How do I make sure my resume is ATS-compliant?

Here are some simple guidelines you should follow to ensure your resume gets correctly scanned by all applicant tracking systems.

  1. Use standard section titles: Label your work experience and education sections with conventional section titles. For example, use "Professional Experience" instead of "My career in a nutshell".
  2. Use standard fonts: Some newer fonts convert letters to special characters which often get scanned incorrectly by ATS. Where possible, stick to a standard font (Garamond, Arial, Calibri). 
  3. Single-column layouts: Modern ATS are getting better at scanning multi-column layouts. However, there are several ATS that fail at reading multi-column resumes in the way you'd expect it to. This can result in some sections being misread (e.g. an ATS not properly detecting your recent work experience)
  4. No tables: Tables rarely get parsed correctly. Use tabs and right/left aligns to structure your resume instead.
  5. No scanned documents, pictures or diagrams: Your resume's text must be highlightable and readable. Avoid using images or diagrams in your resume - this includes pie charts and graphs too! Avoid creating your resume in Photoshop or graphic design software - tools like this convert text into images, making them unreadable by ATS.


Should I use PDF or DOC format?

You should always use PDF since this ensures your layout will be consistent for all viewers.
However, always make sure  your PDF was generated in either Word or Google Docs. Once you create/export your PDF via Word/Google Docs, you'll notice that the text is selectable / highlightable in Adobe Acrobat or Preview. See the screenshot below:

The PDF's text is highlightable. If you've created your resume in Word or Google Docs and export it this way, it will be read correctly by ATS.

Refrain from creating your resume in Photoshop or online resume builders. While you can download/export the PDF from these tools, the text appears as an image and is often not highlightable / selectable as above. See Point 6 above.

Good luck!

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