Best Practices for Working With Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Illustration of circular word tags wordcloud of resume

When applying for online positions its advisable to upload your resume in ATS format. This reduces the chances of your resume being complicated by Applicant Tracking Systems. At Total Resumes we suggest that you have 2 versions of your resumes: 1 in ATS format for online applications and 1 more visually appealing version to provide to employers/recruiters at interviews.

  • When applying for a specific position, include that job title on the résumé.
  • Use the descriptors “phone:” and “email:” in front of the phone number and email address so the ATS can identify this information.
  • When listing dates for employment or education, put the dates to the right of the information or on a separate line.
  • Include section headers to make it easy for the applicant tracking system to categorize the information.
  • If you are working towards a degree or certification that is a requirement for the position, include it on the résumé — but make sure you include a phrase such as “Pursuing (name of credential)” or “Degree anticipated (date).”
  • Do not include skills you don’t possess on the résumé as an attempt to “trick” the applicant tracking system into selecting you. (Remember, the résumé will eventually be reviewed by a human.)
  • Check your email after applying for a position online. Some applicant tracking systems acknowledge submissions, but because these are automated responses, it may be diverted to your spam folder.
  • Be mindful of special characters and accents you use on your résumé. Some words and phrases can be misinterpreted by an applicant tracking system — for example, accented words. The word “résumé” itself is not ATS-friendly. The ATS does not recognize the accented letters. Instead, it reads it as “r?sum?.”
  • Do not list your credentials (MBA, CPA, etc.) next to your name. Include that information on a separate line.
  • Do not mix different fonts and sizes in your résumé.
  • Do not submit multiple résumés to the same company. Applicant tracking systems have a memory — all those previous submissions remain in the system. You can apply to multiple, related positions, but make sure the résumé information is consistent (i.e., the number of years in a particular job, for example), because the hiring manager will have access to the other versions too.

Contact Total Resumes today for interview-winning career marketing documents.

Carolyn Whitfield

An executive resume writer, Certified Executive Resume Master, and Expert LinkedIn profile writer, contact her today. Carolyn can help you get interviews for your dream job and bring the world of business to you by maximising your exposure and connections on LinkedIn.


  1. Great info! Thank you!

    Be careful of applicant tracking systems if you’re a job applicant! Otherwise they’re pretty cool. This guide gives a really good overview of everything you need to know about ATS.

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