Most companies these days rely on AI-based application screening software to go through applications. This makes their hiring process much more streamlined and reduces human bias when narrowing down applicants.

In fact, 98% of Fortune 500 companies employ the use of or bots, to sift through resumes. Over 50% of mid-sized companies also have incorporated AI in their hiring process. These bots are known as Application Tracking Systems or ATS for short. 

Knowing how to write a resume that gets the green light from the ATS is crucial in today’s world if you are looking to land a great career. However, as it is a relatively new system, many people still don’t know how to make their resumes ATS-friendly. When that happens, the resume goes into the declined list, even if the person in question has incredible qualifications.

To ensure that your resume gets a pass from the ATS and into an interviewer’s hands, here are 6 guidelines you must keep in mind.

1. Upload your resume as a Microsoft Word doc

Most people are used to sending in a PDF and assume that it is the best format to send their resume in. Unfortunately, most application bots today are still incompatible with PDF files. Meaning that it will not be able to read your resume, and it will sift it into the rejected bin. Your best bet is to upload your resume as a .doc or .docx word document to ensure readability for the AI.

2. Ensure that your resume has the right keywords

An ATS determines if you are qualified or not based on how your keywords match the job description. For example, if the job description requires a graphic designer, the keywords would most likely be Adobe Photoshop, Canva, Illustrator and anything related to the field.

If your resume does not include the proper keywords for the job description, it automatically gets sifted into the rejected pile. To bypass this, ensure that your resume has all the proper keywords.

It is also good to keep in mind that moderation is the best. An overuse of keywords can also have an adverse effect as the bot will flag it as suspicious. Your best bet is to sprinkle keywords around your resume.

Related: Tips For Your CV

3. Do not put crucial information in headers and footers

Most versions of the AI bots in an ATS are unable to read information in the header and footer of a document. Thus, any information in the section, crucial or not, will be ignored by the AI. Ideally, your best option is to put crucial information in the body of your resume, alongside the bot-friendly keywords.

Aside from crucial information, this also applies to key details in your resume such as your contact information. For example, if you have included your name, email and phone number in the header or footer, the bot will assume that you did not include any personal information at all.

Thus, find another place on your resume to put these key details, ideally in the body of your resume, or somewhere on the side of the page.

4. Use a “hybrid” resume format

A hybrid resume format is essentially the standard resume, but combined with a quick professional summary, along with a small key skills section. It must also be formatted in terms of chronological achievements and work history.

This is because the AI requires data to be arranged in chronological order. If it is not, the AI will not be able to read your resume properly.

Related: Cover Letter Tips

5. Use basic formatting, do not use any unique formats

When the ATS receives your resume, it will convert it into a text-only file. That means if you have included graphics or anything fancy, it actually makes it much harder for the bots to read your resume, and it will sift it into the rejected pile.

To ensure that the bot can fully read your resume and send it along to an interviewer, always make sure that you avoid fancy formats. Here are a few examples of things that you should not include in your bot-friendly resume.

  • Photos and images
  • Logos and graphics
  • Custom bullet points. Stick to the standard circle or square.
  • Colours used to highlight certain words
  • Charts and graphs
  • Columns and statistics
  • Tables
  • Unique fonts. Stick to Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Formatting of words such as bolding, italicizing, or underlining

Related: Five Top Tips for Video Interviewing

6. Ensure that your resume complies with the ATS bot’s guidelines.

There is a simple way to make sure that your resume is ATS-friendly. That is to copy and paste it into a plain text converter. When you do this, you can see your resume as how the bot would see it. Ensure that the content looks organised and there is no content that is missing due to the reformatting.

If either of these 2 criteria are not met, for example, your content is disorganised and missing key information, then the bot will automatically reject your resume. If your resume turns out less than ideal, try and reformat it again and run it through the plain text converter until everything is neat and present.