How to Write an Impressive ATS Resume That Stands Out

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March 26, 2024
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • What is (and isn’t!) an ATS
  • How to write an optimized ATS resume
  • How to quickly write an ATS resume and check your resume score with Teal

If you've been navigating the job market for any length of time, you're probably heard of the ATS (applicant tracking system). And while it may seem intimidating to understand how to create a resume that meets its requirements, it's absolutely possible! 

Optimizing your resume for the ATS doesn't have to be a daunting task. In fact, with the right tools and knowledge, it could be the simple key to unlocking new opportunities. 

By creating an ATS resume, you can increase your chances of moving through the initial screening process—getting you one step closer to that interview. 

Struggling to write a resume that's easily scanned by the ATS? Get started with Teal’s AI Resume Builder today.

What is an ATS?

An applicant tracking system, or ATS, is a software application that helps companies, recruiters, or hiring managers streamline their efforts by automating tasks like resume screening, interview scheduling, and job posting. 

Essentially, an ATS is used to speed up and organize the hiring process—like a digital filing system. But don't be alarmed or believe the negative hype; most job search sites and many companies include an ATS behind the scenes. 

So how does an applicant tracking system impact job seekers? 

An ATS is a tool that scans resumes into a digital filing system. Hiring professionals can then search those resumes for specific keywords and criteria—saving employers time and money when handling high volumes of job applications. 

You see, managers don't just type in job titles when they search for job candidates; they're looking for more detailed information that aligns with specific job requirements. As a job seeker, you want to optimize your resume to align with those parameters so your information is searchable within the ATS.

What isn’t an ATS?

There’s a lot of negative information that surrounds using an ATS. 

But an ATS isn't robots designed to automatically reject your resume and ruin your chances of landing the perfect role. It's a system designed to make the job search and application process equitable and efficient for both candidates and employers. 

So to clear up some misconceptions, you should know that an ATS does not...

  • Replace human recruiters 
  • Automatically reject your resume if you have a gap in employment
  • Ignore entry-candidates
  • Automatically reject resumes that don’t include all the job requirements
  • Show bias toward younger candidates 

And you should also know that an ATS… 

  • Ensures a fair and equal recruitment process for all candidates
  • Can identify soft skills if they’re listed on your resume
  • Prevents qualified candidates from being overlooked due to human bias
  • Allows for some resume customization and creativity

How does the ATS work? 

When you submit an application online, the ATS parses your information into a standardized format and scans it for relevant keywords and phrases that match the job description if those parameters are laid out by a hiring manager ahead of time.

Some types of ATS use artificial intelligence (AI) to rank resumes based on how well they match the job requirements. Others use algorithms to assign scores to resumes based on how well they fit the criteria (based on things like years of experience or specific keywords).

How to write an ATS resume

Now that you understand a bit more about the ATS let’s dive into how to create an ATS-compliant resume that you can submit with confidence!

Apply to roles you're qualified for

Even though it might be tempting to apply to every job opening you come across—especially if you're currently unemployed or underemployed—it's still best to take a strategic approach. 

When applying for a job, meeting 70% (or more!) of the qualifications for the role is important. 

But don’t sell yourself short, either. 

Research by LinkedIn highlights that women are 16% less likely than men to apply for a job they’re qualified for if they don’t meet 100% of the criteria. But you don’t need to check every box to be a top candidate—70% is great.

Do your best to consider each application and your qualifications to ensure you have the relevant experience and skills necessary to succeed. By applying to jobs where you meet at least 70% of the requirements, your resume will score higher within the ATS—increasing your chances of landing an interview and, ultimately, the job!

Include the right keywords

As a job seeker, the text of your ATS resume matters. To get noticed by a company using an ATS, you want to make sure you have the right keywords throughout your resume. 

Remember, hiring professionals narrow application pools to the most qualified applicants by searching for specific keywords.

Resume keywords usually include hard skills, soft skills, experience, qualifications, and the most relevant qualities. So you need to compare your keywords and content to the job description. (But it’s also important to remember that there are some resume buzzwords and cliches you should use sparingly.) 

Teal's Job Description Keyword Finder compares the skills and important keywords in the job description to those in your ATS resume. It has an analysis mode that grades your resume and provides a Match Score. 

Want to see how your resume stacks up to a job? Try it yourself.

You want your Match Score to be as close to 80% as possible. You can incorporate more keywords from a job listing into your content to improve your score and create a targeted resume.

Be strategic with keyword placement

Once you’ve identified the best keywords for the job you’re applying to, it’s important to incorporate them throughout your resume. 

