I can honestly say that, so far in my career, I’ve never witnessed such a high competition for marketing roles on LinkedIn, both full-time and freelance, as now.

And I’ve seen countless comments and got tens of email replies from hiring managers, saying that they’re overwhelmed as they’ve received over a hundred applications.

→ Download Now: 12 Resume Templates [Free Download]

No wonder that to make sense of it all and spot relevant candidates, companies are looking for ways to streamline the recruitment process. For them, applicant tracking systems are a blessing. However, for some inexperienced candidates, they can feel like a nightmare.

Luckily, getting past these automatic resume filtering systems is certainly attainable if you know how they screen CVs. Let’s take a look.

Table of Contents

What is an applicant tracking system (ATS)?

Human resource departments receive hundreds of resumes. To make their lives a little easier, they use computer software called ATS.

These solutions help recruiters process large volumes of CVs and pick the most suitable candidates. Applicant tracking systems come in handy in the initial screening phase and eliminate resumes that aren’t a good fit for the position.

One of the most important things that candidates should know about the ATS is that it lets employers filter resumes based on keywords. That’s why it’s vital to tailor your CV to specific roles. Only after passing the initial screening will the resume be reviewed by a recruiter.

ATS Friendly Resume Templates

Let’s now look at some ATS-friendly templates. Each one describes a different role.

Marketing Manager — ATS Resume Template

ATS resume template; marketing manager CV

When you go through all the templates, you’ll probably notice one thing — they are all well-formatted and minimalistic. The days of fancy designs are over. Now, it’s all about specificity and relevancy. This trend shines through in this resume.

Each section has a clear heading, making scanning easy, which I really like. The design is clean and easy to read. It doesn’t include any acronyms, which an ATS might not be able to understand — a big plus.

What I like: While it’s important to create a resume which can go through an ATS, it’s also key to remember that if it passes initial screening it will be reviewed by a recruiter. I like that this resume incorporates the needs of both situations.

For the latter, you need to ensure that it nicely demonstrates your achievements, preferably backed by numbers as shown in this template — “increased site traffic by 15%.”

Executive Assistant — ATS Resume Template

ATS resume template; executive assistant CV

This template includes a short professional summary. It’s one of the elements required by the ATS system, so it’s great. It’s short and to the point, which I like. It’s well formatted and features a good overview of all positions held, which are succinctly summarized.

What I like: I like that this resume includes skills specific to the job. These can also be treated as keywords, improving the candidate’s chances of being selected — or at least getting through initial screening.

Early-stage Marketing Professional — ATS Resume Template

ATS resume template; a free marketing resume template from HubSpot

First of all, I like the idea behind this free HubSpot resume template. It specifically targets applicants who are relatively new to the job market, so I can imagine how many Gen Z’s could benefit from it.

These candidates might find it hard to demonstrate their job-fit and skills without having a lot of previous professional experiences. I can imagine how mind-boggling it could be to simultaneously think about pleasing ATS.

What I like: I like that this CV template, under each header, features guidelines instead of a fictional summary, past roles, etc.

The instructions clearly say that the resume must be to-the-point and concise. This will not only make it easier for an ATS to scan the contents, but it will also make it simple to navigate by recruiters.

HR Professional — ATS Resume Template

ATS resume template; example of an ATS-friendly CV for an HR specialist

The fictional applicant is an experienced HR professional. However, to keep it under one page, they only discuss their two most recent roles.

The descriptions are quite detailed, so there’s a lot of room for natural use of the right keywords. Also, the “Skills & Competencies” section is super-scannable both for the ATS and the human eye.

What I like: This CV is an ideal blend of detail and conciseness. It shows how a senior specialist can keep their resume within one page.

Pro tip: Check out these free resume templates for Microsoft Word.

Testing It Out

Now, I am going to try to create an ATS-friendly resume. I am applying for the senior content marketing manager position at Whatagraph. You can see the job posting below:

ATS resume template; example of a marketing job post on LinkedIn

I am going to use one of the free resume templates from the section above as my starting point. Next, I’ll upload it to Resume Worded, a resume scanner, and check the suggestions it has for me to help make it pass ATS.

Before you dive into this experiment with me, bear in mind that I did not spend a lot of time on following ATS guidelines in the first version of the CV. I wanted to make sure all the information is there, but left room for Resume Worded to show me how I can make it better.

