How to Format A Resume for an Applicant Tracking System

What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

An Applicant Tracking System is a specialized program designed to review resumes before they reach human eyes. When applying for jobs online, an ATS scans your resume for keywords and phrases matching the job description, filtering out candidates who may not meet the requirements.

How Do ATSs Work?

Application Tracking systems use the information from job listing to create a profile of what an ideal candidate may look like. When a candidate submits a job application, their resume is scanned for key words and phrases and compared to the ideal profile.

Applicant Tracking Systems allow hiring managers to more quickly find the ideal candidate by automatically weeding out anyone who does not fit the position. In other words, if your resume doesn’t match or is not optimized to be read by an ATS, then your resume will probably not be seen.


  • Use basic fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, Verdana, Tahoma, Calibri, and Helvetica.
  • Use only black font.
  • Use reverse chronological format (most recent jobs towards the top)
  • Utilize a skills summary section and emphasize the skills you have that match the position and job description
  • Use keywords from the job description in your job history and skills.
  • Use simple bullet points either solid circles or squares.
  • Write out Months and dates for your work history, using standard formats.

ATS Don’ts

  • Use complex formatting elements such as templates, tables, headers, columns, borders, lines, graphics, symbols or shading. Automated systems cannot parse always complex elements and they may make your resume harder to read in an automated system.
  • Stuff your resumes with keywords: This can make your resume harder to read for a hiring manager. Just use the keywords that apply to your work history and skills.

Opportunities with The Pennsylvania Petroleum Association Technical Education Center 

The PA CareerLink® partners with local training providers who have applied to be included on PA’s Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL). Through this partnership, the PA CareerLink® is able to send approved participants to training programs that will lead to employment in high priority occupations. A newer addition to this list is the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association Technical Education Center (PPATEC). PPATEC offers leading hands-on training solutions for the HVAC and energy industry. The school is licensed by the PA Department of Education and is approved for the use of GI Bill® benefits. Their approved program is a 10-week HVAC & Energy Professional Program that covers electrical, air conditioning systems, heating systems, and propane distribution systems. Individuals who attend the program will receive basic foundational training along with industry specific certifications that will be value to employers.

PPATEC is the trade school of the Pennsylvania Petroleum Association which represents 450+ companies in the HVAC and energy throughout the Commonwealth. The program curriculum was design by PPA employer members who have interest in hiring the graduates. Graduates who are hired from this program will continue to be developed through on-the-job training with their employer. The specialized skills gained in this program gives the opportunity for competitive employment packages and long-term career growth.

On January 15, four students who met the requirements of programming at the PA CareerLink® began their 10-week course with PPATEC. These four students will spend time learning the skills required for employment in the HVAC and Energy industry. Upon successful completion of the program, they will have the opportunity to interview with interested employers and participate in a signing day with their classmates to become official employees of that company.

Isaiah Miller, Youth Success Story

Isaiah Miller | Video Testimonial

Isaiah Miller came into the youth program interested in a preapprenticeship for becoming an electrician. He was hardworking right from the start and took initiative where his career advisor asked him to. As part of the process to get into the preapprenticeship, Isaiah had to complete a paper that involved him calling different employers in the area. He had to ask these employers if they would be hiring individual’s with the training that he was looking to get. One small business answered the phone, answered his questions, but took the opportunity to ask Isaiah about himself and his goals. This lead to the employer offering him an application, then an interview. His career advisor was able to speak to Isaiah’s hardworking, respectful nature to this employer when he called her as a reference. The employer called Isaiah in for a second interview and even though they were hiring for one full-time position, they decided to bring in Isaiah additionally as a part-timer because they saw his potential. The part-time work gives him an opportunity to go to school while also getting hands-on experience with his new job.

Isaiah was originally going to get a warehouse job while he was in school just to have income coming in. If he would not have called local employers in order to complete his training packet, he would never have been offered this opportunity. Isaiah says he is ecstatic to start this new chapter and is speechless on how everything worked out.

Isaiah is a great example of how the Youth Program at PA CareerLink can support an individual who is ready to make a better life for themselves.

PA CareerLink® Youth Events

Over the past couple of months, we at the PA CareerLink® South Central Region have been connecting with schools in our counties to ensure students are aware of the PA CareerLink® and what services we have that can help them in the future. These youth days are to get students the resources they need for whatever their next steps may be after high school.

During our youth days, we have the students participate in a variety of activities to get them started on their career path.

  1. Setting up a PA CareerLink® Account on our Job Portal
    We have students setup a PA CareerLink® Account and give them a tour through the job search portal, upload their resume and learn more about our SkillUp Program.
  2. Virtual Reality Career Exploration
    Using our Virtual Reality headsets we have the students explore a variety of high demand fields in Virtual Reality. This gives them a quick, hands-on look at careers they may not have known or thought about.
  3. Resume Workshop
    Because many students have never written a resume before, we give them an introductory workshop to help them get started. The resume is later used in the PA CareerLink® Account.
  4. Mock Interviews with employers
    We have a variety of interviewers from local businesses come in and preform a practice interview with the students. Here they’re able to get real-time feedback and a rating with comments at the end.

