5 Resume Formatting Rules For The ATS

Don Goodman

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!