How to Write a Resume for an Online Job Application

3 key tips for today’s job search

For job-seekers, writing a resume is an important first step in applying for any position. It’s your chance to market yourself and show the potential employer why you are the best candidate for the job. If you are writing a resume for the first time, it’s a good idea to make use of tips and advice you can find about the best way to write a resume.

Once you’ve written the basics of your resume, you will want to optimize it for online job applications. When you submit a resume online, a computerized applicant tracking system will scan it and decide whether or not it “makes the cut.” If your resume makes the cut, your resume will be forwarded to a hiring manager. If it doesn’t, you will mostly likely receive a computerized rejection letter.

So what are some tricks and tips for making the cut? Try following these steps to improve your resume’s chance of getting noticed by the applicant tracking system (ATS).

1. Include keywords
ATS systems are programmed to look for certain keywords in the resumes that are submitted. These keywords will be related to the job qualifications that the employer is looking for. The best way to guess what the keywords are is to look carefully at the job posting. Then go back to your resume and re-word your resume to match the terminology that the job posting uses (assuming you actually have those skills, of course). For example, if the job posting says that you will need to “take patient histories” and your resume lists this skill as “reviewing medical intake forms with patients,” then you should change it to “take patient histories” so that the ATS would know that you have this skill. A few tips:

  • Be sure to double-check your spelling of keywords, since the ATS won’t recognize them if they are misspelled!
  • Be sure to include the actual job title in your resume (probably in the summary section). The ATS will probably be searching for these words.
  • Don’t “overstuff” the keywords. Try to use them as naturally as possible throughout your resume.

2. Avoid overformatting
ATS scanners can get confused over highly formatted resumes. Follow these rules for keeping your formatting simple. It would be a shame to have your resume rejected due to formatting issues.

  • Word or PDF? If the job ad doesn’t tell you want format to use, Word is probably the safest bet. PDFs are becoming easier to read, too, so they’re probably okay for most ATS scanners.
  • Avoid columns, text boxes, borders, headers, footers, graphics, fancy bullets, special characters, and colors. Don’t use resume templates.
  • Some simple formatting is okay, like boldface, italics, and simple bullets.
  • Stick with the usual headings that an ATS recognizes, like Summary, Experience, Skills, and Education.
  • Use a simple font like Arial, Georgia, or Tahoma.

3. Complete all fields of the online application
Submitting an online application can be time consuming. There may be many different fields that you feel you have answered hundreds of times already on other applications. But don’t take shortcuts! Show the employer you are serious about the job by completing every field carefully. If there is an “optional” cover letter, write one! Filling out a well-thought out application can set you apart from the competition.

Bonus Tip: Choose carefully
With many hundreds of job postings online, you can spend endless hours applying for possible jobs. And with the competition of so many other online job seekers, the odds of getting contacted can start to feel impossible. To avoid getting discouraged, start by choosing your job applications very carefully. Apply only to those jobs where you are qualified. Spend quality time on the applications that seem like your best shot. It’s better to send out a few well-prepared applications than to send many poorly-prepared ones.

We hope these tips help you better understand the way ATS scanners work. With a better optimized resume and a carefully completed job application, we hope your resume finds its way to the right job for you!