How To Write An Applicant Tracking System Resume

african American woman sitting at a computer working on her resume

Would you be gobsmacked if I told you that you can apply online without retyping your resume 50 times?

Yes, that is correct.  It is possible to apply online one time.  I bet you’re wondering how.  Well pull up a chair and let me delight and amaze you.

First, and foremost, it needs to be laid out what the problem is that you’re running into with online application.  Now, I’m talking about the type of online application that requires you upload your resume, then fill in multiple pages of information.  Not the once and done upload.

Applicant Tracking Systems

It’s soul-crushing to upload a resume online, only to see that it does it incorrectly or leaves everything blank.  There’s a reason this is happening to you.  They system they are using is called an Applicant Tracking System.  Now I talked about this in my TikTok videos and included instructions on how to approach online applications.  Here’s where I’m going to lay out for you the process and reasoning.

Firstly, you need to know what these systems are.  Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are Human Resource (HR) software suites that allow business to automate their hiring process, track candidates, and match candidate profiles to job openings.

Next, you need to understand how it works.  Now there are several ways these ATS systems work so here’s the simplest explanation.  Basically, these software systems allow business to source candidates, post vacancies on job boards, publish vacancies to social sites, etc.  The ATS also creates a candidate pipeline, by tracking incoming resumes, allowing background screening, and providing tools for HR for the hiring process.

Lastly, it also automates the hiring process by creating everything from offer letters to streamlining the onboarding process.  This is supposed to be a means for making recruiting easier for corporate entities and create a process for hiring that is mostly automated.

Does it work for business?  It sure does.

Does it work for you?  Probably not all that well if you’re reading this.

How To Create A Resume For An ATS

I referenced an article a hot second ago What’s an ATS-Friendly Resume? And How to Write One, that the author, Amanda Augustine, does a great job with the information, but leaves out a few details I think are important.  So let’s dive into how I write the resumes to get everything to jive together.

Creating A Magical Resume

Let me also make the following statement that will probably hurt someone’s eyes.  The original document is a text (*.txt) file.  This is how I begin composing a resume.  If you’re on PC a great free tool for this is Notepad++.  For Mac, I use Text Edit or Google Docs.  Is it basic as hell?  Yup, it’s basic and it works for what you’re about to read.

Text Document Setup

This is pretty straight forward.  You’ll need the font set to either Time New Roman or Ariel.  The font point to be 12.  That’s it!

Now we also need to set some conditions about this document.  You’re very limited to what can go into this document.  That includes character types.  You’ll want to stick with simple commas, periods, and hyphens.  Do not use the following:

  • Symbols
  • Equations
  • Characters other than , or .
  • Tabs

You’ll also want to restrict the document to 2 pages between 750 to 1000 words.  This is important because you’re text is restricted for entry into the ATS.

The ATS Resume Layout

At the top of the document, you’ll want your contact information:

  • Name:
  • Phone:
  • Address:
  • Email:
  • Webpage:
  • Portfolio:

Use the lead and colon.  This will tell the software what is going into each slot.  No, it will not add those words to your information online. So here is what it should look like.

Name: Jane Roe

Phone: 123-456-7890

Address: 123 Write Way, Portland, Oregon, 97201




Since you’re using a text file, there’s not going to be a header or footer, which makes this much easier to remember.  You also are not going to have any graphics, charts, or tables in your text file by default.

Importing information into an ATS works on text parsing.  If you haven’t guessed the ATS is looking for specific information in an explicit order.  Therefore, we need to lay out the next section with specific orders as well.  Those are:

  • Summary
  • Work Experience
  • Education
  • Skills

You’ll be writing the sections the same way you did for your contact information.  However, you’ll need to skip a line as follows:


Hire me because I’m cool and I know stuff…


Company Name, Month Year
Description of company

  • Bullet points – do not put punctuation at the end


School, City, State, ______________ of ___________ (BA, BS, MA, MS, etc.) Degree (must be fully spelled out without punctuation), Discipline, Month Year – Month Year


Comma-delimited, must be annotated in work history, and know this section is actually an option for the ATS, so you probably will not need it.

Get the template for free here!

The Big Conclusion

Here are some important points to note when you are laying out your ATS version of your resume.  Do not expect that this is going to look cool like your finalized PDF.  That’s not the point of this version of your resume.  It’s designed to get your information into a text parsing format and get it into the boxes correctly.

You’ll use your longer version that’s prettier for upload at the end when you can add additional documents.  It’s important to remember you’ll be scored and matched based on the content of the ATS version, so make sure you get the details in where they count.

Need help with building your resume?  Contact me at

Anna Pilette

Anna Pilette

Owner & Project Director, Atomic Dumpling LLC.

About a million years ago, I was in the Navy. After, I worked for a bunch of companies and eventually realized that their business practices left a lot to be desired. Today, I’m helping small businesses and freelancers avoid mistakes and build their own brands.  You can follow me on TikTok or where.  You can also reach out for help