Resumes & Cover Letters

How to Create an ATS-Friendly Resume Template

April 9, 2021

ATS resume templates provide improved chances of your resume being seen by employers. They're optimized through appropriate decisions with layout, design and keywords for ranking high in ATS. In this article, we discuss why ATS resumes are important, how to build your own and provide an example using our own template.

Why is an ATS resume template important?

ATS resume templates are designed to work in favor of applicant tracking system processes. Even when using best practices and proper keywords on your resume, you still might not meet the standards set within the ATS. These systems parse through text within your resume and import valuable information into a profile. Due to irregular formatting or advanced designs, tracking systems have difficulty understanding where the important information is, resulting in improper sorting. When this occurs, they misjudge resumes and even toss them away, never being seen by an employer.

Some templates come pre-formatted with applicant tracking systems in mind. They sort information into specific sections using the most common keywords, making the information easier for the ATS to understand overall.

Related: 6 Universal Rules of Resume Writing

What to include in an ATS resume template

In seeking the most ATS-compliant resume template or making your own, consider a few of the potential errors that confuse tracking systems. The following list provides further details into these problem areas:

  • Use appropriate file formats.
  • Avoid header and footer details.
  • Use appropriate keyword optimization.
  • Avoid graphics.

Use appropriate file formats

While PDFs are excellent at preserving file data without compromising integrity, it's not always best suited for ATS. There are multiple types of tracking software available, but not all of them accept PDFs. Before uploading a resume, make sure you check for a provided list of acceptable file formats. If it doesn't list PDF as a viable option, upload a .doc or .docx version of the file.

Avoid header and footer details

Not all tracking systems properly read and understand items within the header and footer. These areas are often where candidates place their contact information. If an ATS doesn't read this information, the ATS might lose your contact information and have nothing for the employer to go by. Avoid this by placing your name, phone number and email address within other areas of your resume template.

Use appropriate keyword optimization

During the scanning process, ATS searches for specific keywords set by the employer. Resumes without these keywords are often tossed away. One of the best ways of determining what keywords you can use is to read the job description provided in the listing. Look for role-specific terms that the article reuses multiple times. The more prevalent a specific keyword is, the more importance you should place on it within your own resume. Place these keywords throughout as necessary but avoid over-stuffing your resume with them.

Avoid graphics

ATS cannot read images, charts and other graphics. Some candidates exhibit their skill levels in certain areas by showing them within charts. The only way an ATS captures that information is if it also appears written within another section. When choosing or creating an ATS resume template, avoid these as much as necessary.

Related: 139 Action Verbs to Make Your Resume Stand Out

How to create an ATS resume template

Creating an ATS resume template is a simple process as long as you're familiar with the software in question. Knowing what those systems look for and how they read that information better prepares you for submission. The following steps break down the process:

  1. Understand applicant tracking systems.
  2. Choose the proper keywords.
  3. Use simple layouts or designs.
  4. Use specific details.

1. Understand applicant tracking systems

The first and most important step is to research and fully understand what applicant tracking systems are and how they work. While they often make the application process easier by selecting important information from your resume, they're also used in finding the best candidates for employers. This cuts a significant amount of time from their day as they only have the best resumes in front of them.

2. Choose proper keywords

Once you have a full understanding of these systems, proper keyword usage becomes clear. These systems scan documents, looking for assigned keywords and tossing those with the least amount. Use plenty of industry or role-specific terminology and read the actual job posting for additional terms. Without overstuffing, having the appropriate keywords puts your resume at the top of the list.

3. Use simple layouts or designs

Depending on the industry, some employers prefer resumes that have character and personality. It shows them a bit more about each candidate. However, some resumes and resume templates include drastic designs that make for irregular layouts. ATS can't read heavily-designed layouts. If it attempts to, chances are high that it chooses the wrong information for employers or downgrades the resume altogether, potentially removing it.

4. Use specific details

Use specifics when explaining previous roles and duties as well as in your objective, if necessary. Even within the same field, some roles differ or employers look for other sets of keywords. Study individual job postings well and edit your resume in a way that makes it the perfect candidate for each unique position.

Related: How to Write a Resume Employers Will Notice


When seeking out or designing templates for use, follow the below instructions for best results:


[Include your name and job title. If you include contact information, place it in a lower section as well.]

Summary or objective

[Although it's not the most common space for contact information, ATS pinpoint email addresses and phone numbers within resumes. If this information has its own section within the body of the resume, ATS identify it easily. Include your objective here, if necessary, along with contact information.]

Education or experience

[This section might either focus on education or experience, depending on which you believe has more importance to the role. Whichever comes first, use specific details and plugin appropriate keywords where necessary. In your education section, list classes or specific projects you completed that directly relate to the role. Add a line explaining what you learned from it using your chosen keywords. In your experience section, write in detail the functions of each role and plugin keywords throughout. Whichever section you choose to list first, list the opposite immediately after.]

[Title of degree] [School name] [Graduation date]

  • [Relevant classes]
  • [Relevant projects]


[Job title] [Dates of employment]
[Name of employer] [City and state of employer]

  • [Detailed function of the role]

Skills, expertise, interests or other

[The final primary section includes your skills, expertise or other accomplishments. Instead of listing specific skills, list them as short phrases or sentences that describe how and where you use them. Use this as an opportunity to include some of your keywords and further optimize your resume.]

  • [Short phrase explaining skill]
  • [Short phrase explaining expertise]
  • [Short phrase introducing accomplishment]

Download Resume Template
To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.


The following examples show the above template as it pertains to specific job roles. The first example is for the role of an Administrative Assistant using the keywords data, efficiently, effectively, phone and adaptability:

Katie Garcia

With over 6 years of experience within the field, Katie Garcia seeks a position as an Administrative Assistant. Well-developed administrative competencies including bookkeeping and other secretarial skills make me a prime candidate for this position.

313-234-9876 - - New York, New York, 10012


Associate Degree - Administrative Assisting - New York School of Business Administration - 2017

  • Completed an online course in QuickBooks
  • Extensive training using digital spreadsheets and formulas efficiently
  • Earned a certificate in Phone Etiquette Techniques


Administrative Assistant - The Johnson Firm - April 2014-June 2019

  • Managed a multi-line phone system
  • Managed invoices and client payments within QuickBooks
  • Entered client data accurately and efficiently in Excel spreadsheets
  • Showed a high degree of adaptability as the firm expanded
  • Answered client inquiries within our internal application
  • Won a company award for Outstanding Customer Service

Customer Service Manager - The Tee Store - January 2013-March 2014

  • Assessed client inquiries with accuracy
  • Aided in new hire recruitment and on-boarding functions by SHRM principles
  • Processed customer payments and returns promptly
  • Adapted to fast changes with new rules and regulations introduced in 2016


  • Executes tasks with advanced knowledge in Word, Excel and PowerPoint
  • Adapts swiftly to changing conditions, rules and regulations
  • Enters data effectively into spreadsheets and other applications
  • Works with third-party vendors arranging special events
  • Communicates effectively with coworkers
  • Provides world-class customer service


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