Before you even think about the technical aspects of whether your resume is ATS friendly, you need to think about keyword-optimizing your resume. Without the right keywords, even the most perfectly ATS-compatible resume could sit unviewed in the “depths” of the ATS, never to be seen.
What does the job description say?
No, really. Read and reread the job description for which you are applying. Do you understand what the company is looking for? Do you have the prerequisite qualifications to perform the job? If not, stop now. Applying for a job for which you lack the most basic requirements is a waste of time.
After carefully analyzing the job description, customize your resume to fit the opening by focusing on the experience, training, and skill set(s) to which that description refers.
Much like successful online marketing requires effective use of keywords (for SEO purposes), so does successfully getting your resume recalled from an ATS for the job you want.
If the job description emphasizes specific requirements for the job, be sure that your resume includes a specific reference to your experience with those requirements. Verbatim. They’re called keywords for a reason; recruiters search for them in the ATS.
Even if you’re eminently qualified, failure to speak the employers’ language, so to speak, will doom your chances before your resume has even been read. Tailor your resume to target the job.
But what if you have MOST of the qualifications, but not all of them? My best advice is to scrutinize your background for transferable skills that show you have the ability, if not the specific experience. Then do your best to describe those transferable skills using the exact words used in the job description.
These are just the highlights of keyword-optimizing your resume. For more tips on this topic, I’ve written extensively in this blog post.
Does The Format of Your Resume Matter in an ATS?
Yes, the format of your resume does matter. As the ATS “reads” the content of your resume into the database, it expects it to be organized in a particular way.
The ATS will generally look for your name and contact information, a professional summary section, a reverse chronology of your work history, and your education.
If you get too creative in how you order and organize your resume, the ATS may not recognize the sections of your resume for what they are. While it might still “read” the information into the database, it will likely be jumbled and disorganized, which will negatively impact the keyword searchability.
While a chronological or combination format resume will likely have no trouble being read and parsed by an ATS, a functional resume might.
This is because a functional resume focuses on your skills and experience rather than your employment history. And while this might be fine for a human reader, it can confuse the ATS. If you are concerned about the ATS friendliness of your resume, I highly recommend against a functional format.