My initial resume got a score of 30 out of 100, which is quite low. After applying the suggested changes, I was able to double my score. Using the features available on the free plan, I got a 64 out of 100. I’m pretty happy with it. If I were to use the paid version with premium tips, I would get that number even higher.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the whole process.

Here’s the initial version I created using one of HubSpot’s free resume templates:

ATS resume template; my first version of the CV, before ATS optimization

After uploading it to Resume Worded, I got plenty of suggestions as well as information on what I already did correctly:

ATS resume template; updating your CV with information from the resume scanner

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ATS resume template; brevity as one of the factors you need to account for while creating a ATS friendly resume

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Here are the changes I implemented, according to the tool’s suggestions:

  • I re-worked the experiences from paragraph-based descriptions into bullet points.
  • I checked the CV for passive voice use.
  • Resume Worded suggested adding an additional section to increase the word count. The first version of the resume was about 30-40 words shorter than the industry average. So, I decided to add an “Awards and Achievements” section.
  • I added extra information on education.
  • I removed the “filler” words. Suggestions included changing terms like “notable increase” to just “increase.” However, I only found two or three in the entire document, so I don’t think they were detrimental to my score.

ATS resume template; be specific about your achievements to increase your chances of being selected

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Here is the changed version of the resume, along with the new score:

ATS resume template; CV updated with suggestions from the resume scanner

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ATS resume template; score I received after updating the CV with suggestions from the resume scanner

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What I think: Overall, I think it’s a useful tool. Some of the suggestions were helpful and easy to implement, while others I disagreed with. For example, it told me the dates might be in an incorrect format, which isn’t true. I only included months and years, so this couldn’t even result from the E.U./U.S. disparity.

The tool also suggested using more numbers and stats — I already had eight. Considering the length of the resume, that’s plenty. But I appreciate the fact that it puts a lot of emphasis on quantifying your achievements. Ultimately, it will be a human making the final decision — not software.

What I don’t fully agree with is how the tool defines “repetitive” words. It underlined two crucial terms when you’re applying for a senior content marketing role — “website traffic and conversion rates.”

I used these twice; once in the Summary to show a high-level achievement, and once in one of the role descriptions to demonstrate results for the specific company.

ATS resume template; suggestions regarding the repetitive use of words

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Tips for Creating an ATS-Friendly Resume

1. Add a relevant headline.

Your resume won’t make it past the automatic evaluation if you don’t add an accurate title next to your name and surname. So, what should you focus on?

Make sure you include the specific job title that you’re applying for, as well as a few choices of keywords related to the qualifications listed in the job description. Naturally, make sure that they match your skill set or experience,” says Rob Boyle, marketing operations director at recruiting firm Airswift.

Boyle recommends doing all of this in a single sentence — ideally, one that only takes up one line. For example, it could be something like “Experienced cross-platform Mobile Developer with proficiency in Python and Java and strong UI/UX design knowledge.”

Boyle says that with a strong resume headline, the ATS and human reviewers will see from the very beginning that you have the core skills for the role. And “this, ultimately, will entice them to read on.

2. Use the keywords from the job ad, along with their variations.

When I asked Anna Williams, human resources director at Digital Silk, about her single most important tip for getting past an ATS, she said:

With more than 15 years of experience dealing with ATS systems, I’d advise candidates to consider the importance of mirroring job description keywords. ATS filters resumes for specific phrases relevant to the role you’re applying for.”

Williams says that a lot of candidates already know that they should use relevant phrases. However, many of them miss one important detail — using variations of these keywords.

“Let’s take the example of a ‘project manager’ role. An ATS might also search for terms like ‘project coordinator’ or ‘project leader.’ Therefore, incorporating synonyms or alternative phrases for your job title can increase your resume’s visibility,” Williams says.

At the same time, since your CV should be a one-pager, think about how you can avoid keyword stuffing.

“If a job description mentions ‘project management’ multiple times, consider how you can reflect this term, without overusing it, in your resume,” Williams told me. “Use phrases like ‘managed multiple projects concurrently,’ to align your experiences with the job.”

Similarly, any unique terminologies or skill-specific words used in the job description should be reflected in your resume wherever genuinely applicable.

3. Include storytelling and prioritize results.

I can’t underline this tip strongly enough — today’s ATS systems can understand sentences thanks to natural language processing (NLP), so don’t limit yourself to using “dry” statements or generic descriptions.

