• Junction Collective

How to make your resume ATS friendly

Updated: May 29, 2020

We talk a lot about the systems that are used to upload and process resumes when you are applying online to a job. You need to ensure that your resume gets into these systems and is able to be found once you have applied.


I recently came across a real candidate example of how an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) took a solid and very well written resume (Resume A) and turned it into an upload error where essential information did not make it into the system. I asked the candidate to simplify and rewrite using simple formatting and less design while keeping the exact same information. And I retried the upload.


The result was perfect. What started out as a 70% upload (Resume A) turned into a 100% upload (Resume B)

It is precisely for this reason you need two versions of the same resume: one for uploading into an ATS and another when you know someone is going to see an actual version that you email or hand to them in person.

Resume with design elements

Resume A was a 1 page resume.


1) Original name and contact information was in colour, large font, several items on one line. The email address did not make it into the system. The LinkedIn profile did not make it into the system.


2) Profile keywords and skills were mixed into job details. Certifications were listed as schools.


3) Academic Background did not parse into section called Education.


4) Work History didn't capture Volunteer Involvement.



A resume written for ATS system

Resume B was now 2 pages long.


1) Simplified header with no colours used. All contact details listed on one line each. All information uploaded into system correctly.


2) Profile and Skills section listed within the resume and not in a column on the side. All information uploaded correctly.


3) Education (header name change) now was recognized by the ATS. Uploaded correctly.


4) Page 2, not pictured: all work history and volunteer experience listed in simplified similar font and treatment. Uploaded successfully.


If you have a designed resume, with columns, colours and any special fonts or bullets, there is a chance it will not properly upload into an ATS and key information will be missing. Don't take this chance! Simplify it with a text only version, using common font and bullets and no columns or text boxes. PDF's and Word documents do not seem to make a difference, but to be safe, a Word (or similar) format would be prudent.


Good luck with your search!

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