footers

In a regular Word document, elements such as tables and columns make everything easier to read. In a resume, however, these elements cause significant problems for ATS software as it can’t comprehend the format. 

Your resume’s original organization can also be scrambled by the software, causing your information to not make any sense. Instead of these elements, use standard circle bullet points to present your experience and skills.


6. Make your contact info easy for the software to find

A common mistake with resumes is placing contact info in the header or footer of the design. This makes it difficult for ATS software to identify the information.

Place contact information such as your name, phone number and email address front and center, at the top of the resume, but don’t include it in a header. 


7. Spell out degrees and abbreviations

While abbreviations and acronyms are helpful to make your resume succinct, ATS software isn’t always programmed to recognize the info.

Here’s an easy fix. For example, if you earned an MBA, spell out “Masters of Business Administration” but then include “MBA” in parentheses. No matter what keyword the ATS or recruiter uses, your info should pop up.

Hint: As much as you may want to show off your qualifications, don’t place titles after your name in the contact info. The ATS can garble the content. Instead, weave the info into the body of your resume as keywords. 


8. Proofread for formatting mistakes

Don’t let your resume get stopped by ATS software because of silly formatting mistakes. Watch out specifically for extra spaces between words. 

For example, say that you include the keyword “content marketing” in your resume. If there’s an extra space between the words “content marketing,” an ATS won’t recognize the keyword. Carefully go back through your resume before submitting and check for extra spaces.

Another resume problem? Incorrect date formatting. When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with the MM/YYYY format (although spelling out the month and numerically presenting the year such as “June 2018” can work as well).


9. Send your resume as a Word doc

How have you submitted your resume in the past? 43% of resumes are submitted in an incompatible file type. Surprisingly, PDF can be an incompatible file type for many ATS systems. 

Unless the application platform specifically says that you can submit a PDF file, submit your resume as a Word document (docx. or doc.). 

Hint: Since some ATS systems show the resume file name to the hiring manager, create a professional resume title such as with your first and last name. Ex. katiejohnson.docx.


Use these ATS resume tips and template to pass the ATS test

An ATS scan doesn’t have to mean a death sentence for your resume. By optimizing for keywords and using an ATS-friendly format, your resume has a better chance of passing an ATS test and reaching the hiring manager.  

An airtight way to ensure your resume passes the ATS test is to work with a resume writing service. ResumeSpice is here to help. Our team of experts will work with you to create a powerful resume, optimized to pass ATS screeners. Please contact us today to learn about our services! 

What Format is Right for My Resume?

Whether you’re creating a new resume from scratch, or polishing an existing one, it’s vital you use the right format if you want to get noticed and stand out to hiring managers. But what’s the difference between different formats – and which is the best resume format to use? Here’s the information you need:

Chronological vs. Functional Resumes

There are two common types of resume formats:

  • Chronological Resume Format: This is where you list your most recent work experience first and then work backwards. This is the most common resume and for good reason: hiring managers prefer this approach.
  • Functional Resume Format: This format focuses more on skills and abilities, rather than listing a reverse chronological work history. It can be tempting to use this type of format to hide career gaps and/or job hopping. However, hiring managers are savvy and will quickly pick up on the tactic. In fact, we strongly recommend against using a functional resume format.

So now that we’ve ruled out a functional resume format, what does a chronological resume entail?

This is the best resume format to use because it’s simple and easy to follow for hiring managers. It includes:

  • Your name, email, phone and city/state at the top.
  • A one (maximum, two) sentence branding statement highlighting your unique background. 
  • Your work history listed in reverse chronological order, with bulleted points under each job title explaining your role and relevant achievements.
  • Your educational history, including the school where you went, the year you graduated and your degree.
  • Any other pertinent information, such as volunteer experience, technical skills, or other abilities that are important for a potential employer to know about.

Need more help with your resume?

Check out our resume templates for some great examples. Or simply give us a call. We know the best resume formats to use in 2018, all so you can stand out to employers and get a call for an interview. To get started or learn more, contact us today at 832.930.7378.

What Type of Resume Writing Format is Best?

