Resume Tips – Applicant Tracking System

Did you know that a recruiter spends on average 6 seconds ⏰ to review your resume? Before the resume even makes it to the human reviewer, it is funnelled through an Applicant Tracking System, ATS. By following the tips below, your resume will successfully navigate through the ATS, make it to the human reviewer resulting in an interview.

What is an ATS Applicant Tracking System?

This is an automated system that parses your resume into a database, it looks at keywords, location, job titles, education, certifications and rates the resume. The higher the score the better the chance that a human will review your resume.

Please keep in mind, that the purpose of the resume is to achieve an interview. A resume essentially advertises your skills and experience.

The successful life cycle of a resume is as follows:

Resume => ATS => Human Reviewer => Interview(s) =>Offer => Signed Offer = > Onboarding Processes => First Day at New Job => Pass Probation Period

ATS Friendly Resume Tips

1. Font Size 

The font size should be 10-12 point in the main body of text so that human reviewer can read your resume. If the font is too small, then this frustrates the human reviewer and resume may be rejected.

2. Font

Use a regular font such as Arial, Verdana, Georgia, Tahoma or Times New Roman.

3. Colour ?

Formal resume colours include black, dark blue, dark gray.  

4. Filename

First Last Resume Date .DOC 


John Smith Resume.DOC

Preferably a MS Word .DOC, .DOCX or .PDF. Some ATS’ will only accept PDF.

5. Write Resume in Implied First Person ✍️

The resume should be written in “implied first person” meaning the “I” and the candidate’s name are to be omitted from the resume text. As an example:

I completed the project on time and on budget. – ?

John Smith completed the project on time and on budget. – ?

Completed the project on time and on budget. – ✅

6. No Graphics

Sorry to the UI/UX designers with the most spectacular graphic resumes. The ATS will not be able to parse your resume correctly. I have seen this type of resume parsed as First Name “Unknown”, Last Name “Unknown”, the job title, city are incorrect and the list goes on. I recommend having two versions of your resume. One “ATS friendly” and one for the human reviewer.

7. No Columns

Columns confuse the ATS. Please use organized lists in lieu of columns such as in the TECHNOLOGY SKILLSsections or SKILLS section. I like to see this on the first page.

8. No Abbreviations

Fully spell out abbreviations. I recommend that you use both such as PMP Project Management Professional and MCSE Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer. This covers the human searches and the ATS searches.


Implicitly the objective of the resume is to land a job. Recruiters do not need to read, “Currently seeking a project manager role within the banking industry …” however I recommend a “PROFILE” section.

10. PROFILE – Include

I recommend that the PROFILE closely matches the job title, industry of the job in which you are applying to. As an example,


A Senior Project Manager with twelve (12) years of financial, insurance, telecom industry experience successfully managed application development projects valued at $75M ranging up to 35 resources.  


Please use organized lists in lieu of columns such as,

Web Technologies: ASP .Net, MVC, Web APIs, JavaScript, WCF, Angular ver 2-10, HTML 5, jQuery

Databases: MS SQL Server (T-SQL), mySQL, MS Access, Oracle PL/SQL

Tools / Methodologies: SCRUM, DevOps, Extreme Programming, Dockers, TDD, PowerShell Scripting, Entity Framework 6, Core TeamCity, Bootstrap, Google Material, JIRA, SOA, TFS, SVN, GIT, BitBucket, TDD, Source Safe, Octopus Deploy, XML, XSLT, Windows Services, Work Flow (WF), SSRS, SSIS, IIS

12. Reverse-Chronological Order

Do not use a functional resume. A reverse-chronological order should be used listing the most recent work experience followed by the oldest. Please ensure the Month, Year, Start and Month, Year and End of each work experience are listed. The ATS calculates the years of experience per skill based on the work experience breakdown.

I recommend including the last 10 years of work experience. The exception is if you are applying to a job in which some of your older experience matches the job description, then you may selectively include this in your resume.

There should be at least one work experience on the first page of the resume.

13. Consistent Formatting

There should be consistent formatting throughout the resume. Ie the font size, the font.  If you added a period at the end of each bullet, then be consistent throughout the resume. If the MM YY for your work experience is January 2019 – August 2020 then please ensure that you fully write out the months and not Jan 2019 – August 2020.

January 2019 – August 2020  ✅

Jan 2019 – August 2020 ?

Jan 2019 – Aug 2020  ✅

14. Length of Resume

I recommend 2-3 pages. A one-page resume is acceptable for a new graduate.

For Project Managers:

I like to see a 2nd document with the list of projects. For each project I like to see as follows:

Project Title

Month Year to Month Year

Value in $

# of resources

Name of Company

Description of the Project

For UI/UX Designers:

I like to see a URL of your portfolio. Please ensure that this URL works or you will be disqualified.

For Developers:

Include your GitHub URL.

15. LinkedIN

Include your LinkedIn URL on your resume.

Please ensure that your resume matches your LinkedIn profile with respect to job titles, companies, starting Month Year to ending Month Year for each job. If not, you may be disqualified, or questions may be raised with the human reviewer resulting in red flags.  

Please ensure that you do not have any spelling errors in your LinkedIn. I have seen multiple “Project Manger’s” on LinkedIn. If you are a Project Manager, then you must pay attention to detail as part of your job. I am likely to reject you if you have a perfect resume however you have lots of spelling errors in your LinkedIn.


Please ensure that you have an EDUCATION section. I prefer to see this on the first page.  The dates of the degrees may be omitted since this may reveal your age. We want to avoid age discrimination, (ageism).


If you have any CERTIFICATIONS and/or licenses, then please include this section on your resume, preferably on the first page.

18. Tailor the Resume to the Job Description

If the job description requires certain skills and you possess these skills then list them in your SKILLS section, describe in the work experience how you used these skills. I also like to see an Environment: section at the end of each work experience which also lists the environment, tools, languages, databases, operating systems, methodologies etc… that were used. This also increases the keyword count resulting in a higher score on the ATS.

For example:

Environment: SCRUM, Microsoft SQL Server, WEB API .Net Core (C#), Unit Testing (TDD), JavaScript, EF Core, Angular 6 and 8, Karma, HTML5, Bootstrap, Angular Material, GIT (Azure DevOps Services), Docker.

19. Cover Page – Omit

Resume will suffice, do not include a cover page.

2020, Applicant Tracking System, ATS, Career, resume, tips

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