Aug 31, 2023

Optimizing a Résumé in the Modern Age

A woman smiles as she sits across the table from two hiring managers in a job interview.
Paul W. Felshaw
Résumé Specialist

You write a beautiful résumé that you are sure will be noticed by any employer. You’ve picked a template that looks professional and attractive. You’ve worked for hours to make sure you spelled everything correctly and that there are no grammatical errors; because after all, you want to make a great first impression.

Once you are satisfied with your résumé, you start your job search and find your dream job.  You rush to fill out the application and submit it with your beautifully written résumé. A few minutes later, you get an email from the company where you just applied.

“Wow, that was fast,” you think to yourself as you rush to open it.

You feel your stomach sink as you read the first line, “Thank you for your interest in working with us. However, after reviewing your qualifications…”

“How can that be? I just submitted it a few minutes ago.”

Sound familiar?


The Applicant Tracking System

Chances are your résumé was never read by an actual human being, and the message you received was a form letter that was sent automatically. In today’s high-tech world, most companies are using an ATS (short for Applicant Tracking System). This software allows employers to scan résumés for certain key skills required to be successful on the job.

When you apply online, either through a job search site like Indeed or through a company’s website, there’s a good chance that your résumé is being scanned by an ATS. If your résumé doesn’t have the skills they’re looking for, you could get the dreaded, “thank you, but no thank you” response. So, how do you get past the ATS?


Getting Past the ATS

There are several different types of applicant tracking systems out there, each with different requirements. Below is a list of the most common considerations to keep in mind.

  • Résumés saved as a .doc or .docx are the easiest for the ATS to scan, so it is best to use Microsoft Word or Google Docs.
  • Do not use a template from Microsoft Word. Sure, you can create a beautiful résumé with these templates; however, Word templates use tables to organize the sections, and the ATS struggles to read information in tables properly.
  • Do not use Microsoft Word’s built-in header or footer tools for your name and contact information. ATS software is often unable to find this critical information there. You should also refrain from using WordArt or text boxes, since these are also unreadable by many ATS softwares.
  • Do not include educational degrees (i.e.: MS, PhD, MD) next to your name because the ATS will see those as a part of your name and not as credentials.
  • Include key skills in your résumé. Before writing your résumé, read the job description carefully and pick out as many key skills as possible. Then try to include them in each section of your résumé as you describe your skills and achievements.
  • Include dates you were employed at each of your past jobs.
  • Choose a classic font that is clean and legible, such as Calibri, Helvetica, or Georgia.


You Are Not Alone

Looking for a job, let alone writing a résumé, can be a daunting and difficult task. But take heart in knowing that you are not alone—and there are resources available to help!

Employment Services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints works closely with DI to offer personalized employment coaching, Active Job Search groups, and even a live résumé workshop every Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. Mountain Time throughout the U.S. and Canada. To take advantage of all these resources (and more), visit our new and improved website at


About Paul . . .

Paul Felshaw has a passion for helping others become self-reliant and loves teaching résumé writing skills. Paul has a master’s degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He has been working as a résumé writer for Deseret Industries since 2010 and became certified through the National Résumé Writer’s Association in 2018.