Resume writing sounds easy enough. You write out your job history and experience, then sit back and wait for the interview offers to come in. But when it comes to actually putting pen to paper, many candidates get stuck. With so much on the line, it’s a lot of pressure. Where do you even begin?

Start with the format of your resume. Once you have your work and education history properly organized into a clear format, the details become a lot easier to edit.

So, what’s the best resume format?

The answer’s easy: Reverse chronological. This is where you list your employment history in reverse order. It means your current job will be at the top of your resume and you’ll work your way backward through your career history, with your oldest job being last. Each position on your resume should include your job title, the company name and location, and the dates of employment, with a bullet list of responsibilities and accomplishments underneath.

For instance:


Administrative Assistant

September 2013 – Present

  • Responsible for greeting customers in person and on the phone…etc.

That said, there are many schools of thought about the best resume format to use, with some recommending creating a functional resume. Rather than listing work history in order, this type of resume focuses instead on skills and experience. For instance, it puts the most relevant positions and experience you have front and center, whether it’s your most recently held job or not.

The problem with this type of resume is that it’s often used to hide a spotty work history or big gaps in employment. Hiring managers know this, which is why functional resumes are often a red flag for them. Not only that, but the reverse chronological resume is the industry standard for resume formats in 2017, 2018 – and beyond – and the format most hiring managers favor. That’s why it’s the best resume format to use.

If, however, you have decades of experience and aren’t quite sure how to get it all to fit, list your most recent 10 to 15 years of work experience in reverse chronological order. Then create a headline for “Prior Work Experience” and simply list out your job titles, employer names and dates of employment.

Need more help creating a resume that gets results, so you can land a great job?

Call ResumeSpice. As one of the country’s leading professional resume writing services, we know the best resume formats to use, as well as what hiring managers look for on resumes. Contact us today at 832.930.7378 to learn more or get started.

When is it Time to Use a Resume Writing Service?

Most job seekers know that their resume is the most important part of their application packet. Having a subpar resume can easily land you in the discard pile, so it’s important to get it right the first time.

But, with the plethora of information available on how to write a resume, do you really need a resume writing service to handle the work for you? Some people feel confident handling the formation of their resume alone, while others would prefer the help of a professional. However, in many cases, you don’t know what you don’t know. There’s a tremendous amount of advice online, but how much of it accurate information that you should be a following? A true resume expert can put you on the right path with techniques that actually work.

However, there are certain circumstances where choosing a resume writing service is a very smart move. Here are a few to consider.

When You’ve Been Off the Job Market

If it has been a while since you were a job seeker, it could be wise to work with a resume writing service. Why? Because the standards used to judge resumes have changed significantly over recent years and it can be hard to restructure your last resume based on current trends.

A professional resume writer understands the idiosyncrasies associated with these documents as well as how to make your information stand out from the crowd. They have often spent years studying the form and function of resumes, effectively giving them insider knowledge that you don’t possess.

When You Need Personalized Advice

Even if you have a general understanding about constructing resumes, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t benefit from professional advice. If you have your dream job in your sights, working with a resume writing service can ensure the document is properly tailored to the position, upping your chances of scoring an interview.

Personalized advice can also be helpful if you are about to take a big step in your career. If you’ve recently finished a degree or gathered enough experience to make a leap forward, working with a resume writing service helps ensure you don’t miss any key details simply because you aren’t as familiar with what the upper-level hiring managers want to see.

Another instance when you can benefit from professional advice is in dealing with a gap in your career. Resume writing services understand how to minimize these deficiencies, allowing your resume to be viewed more favorably when it is reviewed.

When You’re Not Getting Results

If you’ve been sending your resume out for months and you haven’t landed an interview, then this could also be a sign you need a professional resume writer on your side. Sometimes, it’s hard to spot issues in your own writing, and having another set of eyes on your resume might allow issues to be more easily identified. Resume writing services can make important modifications to your resume, ensuring it makes the best impression possible and helping you score more interviews.

If you think you could benefit from some resume help, the team at Resume Spice wants to hear from you. Contact us today and see how our professional services and skilled consultants can provide the assistance you need to succeed.