How to Format Your Resume

Even if you know what to include and omit, formatting a resume isn’t as simple as it may seem. It’s important to be on top of the tricks that may give you the upper hand.  

What are Automatic Tracking Systems?

Large corporations and staffing agencies are now using Automatic Tracking Systems (ATS) to filter through resumes electronically. With the increased volume of applicants, it’s faster for a computerized system to parse resumes into a structured form. By recognizing specific text and key words, this can expedite the hiring process and create a fair pool of applicants.  According to a 2018 Jobscan study, 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems. 

However, this organization strategy is not perfect. Flaws in the system can cause perfectly qualified applications to filter out of the pool. Luckily, there are a few ways you can prevent your resume from getting rejected. 

How do you format resumes for ATS?

Right from top, the Huffpost says not to put any information in the header or footer. “The problem is that software may not read information correctly or at all if it appears in those top and bottom margins,” they claim.  The parsers are looking for fielded information and may not find it in those areas. Instead, it is safer to put your name and contact information right below the header. 

Additionally, try not to get fancy with columns and graphics. Unless your resume goes straight to the hands of a human reader, its best to avoid visuals like this. The system will struggle to parse them and they’ll likely get deleted. To avoid this, save your resume as a .txt file and look at it from there. If you can still read everything unformatted, you are probably in the clear. 

Using suitable keyword optimization is also crucial. You’ll want to use keywords in your resume that mirror the job description in the listing. Indeed.com instructs, “Look for role-specific terms that the article reuses multiple times. The more prevalent a specific keyword is, the more importance you should place on it within your own resume.” Also, if you have held multiple positions in one company, be sure to reference the company name on every role. Otherwise, the ATS might not recognize each position as associated with that company.  

Formatting a resume is the first step in job searching. In these computerized times, learning the methods to get your resume recognized is pivotal. To further perfect this process, check out our recent articles outlining what to include on your resume and what to leave off your resume.  

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