Using those keywords alongside action verbs for resume (which make your content more dynamic and engaging, like generated, oversaw, created, analyzed, etc.) will emphasize your qualifications rather than just listing job responsibilities. 

But rather than loading up your keywords in one section (like the professional summary or your work achievements), think of them as seasoning and sprinkle them throughout for a balanced flavor. 

Let’s take a look at a few examples!

Professional Summary:

With over five years of copywriting experience, I oversaw the development of new content for sales, product, and customer success to support marketing initiatives across a variety of communication channels


  • Generated $120k in eight days by analyzing canceled subscriber behavior and using that data to create targeted marketing campaigns addressing pain points uncovered.

Skills and Competencies:

  • Google Analytics
  • Airtable
  • Notion
  • Cross-functional Collaboration
  • Conflict Resolution


Bachelor's Degree in Social Work

Use an ATS resume template

Your resume format impacts how an applicant tracking system will read it. And while every system is different and unique, generally, it's best to follow a consistent, professional, clean, and concise resume format. 

Some things you should keep in mind? 

  • Use a font that's easy to read
  • Keep your font and color consistent throughout
  • Use bullet points for your achievements 
  • Include white space to break up your resume sections 

The easiest way to implement these elements is to use an ATS-friendly resume template. Using a template will save you time and effort. And instead of spending hours formatting, you can focus on the application itself. 

Teal offers  resume templates that follow these ATS-compatible guidelines to create a professional and consistent resume—quickly. And you also have the option to customize your ATS resume to fit your personality and industry while maintaining a uniform and polished appearance. 

Pro Tip: A word of caution about using resume templates outside of Teal. Those that are heavily designed with lots of color, graphics, and images may not be ATS-friendly. 

While heavily designed templates look great, they also confuse the system. And this confusion can incorrect scanning—meaning humans can't read your resume. Stick to simple, clean designs that allow the ATS to parse your resume easily.

Make your ATS resume easy to scan

With limited time and resources, recruiters, hiring managers, and the ATS software, scan resumes. So for effortless scanability, yours should be easy to digest. 

Following a specific and generally accepted structure of included elements and recognized titles is the best way to ensure your ATS resume has optimal scanability.  

So what order should the information in your ATS resume follow?

  1. Professional Summary 
  2. Work Experience (with 3-5 bulleted achievements per role)
  3. Skills and Competencies (including hard and soft skills)
  4. Courses and Certifications
  5. Education
  6. Hobbies, Interests, or Volunteer Work (if they’re relevant and space permitting)

What not to do when creating an ATS-friendly resume

While applicant tracking systems are designed to make the job application process easier for everyone involved, there are some things to consider that can cause the ATS to overlook your resume.

So what are some common mistakes to avoid when creating a resume that works well with an ATS?

1. Stuff keywords: Avoid filling your resume with irrelevant or repeated keywords. An applicant tracking system can identify and penalize keyword stuffing. And it could harm your chances of being considered for a role. 

This practice includes adding keywords that aren’t visible to the naked eye (by, let’s say, using a font that matches your background to hide specific words that may not accurately represent your qualifications). 

2. Incorporate important details in your header: While having a header with your name and contact information is necessary, putting additional information in the header, like your target title or skills, may not be effective for the ATS to identify and evaluate. It's better to include those details in the body of your resume where the ATS can easily scan them into the system.

3. Include a headshot: It’s best not to include a photo of yourself in your resume. While adding personalization to your application may seem like a good idea, most ATS software can't process images.

4. Use fancy formatting: Avoid complex formatting, including tables, images, graphics, and text boxes. Headers and footers can also be easily missed. These formatting elements may need to be clarified for the ATS and make it overlook important information.

The best options for readable resume fonts are Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Garamond, Georgia, or Cambria. (But don’t worry, you can still dress up your standard resume with bold, italics, underlines, and some color.)

5. Use the wrong file type: Avoid using unusual or non-standard file types. When it comes to PDF vs. Word for your resume, it's best to use a .pdf file. (Yes, even over a Word document if at all possible!) This way, the ATS can process your resume and search for keywords.

6. Send a cover letter that doesn't  match your resume: Your cover letter is a key part of the job application process. And it should correspond to the details of your resume (and be tailored to the job you're applying for if you have the right tools). Ensure that your cover letter and resume content is consistent—using similar language and resume keywords. 

The Teal AI Resume Builder can help you create a cover letter to match your resume. Teal's AI functionality is integrated with ChatGPT, allowing you to complete this task with the click of a button while using the same keywords and skills from your resume. 