We find that these PA CareerLink® Youth Day events help empower the students by providing the knowledge they need for their next steps. Whether it’s school, an entry level job, or training, we want to ensure that these students know we’re here for them when they need us.

5 Common Resume Questions and Answers

I’m Nathan, a Workforce Facilitator at the PA CareerLink® South Central Region and I get a lot of questions about how to write resumes.

Have you ever been asked to create Resume and had trouble getting started? That’s a very normal feeling, but hopefully we can remove some of that anxiety.

In this article, we’re going to answer some of the most common questions we get about writing a resume. If you have more questions that we didn’t answer here, please email us or comment under our video at the top.

What should be on your resume?

Your resume should be a marketing tool to sell yourself as the perfect person for the position you’re applying to. For each resume, you’ll want to highlight only the accomplishments and skills that are relevant to the job at and. You don’t want to or need to include your whole work history, but tailor your resume to the position and job description. Tailoring your resume is the process of matching your resume to the job description. All the resumes you send out should be tailored to the position.
There are a few sections that most if not all resumes should have:

  • Personal Information such as your name, home address, phone number, and email address
  • Your relevant work history
  • Educational achievements such as degrees, awards, and relevant projects
  • Skills and Accomplishments

How do you write a resume without much experience?

Creating a resume with minimal experience can seem overwhelming. In this situation, highlight your educational achievements, including certifications or relevant projects you have worked on. Additionally, you should include a summary of your skills and working strengths that may serve in place if your work history. This is called a functional resume and it emphasizes your ability to adapt and learn in a new position, despite minimal work experience.

How do you format your resume?

Keep it Simple. Your primary goal is to make your resume as easy to read for the hiring manager as possible. This means using basic fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, and Helvetica, using 11-14 point font, and 1.5-2 paragraph spacing.

Additionally, you want to keep everything consistent. If you use one type of heading for one section, use that same heading throughout or if you use a type of bullet point in your work history, use that same bullet style in your skills. The main focus us readability for the hiring manager. If your resume is harder to read due to using different fonts, spacing, or other inconsistencies, a hiring manager may not finish the resume.

How do you explain gaps in your work history?

Gaps in your resume feel like a deal breaker, but often aren’t if you talk about them in a way that relevant to your future employer. Talk about the skills you gained such as taking off time to raise children, making you excellent at time management and multitasking. Then get into your relevant work history. Gaps in a resume are not a deal breaker. Many people have responsibilities outside of traditional work that are just as useful for skill development and growth as a job.

How do I make my resume the best it can be?

Proofread, proofread, proofread, and proofread some more. Your write your best resume when you take the time to carefully check it for grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Don’t rely solely on spell and grammar check, they can’t catch everything. After writing your resume, take a break, do something else and then look at it with a pair of fresh eyes. You can also ask friends, family or staff at your local PA CareerLink® to look it over for an outside perspective. Often the smallest mistakes are the ones that can determine if you get a call back or not.

Thank you for reading our article and we hope you found this helpful. Feel free to view our video on the same topic and contact us if you have more questions.

Here are some additional resume resources:

New Year Success Stories

Happy New Year! We wanted to start the new year off by celebrating a couple of success stories!

April – Adult Dislocated Worker

April enrolled in September of 2021. Since coming into the program, she was determined to attend training for medical coding and billing. Before training she was faced with hurdles from the school regarding her class schedule, but she stayed in it, got it figured out, and attended training. During training she remained positive and diligent. After training, she began job placement services and hit a wall. No interviews, no phone calls, nothing. For a few months it didn’t look promising, but then she finally got an interview. The interview led to a job doing what she was trained to do and what she was happy to do. She achieved this by staying positive and committed while also taking the initiative to put in dozens and dozens of applications. Despite any barriers or roadblocks, April faced adversity with grace and determination, and as a result is now full time employed and feeling fulfilled in her efforts to become an employable adult.

Paige – PCCD

Paige participated in CBI-EV (cognitive behavioral intervention) workshops under the RENEW PCCD program (Our new Reentry Program), led by Gina Vasquez. At the start, Paige seemed a bit uninterested, but as the sessions rolled on, there was a noticeable shift. From a spur-of-the-moment observer to actively reading through those worksheets practice worksheets.

We wrapped up at Module 3 Session 3, She had presented a Benefit and Cost analysis she had implemented with her manager at work, and it was clear she was genuinely proud of herself. It’s amazing to see how engagement can grow when given the right space and guidance. The stipends received from participating in the CBI sessions allowed Paige to get her home plan approved faster than anticipated!

Kudos to Paige for embracing the process and turning it into a personal win!