“When it comes to crafting ATS-friendly resumes, what I have found effective is incorporating storytelling elements into your bullet points. Rather than just listing job duties, try framing your accomplishments as mini-stories that showcase your skills and experiences in action,” says Mohamed Mezian, founder of Augurisk.

For instance, Mezian points to the phrase “Managed social media accounts.” Instead, you could say, “Elevated brand engagement by 30% through strategic content curation and audience engagement tactics.”

Mezian says that this not only makes your resume more engaging for human evaluators, it also helps ATS better analyze the impact of your work and increase your chances of making it through the initial screening process.

“Remember, behind every bullet point lies an opportunity to tell your professional story in a compelling and memorable way,” he concludes.

4. Mirror the “Requirements” section.

Jarir Mallah, HR Manager at a rapidly growing tech startup Ling, uses ATS on a daily basis to grow their team.

“While most candidates are aware that their resumes should include keywords relating to the job description, I recommend prioritizing those found in the ‘Requirements’ section of the listing,” he says.

Mallah underlines that, instead of stuffing their resume with buzzwords used in the job posting’s “Responsibilities” section, candidates should focus on mirroring the “Requirements.”

“Companies are, first and foremost, looking for candidates meeting essential skill sets and qualifications. So, this strategy significantly improves the chances of passing ATS scans.”

5. Structure the document for quick parsing.

Preparing your resume’s format is a surprisingly overlooked strategy. Liza Griffen, Director at recruitment agency Tyler Griffen, agrees.

“Most recruiters know about including keywords, but not everyone considers how an ATS reads the file’s format. A straightforward yet innovative approach is to structure your resume with a ‘Core Competencies’ section right after the introductory profile,” Griffen says.

She suggests using a concise bulleted list, with each point mentioning a common industry term.

“This method not only highlights your expertise right off the bat, making it impossible for the ATS to miss. It also caters to the scanning algorithms of ATS systems, which are designed to pick up and categorize information presented in simple, digestible formats,” Griffen says.

Griffen tells me that you can significantly improve your visibility in candidate searches by placing this section at the front of your resume.

6. Be careful about using graphic elements.

Now that I’ve mentioned formatting text, I must also mention other contents of your resume — i.e., those that can’t be parsed to plain text.

Before you submit your resume, search for elements that would go missing if all the icons or images were dismissed.

To give you an example, look at the image below. It’s a popular stylistic choice for displaying skills.

Be careful about submitting it to a company if it has to go past an ATS, as you have no certainty that the system will know how to “read” this section.

ATS resume template; example of a graphic element that could be illegible for an ATS

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Nick Derham, IT recruitment specialist at Adria Solutions, agrees, and shares his perspective.

“If you are creating a resume to upload to an ATS, you should aim for a lightly formatted CV without text boxes, illustrations, images, or charts. Focus on crafting a resume that is concise and easy to read, even if it seems too simple or boring,” Derham says.

Derham admits that advising candidates to upload an “ugly” resume sounds like an unpopular opinion, but he says there’s a reason for this.

Like most recruitment companies, Adria Solutions uses an ATS to make sure they supply the right candidates to clients.

“When we do so, we remove all candidates’ personal and contact information and use our own company-branded candidate sheets. Since most ATS won’t allow us to upload several documents, we copy and paste the information from the candidates’ resumes, so all creative resume formats are gone,” Derham explains.

Candidates have more control over how their data is processed and what the hiring manager sees if they upload a simple but concise resume. “Even if it’s uglier,” Derham concludes.

7. Create two copies of your resume.

This one might surprise you a little, but it’s worth creating two versions of your resume.

As aptly put by CIO, “an aesthetically pleasing resume with headers, different fonts, and visuals won’t do much to impress an ATS. Save that for the human recruiter or hiring manager by creating a second copy of your resume in a plain text format that will be easy for the ATS to scan.”

It might be a little more time-consuming, but it will pay off!

In the example below, save the first for when you get in contact with a person, but submit the first to be scanned by ATS:

Resume example with image and formatting and without to be compatible for ATS

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8. Personalize your resume for each job you apply to.

Whenever I visit LinkedIn and see an interesting job opening, I also immediately notice the overwhelming number of applicants.

And these applications have been sent within an hour or so from the job appearing on LinkedIn. This makes me think that most of these applicants use the “easy” apply button without tailoring their profile.

This will never work with an ATS; your resume must be tailored.

