Man updating his resume on a computer.

Working in recruiting, we see hundreds of resumes every week. It can be hard to keep up with all of them, so we utilize an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This machine pulls all of the relevant pieces off of a resume, and processes the data. Instead of having to read the whole resume, it’s conveniently placed into a database. The way your resume is formatted greatly impacts how well the information is processed. Taking certain steps to format your resume will make it significantly more ‘friendly’ to these programs. Since most large companies are using the systems to help them manage their job applications, making your resume computer friendly is a smart move!

The Basics of Formatting

Before getting into more detailed formatting, we should cover the basics. For starters, don’t get fancy. Having elaborate graphics, or a layout with multiple columns almost guarantees that your resume is hard to process. So don’t create a resume with complicated designs or crazy fonts. Instead, keep it simple and stick to one font. For the readers sake, you’ll want to stick with one basic and easy to read font. Common fonts that are easily legible include Times New Roman, Garamond, Arial, Tahoma, And Century Gothic. When in doubt, keep it simple! Now that you know the basics about formatting the document, we can start discussing specifics.

Most resumes are formatted the same way. You should start with your name in bold, and big at the top, followed by your contact and location information. That information should either be on separate lines, or spaced apart by symbols like this:

Albany, NY ● (518) 275-4816 ●

That way the computer will know to break up the information, and recognize it as an email, phone number, etc. Next, you have to start breaking it down into sections.

Why You Should Care About Bold & Italics

Most resumes have similar sections, such as Work Experience, Education, and Skills sections. Those sections should have their own line and formatting. This tells the ATS that this is a section, which will be followed by more detailed information. Something we should also mention- bold and italics are your best friend for differentiating sections, places of employment, and time of employment. Here is an ideal example of a Work Experience section on a resume:


Walrath Recruiting – Albany, NY                                                                            January 2010 – Present

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This works well, because not only is it easy to read, it’s easy to differentiate for a computer. Work Experience is in all caps and bolded, which helps it stand out as a title. The company is in bold, followed by the location in plain text. The duration of employment is formatted to the right of the page, and in italics. On the next line is the job title, followed by the responsibilities in bullets. Although you don’t have to use this exact formatting, make sure you differentiate your own work experience in a similar fashion. This helps the computer extract all of the information correctly.

Optimizing For Keywords

If you want to optimize your resume to be extra computer friendly, you should be mindful of keywords. These are any words that are integral to a job you might apply for. Skills, certifications, software, and proficiencies are typically keywords on resumes. If you want your resume to have a better chance, you should highlight those keywords. If you are applying to a specific job, look for keywords that stand out, and include them on your resume if appropriate. For example, if a job posting calls for Microsoft Word experience, it should be listed on your resume somewhere if you have that experience.

Furthermore, if you want to include a skills section, it can be a great opportunity to capitalize on keywords. Just make sure you indicate the Skills section in the same way you indicate the Work Experience section. It should also be laid out very simply, with all of the skills as bulleted points following each other. If you wish to make two columns to save space, feel free. Just make sure it doesn’t conflict with any of the other formatting.

Big Difference From Small Changes

Although it’s only a brief overview of some of the ways to make your resume computer friendly, a few changes go a long way! You’d be surprised just how particular most applicant tracking systems can be. Taking some extra time and making the aforementioned changes will significantly help your chances of getting your resume through to a human pair of eyes. We hope this blog has helped you better understand how resumes are processed electronically, and allows you to optimize your resume!