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.