Resumes and Cover Letters

How to Write a Resume Designed for ATS that Appeals to Humans

Resume designed for ATS

Job searchers in 2019 face a challenging dilemma – they need a resume designed for ATS and for human consumption – requires them to adapt to technology with applying techniques that have been around for decades.

While upwards of 85% of people found roles through social networking and referrals, articles from Payscale and Jobscan indicate 98% of Fortune 500s and an increasing number of small and mid-sized companies filter ALL resumes at some point in the hiring process through applicant tracking systems or ATS.

What does this mean?

  • Job seekers will learn about a role through a connection and then be asked to submit a resume through a company’s online portal.

  • Time to ditch, once and for all, black-and-white resumes designed for a desk read and written in Times New Roman font, or resumes written solely for applying online.

Job seekers need a resume that can be read both by humans on screens large(desktops) and small (mobile devices) AND the software or ATS. I recommend following the 3 steps below to guide the way.

#1 Know Your Unique Value

In advertising, you can’t pitch a product without understanding what it is that makes it compelling for the consumer. The same goes with resumes. You can’t write a powerful resume if you don’t know what makes you attractive to hiring managers.

As a job seeker, you are “selling” bottom-line impacts, your ability to sell a product, lead a team, grow revenues, fix a mess, lead a complex project, etc.

Begin by thinking about what you’ve accomplished in each role. Next, narrow your focus to contributions that earned you recognition, promotions, accolades, pats on the back or even a simple thank you. These responses will form the foundation for your brand and help you in Step #2 to back up that you can in fact do what it is you claim you can do.

Some questions to ponder:

  • Why you versus someone else?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What have you consistently achieved in each role?
  • How have you moved the needle on the goals set before you?
  • Did you generate new business, bring in new clients, or build strong relationships?

These responses, together with a list of applicable skills, will help to forge a persuasive summary section that together with a headline ensure the resume is designed for ATS and loaded with keywords while helping the reader clearly see how you are well-suited to a role.

Also read: Is My Resume Sending Mixed Signals to Employers? 3 Signs to Look For


Example #1

Global Project Leader (1)

Example #2

Technology Executive (2)

Example #3

Business Leader (3)

2. Show Some Proof

Harkening back to the advertising analogy, when pitching a new product, the ability for a company to back up its claims often seals the deal. The same goes with resumes.

While a strong opening summary is critical to impress and get called for an interview, you’ll need some PROOF. When it comes to job seeking, proof means outcomes and/or metrics told within the context of a story.

Some examples:


  • Recruit, develop, and manage a team of 7 sales representatives while increasing revenue and driving account growth.


  • Built cardiology sales team of 7 from inception. Leveraged deep network spanning the NE to negotiate contracts with leading GPOs and IDNs against competition with 3X larger sales forces.


  • Direct accountability for demonstrating a high degree of initiative and relationship building skills while promoting and selling XXX solution platform.


  • Grew annual revenues $0 to $5.5M in 2 years across a 5-state territory as XXX’s #1 ranked rep of 50 nationally for software solution sales.

Also read: 3 Reasons Why Now is the Best Time of Year to Job Hunt

3. Show the Good Stuff First

Unlike print reading where the reader’s eye travels from left to right and top to bottom, on screens we read a bit differently. In fact, the eye tends to start left and then jump around to whatever grabs the reader’s attention (open up your resume on your desktop or mobile device and see for yourself!)

When it comes to writing for screen reads, this means front-loading every bullet or paragraph. The most powerful portion of the sentence must appear at the beginning, rather than the end of the sentence, since there’s no guarantee the reader will ever travel to the end to read it all!

Keep bullets short, sweet and focused (I recommend 2 to 3 lines max). Take care to eliminate superfluous or unnecessary details to alternatively, lead off with what is most powerful and impactful.


  • Led a hospital system conversion specific to the Sports Medicine market. Result: Over $750K in incremental sales growth.


  • Increased revenues $2.5M by leading the conversion of a major hospital system, driving subsequent hospital conversions and penetrating competitive accounts through C-level relationship building.


  • Identified, strategized and sold system-wide agreement, driving a system-wide conversion to the XXX product. Achieved 135% growth over target in the first 6 months.


  • Achieved 135% growth over target in 6  months by unseating long-standing competitor to close a system-wide agreement and conversion during negotiations as region’s first Director of Strategic Accounts.

Writing a Resume Designed for ATS that Also Makes Humans Happy

Resumes today are often read by humans first, then software, and finally again by humans. Sometimes they are read in reverse order. Either way, your documents need to appeal to both.

Job seekers will likely have the greatest success using job boards to find out about companies with funds to hire, figure out who they know (and who they need to know!) within these companies. Then job seekers can network their way in until they are asked to submit their resume online.

From there, the resume will be read and hopefully re-read by people throughout the interview process.

By spelling out both your WHY and HOW, your resume will be designed for ATS, will be rich in ATS keywords and present a compelling case to humans as to how you are well-suited for the role!

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About the Author

Virginia Franco, NCRW, CPRW is the founder of Virginia Franco Resumes which offers customized executive resume and LinkedIn profile writing services for the 21st century job seeker.