A graphic of Teals Cover Letter Writer to align your letter and ATS resume
Write a custom cover letter in less than 30 seconds with Teal.

How create an optimized ATS resume in Teal

To get started using Teal to create an ATS resume, you need a Teal account. So if you don’t have one already, you can sign up for free here

Step 1: Once you’ve signed up and logged in to your Teal account, you have a few options. You can: 

  • Upload your current resume 
  • Import your LinkedIn profile 
  • Use one of your saved resumes
  • Start with a blank slate

Pick the option that works best for you! Then navigate to the AI Resume Builder in the left panel. 

Step 2: Once you’ve chosen a resume to work with, it’s time to add keywords from the job description of the role you’re applying to—making it more likely to be found by a hiring professional searching the ATS. 

From the resume screen, click the “Matching” icon at the top right. From here you can add a job or change the role you’re applying for, click “Job Description” followed by “Switch Job.” 

A graphic of Teal's Job Description Match tool for ATS resumes
Upload a job description to check your resume against any role.

Step 3: Once you select the job you want to apply for, navigate back to the “Matching” view and select “Keywords.” Here, you’ll see the words a hiring manager or recruiter will most likely search the ATS for. 

A graphic of keywords for an ATS resume
Get the right keywords with Teal.

Incorporate them into your professional summary, achievements, skills, and anywhere else you see fit. You’re aiming for at least an 80% Match Score. 

(But remember, being honest about your experience is really important. Don’t just add keywords because they’re on the list.) 

Pro Tip: Try using some resume synonyms to diversify keywords that you’re repeating. Or if you’re stuck, click “Generate With AI” for some help! 

Step 4: Once you have your resume where you want it, click the “Design” icon at the top right. This is where you’ll select an optimized ATS resume template.

From this screen, you can also customize your resume to fit your personality and industry with specific colors, fonts, margins, formats, and more. 

When you’re done optimizing your ATS-compliant resume template, click the “Export” button at the top right to save it as a .pdf. 

Step 5: The final step in this process is writing a personalized cover letter corresponding to your resume. And Teal makes this process a breeze. Watch below to learn how!

Ready to create your ATS resume?

An ATS is nothing to fear. In fact, it's software designed to help job seekers rather than hinder them. 

If you’re ready to write an ATS resume—increasing your chances of moving forward in the hiring processsign up for Teal for free today to get started.  

And for more resources on creating your resume, check out: 

1,000+ Resume Examples

How to Write Your Resume with Chat GPT

Resume Do’s and Don’ts You Need to Know

How to Update Your Resume

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an ATS resume?

An applicant tracking system or ATS resume is a version of your resume optimized to be scanned by the ATS system. It typically contains the same information as a traditional resume, but it's formatted in a way that's easier for the ATS to parse.

An ATS resume typically includes the following: 

  • Simple and clear formatting
  • Standard headings and section titles, like "Work Experience" and "Education"
  • Relevant keywords that match the job description
  • Bullet points, white space, and concise, easy-to-read sentences 
  • Easy-to-read fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri
  • A compatible file format, such as .pdf
  • A complimentary cover letter

Ready to create an ATS resume in less time? Sign up for Teal for free today.

Can I run my resume through ATS?

Yes, there are various free ATS resume scan tools available online that you can use to get a good idea of how your resume would perform in most ATS systems. 

These checkers analyze multiple factors like formatting, keywords, and section headings to ensure optimization. But, it's important to remember they may not be 100% accurate because each system is different and may have unique requirements.

Is an ATS resume worth it?

Yes, an ATS-friendly resume is worth writing. Optimizing your resume to be scanned by the ASTS with the right formatting and keywords increases the likelihood of your resume being reviewed by a hiring professional—leading to more opportunities.

Sign up for Teal for free today to write an ATS-optimized resume, making your application process more efficient and effective.

How do I pass my resume at an ATS?

To pass your resume through an ATS, ensure it's optimized and has no images or graphics. An ATS optimized resume also has relevant keywords hiring manager can search the system for, follows a simple format, and mirrors the qualifications and skills outlined in the job description.

Want to create an ATS resume without the hassle of using multiple platforms or programs? Try Teal for free!

Kayte Grady

Kayte, Senior Copywriter at Teal and Champion of ADHD professionals, is a seasoned writer passionate about storytelling and career growth. With a data-driven approach to content marketing and a word-nerd knack for resume builder analysis, Kayte’s on a mission to empower job seekers to land a job they love. Constantly pivoting and reinventing herself, this social-worker-turned-marketer found growth and camaraderie in tech—a genuine surprise given her never-ending devotion to the paper calendar.

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