Do You Need an Applicant Tracking System Resume?

In today’s competitive job market, a concrete resume is a must. Not only do you need to stand out to a hiring manager, but before you ever make it to that point, you must first stand out to the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Applicant Tracking Systems are automated software applications that scan incoming resumes to ensure the applicant is a good fit for the job description.

You have probably heard that it is important to [match keywords from the job description]( in your resume, but did you know the structure matters too? Whether you’re applying for a Federal or Corporate position, if you want to make it through the initial ATS scan, pay attention to two main components: Formatting and Keyword optimization.

###Choosing the Right Resume Style for ATS
Unlike the elaborate paper resumes we once prepared, the general rule of electronic resumes is the simpler, the better. There is no need for color-coding and perfect margins—the ATS does not care. Start by determining which type of resume best fits your situation:

- The [**Chronological Resume**]( is the most widely-accepted and easily parsed by ATS. Even for a career-switcher, it is the preferred option, so long as you don’t have any significant career gaps. This is the most ATS-friendly version of a resume and is the only format you’ll want to use for federal jobs.
- The [**Combination/Skills-Based Resume**]( is a good option for someone embarking into a new industry (like leaving the military and entering the civilian workforce.) This format combines chronological work history with relevant skills. The hybrid resume option also offers flexibility to include volunteer and extracurricular activities that might showcase your skills more than a chronological format. This is a great option for career switchers (such as veterans) or those with more significant career gaps (such as military spouses).
- The [**Functional Resume**]( aims to highlight the transferrable skills that qualify you for a role and push employment history to the bottom. While this can be a great option for a military spouse or veteran who graduated college, many recruiters advise that this type only be used for those just beginning their career journey or those with a significantly long career gap.

**For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on Chronological and Combination/Skills-Based resumes.** If you are creating a different type of resume, consider attending one of our [Resume Workshops.](

*Want to see examples? [The Muse]( has some great examples.*

###Resume Formatting Tricks
The main point of an ATS is to quickly scan a great deal of information – it’s your job to make that information easy to scan. The trick here is uniformity and simplicity. Consider these tips when formatting your resume:

1. **Use a consistent, easy to scan font.** The best fonts are classics like Arial, Calibri, and Verdana. Since the ATS may have difficulty scanning anything too large or small, it is recommended to stay between a 12-point and 10-point font.
1. **Avoid headers and footers on the document.** All information should go into the body of the page. When separating sections, is to bold each section, with rounded bullet points underneath each bolded section.
1. **Word Choice is Key.** Weave keywords into them into context that highlights your accomplishments. Don’t abbreviate job titles - many ATS programs don’t understand abbreviations and you might miss out on a keyword match. Spell everything out, including your job titles, academic degrees, and affiliations.
1. **Save as an ATS-friendly file type.** The .docx format provides the most accurate scan in an ATS. A PDF format looks far more polished but will not parse as well as a .docx file through an ATS.

###Optimizing Your Resume Through Keywords
This is where the magic happens within the ATS. The goal is to include as many role function requirements and skills as possible that apply to you throughout your resume.

A good place to start is by comparing the job description of interest to your own job description. Identify the words and phrases that match - those are keywords.

Then, consider your skills and determine which ones you can correlate to their required skills. Be sure to use the exact language as the job description. You’ll want to be blatantly obvious that you possess those skills to ensure it stands out to the ATS.

Once your resume is tailored to your desired role, run it through a resume optimization scanner. SkillSyncer compares your resume to the job description and lets you know what keywords you are missing to maximize your resume optimization and improve your chances of passing the ATS screening. Better yet, it is [free for the first year]( for eligible veterans and military spouses for one year!

And now for the bad news: Yes, optimizing keywords means that you’ll need to re-tailor your resume to align with each job description. However, by doing so, you’ll greatly increase your chances of your resume making it to the other side of the ATS to be considered by a hiring manager.

###Federal Versus Corporate Resumes
Now that we’ve established the most important factors in resumes, it’s important to acknowledge that your resume might look different if you submit a resume in the federal vs. the corporate world.

####Federal Resumes
Applying for a federal job means you’ll need to prepare a federal resume. Federal usage of an ATS will vary. Some agencies so not use an ATS, as their resumes are read by human resource specialists. Some agencies use an automated application review process to verify eligibility and then it is manually reviewed.

Federal resumes require more information than ones for a corporate organization and could be up to five pages long. Include the following information on your federal resume:

- Full mailing address
- Security clearance
- Citizenship status
- Salary/Pay (military rank, GS level, WG, NAF, etc)
- Supervisor’s contact information (for each role)

A federal resume must also include the responsibilities and skills acquired for each specific role. **YES, you need to "civilianize" your federal resume.** It is a common misconception that military duties and acronyms will be understood by federal employers without context. Avoiding acronyms,

Find detailed example of what you should include on your federal resume [here](
####Corporate Resumes
Careers in the corporate or private sectors allow for a little more creativity on your resume. Instead of being boxed into the chronological format, corporate and private sectors are more accepting of the [hybrid or skills-based resumes.](

It is still recommended to focus on consistent formatting and keyword optimization, but you can highlight your skillsets and experiences more than on a federal resume.

The corporate resume should be concise and relevant. You should not condense your entire career into your targeted resume. Instead, **show the employer how you fit the role in 1-2 pages.**

###Final ATS Resume Considerations

Even though most employers require digital resume submission, you should still have a [printed version of your resume]( on standby for in-person events such as career fairs and networking conferences.

Check verb tenses, spelling, punctuation, and formatting. Spelling errors and typos can make you easily disqualified. Ensure you've used uniform spacing and paragraph breaks. If possible have five people proofread your resume.

A modern resume keeps you relevant in the marketplace:
- Use a non-serif font.
- Write in third-person point-of-view, but pronouns are not needed to convey context.
- Do not double space between sentences.
- Do not include references on your resume. That is something you provide upon request.

Going up against ATS might seem intimidating, but RecruitMilitary and our partners are here to help in every step of your career search. **Attend our [Resume Workshop for a free resume review.**](

[Create your ATS resume in your RecruitMilitary profile](, then search jobs relevant to YOU.