Angela Tait, people operations strategist and founder of Tait Consulting, says,

“Especially with an applicant tracking system, using keywords and direct sentences is a surefire way to submit a relevant and catchy resume. Tweaking your resume with each job application, while a bit more time-consuming, can make the difference between landing an interview or getting lost in the piles of applicants.”

She also shares an example:

“When I’m recruiting for an HR manager position for leaves I get a lot of resumes from people in HR, but when I look at their experience, they have nothing listed specific to leaves, which makes me assume they may not have experience. If I were using an ATS, it’s unlikely that the resume would even end up on my desk since it lacks the keyword ‘leaves.’”

9. Pro-tip for office-based roles: Include your zip code.

You’ve probably noticed that a growing number of companies require employees to be in a specific location. Even if they list a position as “remote” they usually add “within the U.S.,” “California,” or other. That’s why you should consider including your zip code — especially if it’s an office-based role you’re applying for.

Matt Collingwood, managing director at VIQU IT Recruitment, says,

“Many applicant tracking systems use AI to read resumes, pulling your key information such as your zip code to search whether you would be suitable for a job. Normally, recruiters will look for candidates within 20 miles of the client’s office, so if you don’t quote a zip code, you won’t appear in this ‘near’ radius search.”

10. Quantify your accomplishments with numbers and metrics.

You have to remember that at some point, your CV will end up in the hands of a recruiter (if you make it ATS-friendly, of course).

That’s why you cannot focus only on optimizing it for the tracking system, you also have to impress the hiring person.

Rahul Vij, CEO at Web Spero, says, “Applicant tracking systems love keywords, but simply including general skills from the job description isn’t enough to make you stand out. Instead, quantify your achievements using metrics that showcase the impact you’ve made in previous roles.”

For instance, Spero notes instead of just listing “social media marketing,” you can mention something like “Increased brand engagement by 20% through targeted social media campaigns.” This approach demonstrates not just the skill but how effectively you’ve applied it.

11. Proofread to check for errors.

This should be a no-brainer, but many candidates forget about it — make sure your CV is free from errors. This will increase your chances of having your resume accepted by an ATS. Since the system relies on specific words, if you make a spelling mistake it won’t be able to understand them.

Tim Elliott, president and COO at Mr. Moxey’s, says, “If you submit your resume with a spelling error, you’ll likely miss the opportunity, as your resume may not rank for the relevant keyword you misspelled.

Tools like Grammarly are good for helping you note and remove grammar errors from your write-up. It also provides quick suggestions on the corrections that are available.”

Elliot also emphasizes the importance of readability, pointing to the Hemingway app. “Your text must be easy to read for the required grade. If your resume has complex language, the ATS might find it hard to categorize you in the specific job,” he says.

12. Avoid the functional format at all costs.

Forget the functional resume format, which focuses primarily on your abilities without tying your skills back to your work history — it’s a big mistake.

Lisa Hagendorf, founder at Centerpiece Public Relations, says, “Not only are functional resumes considered ‘ATS incompatible,’ but recruiters distrust them. If you use a functional resume, hiring professionals assume you have something to hide — which is never good.”

She says it’s better to opt for a hybrid or reverse-chronological resume format, which displays information in a clear hierarchy, and it’s something that ATS appreciates.

These resume formats are not only conducive to applicant tracking systems, but their layout makes it easy for recruiters to quickly skim your resume and understand your career story and the value you have to offer, Hagendorf says.

“If your previous experience doesn’t support your new job goals, you’re better off using the professional summary section of your combination resume to highlight your relevant skills, rather than resorting to a functional resume format,” Hagendorf adds.

ATS Resume Template as a Good Starting Point

I realize that the job market these days is tough — there are thousands of candidates “fighting” for one position. This only raises the stakes when it comes to getting past the first phase, before a human even gets a glimpse of your application.

You might be a perfect candidate for a role, but if you don’t tick all the ATS boxes, you won’t get through the initial screening process.

You can use an ATS resume template as a starting point and use the tips I gathered for this piece to boost your chances of getting through to the next recruitment stage.

I’d like to once again emphasize that the times when you’d send the same version of your resume to multiple companies are long gone. Generic CVs no longer make an impact, as they lack the personal touch and won’t make you stand out.

Instead of wasting time creating a pixel-perfect resume design, focus on getting its content right — this will get you much further. Good luck!

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