Format Your Resume So It Gets Past Applicant Screening Software

Format Your Resume So It Gets Past Applicant Screening Software

Before your resume gets in the hands of someone who can actually hire you, it may well pass through screening software designed to weed out the “good” resumes from the “bad”. Besides carefully crafting your resume to get past those screeners, you may also need to format your resume so it doesn’t trip up the software.

Citing a book written by job search expert Rick Gillis, Business Insider notes a handful of formatting guidelines. Some of these are common sense, such as keeping your resume free of graphics or logos, but other recommendations are more unusual, including:

  • Avoid placing your contact information in the header of the resume, because filtering software could ignore headers and footers and actually delete that info
  • Choose a sans-serif font such as Verdana or Tahoma rather than a serif one like Times New Roman (screening software might actually reject resumes with serif fonts!)
  • And avoid having any lines go the whole width of the page from margin to margin.

These seem like arbitrary reasons to reject a resume, but you can’t reason with software, so better safe than sorry.

A Trick To Get Your Resume Past Applicant Tracking Systems [AOL]


  • For this reason I stopped using OpenOffice. I didn’t get any responses for several positions that I thought were almost sure things. Turns out a lot of software turns OpenOffice documents into a garbled mess sometimes and no employer is going to contact you to get a good version. They just move on.

        • A half-decent employer would stop using software that turned any applications into a garbled mess. Just as you would stop wearing glasses that made the world look blurry.

          But I can’t say I’ve ever encountered a volume of applications that would be enough to make me turn them over to the care of a machine anyway.

      • I typically get 80 – 120 applicants for a position; I don’t have time to chase up a resume that I can’t even read to find out if I’m even interested in the first place.

        • But what if it’s *your* resume sorting software that has rendered it unreadable? As an employer, I’d feel an obligation to follow that up.

          Of course, if the resume in its raw form arrIved as a garbled mess or if the applicant had ignored formatting instructions, then I’d have less patience with that. But that’s not what is being discussed here.

      • I also don’t want to be rude but sending a resume in open office form is just plain stupid. If you really want the job, send it in a format a company or recruitment agency will likely be able to open. They seriously don’t care about your open source tendencies, your love of mac, linux, apple, android or whatever. If you don’t own word, just get a free 90 day trial and re-make your resume in word within the 90 days.

      • No, I thought that was a good idea for a while too but agencies hate PDFs. For the people they put forward, they often re-format your resume, so they want a document they can edit easliy.

  • “might actually reject resumes with serif fonts”??? WTF? There’s no more readable, professional looking font than TNR. I think most sans-serif fonts look like amateur webdoodles.

    • And the Selectric crowd chimes in professing that serif’d fonts are outdated, because their way is new and different and cooler (oh, did you know, Selectric sans serif fonts were originally cool because everyone knew that they came from Selectrics, which were very expensive typewriters back in the day?), than the old-school serif fonts everyone else’s typewriter produced. Sigh.

      There are studies that say that sans serif fonts are easier to read on a screen, but serif fonts are easier to read on paper. Mostly when I’ve gont to interviews, the interviewers have a printed copy of the resume in front of them. And when I’ve interviewed, I’ve done the same.

      The last time I was on the hunt, a year ago, I scored a quite nice opportunity at a multi-platform/cloud/profitable organization. Using a resume and cover letter written with the same TNR font I’ved used for a couple decades. Perhaps it says “this person really is the senior engineer she claims to be” (ie, I didn’t just slap “senior” on myself after 5 years in the industry as is in vogue these days). In that case, it’s tough to argue with the results I got. I couldn’t be much happier with my current gig than I am right now.

        • I’ve been using TNR since my troff days. That would be around 1984, I think. So in my case it would be more like, “Found something that works well, doesn’t see a need to change just because of fashion,” which actually a lot of companies investing in a software infrastructure see as valuable. They don’t want people coming in and hopping on the next new thing just to be new and different and “cool”, in MANY cases. The poster child exception to “sticking with what works”, of course, would be investing in an ancient language platform like VB6 that has incompatibilities with the current world. A font doesn’t have incompatibilities, though.

  • I’m using Open Office right now to apply for jobs, and after a lot of applications I haven’t had a single response. I’m beginning to think it was a bad idea and I might have missed out on a lot of opportunities because I am a tightarse. It’s a shame that Microsoft has a monopoly on text editing software and I am missing out because of it :/

    • Yeah, I’m interested in this too. When I was job searching I usually did this to avoid possible formatting differences between different users software.

      • Yes and no.

        Word is usually safe as anyone working in an office can view it and can at least easily copy and paste your information into whatever system they are using.

        PDF is ok for smaller companies but any large organisation it would be unsuitable.

        • Wait, why? Every PDF reader has the ability to select text if that was the reason you were suggesting large orgs. would reject it. (And as far as I’m concerned a txt document should be fine as long as it is perfectly legible and contains valid information. I mean, if you accept digital resumes, you should expect format inconsistencies.)

          • With Word its easy to add notes to the resume, not as easy with PDF.

            Occasionally it can be difficult selecting multiple lines in a PDF and copying it properly.

            PDFs are great for looking at things, if you want to do something with them they’re not so great.

          • Wait, you type into applicants’ resumes?! I would never even contemplate amending the original document. In my view, annotations and commentary are best done with pen and highlighter on a printed copy or by digitally annotating a PDF. In both cases the annotations stand out more clearly and there’s no confusion about what is original and what has been added.

          • Crime of the century right? Because you can’t keep two copies of one file?

            Heard of adding comments in Word? Yeah, it does it.

            Writing on a printed copy? Why waste the paper and how do you share the comments, fax it? Ptf.

          • But if you’re talking about using Word’s commenting system (which wasn’t the initial impression I had, my apologies), how is that easier than using a PDF reader’s commenting system?

  • OpenOffice and LibreOffice can export to .docx, .doc and .pdf. Choose whatever, usually positions will tell you. I’ll go with PDF by default, and .doc second.

  • It is called ‘Buzzword Bingo’

    Your resume must get the most hits on the search engines used by all modern recruitment agencies (and more often than not this first stage is done off-shore.) So if the job is for a xxxx with yyy skills and zzz industry you MUST have those EXACT words in your resume and more than once!

    • Yeah, one of my favourite techniques with this kind of thing is to mention qualities I don’t have. For example, if the job is asking for 4 years of experience in the retial sector, which I don’t have, then in my cover letter or resume, I write something like, “Although I do not have 4 years of experience in the retail sector, I have have worked blah blah and blah.” Usually gets me through to the next round, because I’ve managed to justify their bollocks.

  • Great article, quite informative. I also found another really great website called that will help you get your resume noticed and get you past the ATS plus it only takes a few seconds. Worked for me and I got many more interviews because of jobscan. I definitely recommend the website to anyone who is looking for a job or preparing their resume. Good luck on the job hunt and the resume!

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