How to Create an ATS-Friendly Resume in 2024

ATS-Friendly Resume

As the job market evolves, mastering the application process is crucial, especially with the increasing use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Understanding and navigating these systems can significantly enhance your chances of landing your desired job. Creating an ATS-friendly resume in 2024 requires a combination of strategic formatting, precise customization, and proactive networking. Here’s a deeper dive into each aspect to ensure your application stands out and makes it through the ATS filters.

1. Understanding ATS and Its Impact on Your Resume

Employers use Applicant Tracking Systems to manage the overwhelming number of job applications they receive. (ATS) automatically sorts, scans, and ranks applications by breaking them down into contact information, work experience, keywords, education, and skills. The systems then assess resumes based on their relevance to the job description, using specific keywords and phrases set by the hiring team. The ATS is designed to help recruiters manage applications more efficiently by filtering resumes based on specific criteria. Understanding this can significantly influence how your resume is crafted.

2. Optimizing Your Resume for ATS

To make your resume ATS-compatible, consider these strategies:

Use Relevant Keywords: Carefully read the job description to identify critical keywords related to skills, qualifications, or experiences required for the job. Incorporate these keywords into your resume to match the ATS criteria, but avoid keyword stuffing.

Strategically Place Keywords: Include keywords throughout your resume, particularly in prominent sections such as the skills area or within the descriptions of your previous job roles.

Follow Formatting Best Practices: Use a straightforward, clean format. Avoid tables, graphics, and unusual fonts or headers, as these can confuse the ATS. Stick to standard fonts and use clear headings for sections such as “Work Experience" and “Education."

Choose a resume format that enhances readability for both human recruiters and ATS:

Chronological Resume: This format lists your work history in reverse order, starting with the most recent job, and is favored by ATS for its ease of scanning.

Functional Resume: Focuses on skills and experiences rather than chronological work history. ATS does not favor this format due to its potential complexity in parsing.

Hybrid/Combination Resume: Combines elements of both chronological and functional formats, offering a balanced approach that can be effective if well-organized.

Tailor Your Resume for Each Job: Customize your resume for each application to align more closely with the job description. This increases your resume’s relevance and likelihood of passing through the ATS.

Be Explicit: Since ATS systems may not infer information as humans do, ensure that essential skills and qualifications are listed in relevant sections of your resume.

Practical Elements:

File Format: Save your resume as a Word document (.docx) or a PDF to ensure most ATS systems can read it.

Professional Title and Keywords: Include a professional title at the top of your resume that aligns with the job role. Place your most relevant keywords in the top third of your resume, as this section often receives the most focus from ATS and human readers.

Advanced Tips for Beating ATS

Contextual Keyword Use: Rather than just listing skills, incorporate them into descriptions of your work experience to show how you’ve applied these skills in practical settings.

Avoid Keyword Stuffing: While keywords are essential, they should be used strategically and contextually to maintain the natural flow of your resume. Overuse can flag your resume as spammy to sophisticated ATS algorithms.

Use Standard Job Titles: When applicable, align your previous job titles with industry-standard terms, as ATS may be programmed to recognize these more readily.

Design Considerations for ATS

Maintain a simple and professional design:

Standard Fonts: Use easily readable fonts such as Arial or Times New Roman.

Simple Bullet Points: Organize information using standard bullet points to enhance clarity.

Avoid Unnecessary Graphics: Graphics and images can confuse ATS, so they should be avoided in the resume.

3. The Importance of a Tailored Cover Letter

 Even in the digital age, a cover letter is vital to your application. It should complement your resume by elaborating on your qualifications and expressing your enthusiasm for the role. Tailor each cover letter to the job, including keywords and highlighting experiences that directly relate to the job’s requirements.

A well-crafted cover letter is your chance to speak directly to the hiring manager, offering context and personal insights into your professional experiences. Highlight how your specific skills and achievements align with the job’s requirements, and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role and the company’s mission. This personalized touch can make a significant difference, especially if your resume has passed the ATS phase.

Pro Tip: On average, a resume is opened 40% more when accompanied by a cover letter.

4. Beyond ATS: Networking and Follow-Up

 Leveraging professional networks and following up on applications can provide a significant advantage. Networking, particularly on platforms like LinkedIn, can lead to referrals that bypass the ATS altogether. Following up shows persistence and a keen interest in the position.

Networking remains a powerful tool in the job search process:

Online Networking: Platforms such as LinkedIn allow you to connect with industry professionals and hiring managers. You can engage with content relevant to your field, participate in discussions, and share your professional accomplishments.

Informational Interviews: Contact professionals in your target industry for informational interviews. These can provide insider knowledge of company cultures and roles, sometimes leading to referrals.

Professional Groups: Join professional groups and associations related to your field. Attend conferences and workshops to keep up with industry trends and meet potential employers.

Pro Tip: An applicant is hired 65% more when referred to a position than an applicant with no referral, so networking is invaluable.

5. Follow-Up Techniques

Following up after submitting your application can underscore your interest in the position. Suppose you are still awaiting a response within a week or two. In that case, a polite follow-up email reaffirming your interest and qualifications can keep your application active in the recruiter’s mind. Ensure your follow-ups are courteous and professional, respecting any guidelines the employer has set about communication. The best practice would be to follow up with a detailed thank you letter outlining why you are the right fit for the position and a strategic document to seal the deal.

6. Preparing for Interviews and Beyond

 Once your ATS-optimized application secures an interview, thorough preparation becomes vital to the application process. Understand the company’s culture, review your application, and be ready to discuss how your background makes you the best fit for the job. This is also the time to demonstrate your understanding of the role and the company’s challenges and goals.

Research: Learn as much as possible about the company’s products, services, and culture.

Practice: Conduct mock interviews with a friend, mentor, or interview coach to refine your answers and boost your confidence.

Plan Questions: Prepare thoughtful questions demonstrating your company knowledge and interest in the role.

7. Beyond ATS: Embrace Continuous Learning

The job application process continually evolves, influenced by technological advancements and changing industry standards. Stay informed about new trends, such as the increasing use of AI in recruiting, and adapt your strategies accordingly. Continuous learning and adaptability can significantly enhance your job search and career growth. 

In conclusion, while ATS has streamlined the hiring process for employers, it has also necessitated a more strategic approach from job seekers. By crafting ATS-friendly resumes, personalizing cover letters, utilizing networks, and following up diligently, candidates can significantly improve their visibility and chances of making it through the modern, competitive job application process. Each step, from resume creation to interview preparation, is crucial in turning an application into a job offer. By following these guidelines, understanding these elements, and preparing accordingly, you can create a resume that not only navigates the complexities of ATS but also captures the attention of human recruiters, significantly increasing your chances of landing your desired job in 2024.



Master of Arts (M.A.) Columbia University – Business/Organization Psychology
#1 Recommended Executive Resume Writer
400+ Recommendations on LinkedIn | 500+ 5 Star Reviews on Other Platforms
Nationally Certified Resume Writer (NCRW) | Multi-Certified Resume Writer
NCRW: Deemed Ph.D. of Resume Writing/Top 99.9% of Resume Writers
Board Certified & Credentialed Career Coach (BCC, PCC-ICF)