Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have been around since the mid 00s. Given that as many as 99% of Fortune 500 companies now use them to filter the best applicants, are resume templates still relevant today?

What is an ATS?

An ATS is a system that takes your resume and puts it in a database. Keywords will be assessed by the system and when the Human Resources (HR) team goes to look at the best resumes they will put a number of priority keywords into the computer. Those with the best distribution of keywords will be read while those who fail to get past the filtering will not.

Does this sound daunting? Keywords and key-phrases are one of those things we can’t avoid in this world so we have to master them in nearly all searches we seek to be found in. Sad but true.

One thing to be clear is that (as with search engine optimization in web copy), ‘keyword stuffing’ will get you penalized. You require a good resume that has the right keywords at the right distribution. A keyword-stuffed document is repetitive and annoying to the human reader – and that’s the person who will decide whether or not to interview you!

Resume Templates are Still Relevant

The advent of computerized filtering has not killed the art of a well-crafted resume. Someone (you hope!) will still see the resume in the end. Think of the ATS as an added layer you need to get past as opposed to the be-all and end-all of resume crafting.

Having the human element still present in resume filtering means that you need to think how it will stand out when it gets seen. The best advice out there is to use a resume template.

You need to consider a variety of things when it comes to choosing a resume template:

  • What’s the industry you’re in?
  • Will a colorful, graphic based template be right or a well-structured, black and white one be appropriate?
  • Chronological or skills-based? Tip – chronological is still relevant and acceptable even in 2020!
  • A combination of chronological and skills? A writer may wish to show good graphics skills and a graphic designer they can write too for example.
  • Short and to the point or long and detailed? Remember you may have 5-10 seconds to catch the HR’s eye.

As with any piece of writing you will need to catch the recruiter’s eye from the get-go. That’s why you should always include a short, 3-4 line summary at the top.

ATS and Resume Templates?

Though some ATS – notably and other recruitment systems – will take your resume and process into their own formats, many will still just scan for keywords and store them for download should you be long-listed. This is why a PDF or .docx file is ideal so it can be scanned by the system. It won’t always be cut up and reformatted.

Many ATS will still store the file for the HR team to download and read. This is why a resume-example is still relevant today. Computers haven’t reduced everything into plain, boring text.

In short? Yes, the computer will filter the resume but that isn’t the end. You still need a resume that will grab the human HR reader and make them want to learn more about you. That’s why a good resume template is still relevant today!


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