Is Formatting the Reason Your Resume Gets Rejected?

Is Formatting the Reason Your Resume Gets Rejected?

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

When it comes to job applications, many people believe that formatting plays a crucial role in determining whether their resumes are successful or not. However, this is a common misconception that needs to be debunked. In this blog post, we will explore the truth behind this myth and discuss the real factors that matter in the resume writing process.

The Role of Applicant Tracking Systems

One major misconception is that applicant tracking systems (ATS) automatically parse and score resumes. While it is true that a significant number of companies use ATS to track and organize applications, it does not necessarily mean that these systems are responsible for scoring and ranking resumes. In fact, resume parsing, scoring, and ranking are separate functionalities that companies can choose to include in their ATS.

It is important to understand that just because a company uses an ATS does not mean that your resume is being parsed and evaluated based on its format. Furthermore, even if an ATS includes resume scoring, not all companies use the ranking feature. Therefore, it is crucial not to assume that your resume’s formatting is the reason for rejection.

The Evolution of Applicant Tracking Systems

ATS technology has evolved significantly over the years. Most ATS platforms use similar parsing and scoring technologies, which are constantly improving. While there may have been limitations in the past, such as the inability to read tables, today’s ATS can process various formats and layouts.

Formatting elements like color, borders, italics, underline, and bold do not impact an ATS’s ability to parse and evaluate your resume. These formatting choices are irrelevant to the system. So, instead of spending too much time focusing on formatting, it is crucial to shift your attention to the actual content of your resume.

The Impact of Formatting on Resume Content

Formatting should be used as a tool to draw attention to the most important content in your resume. Whether you are a professional resume writer or a job seeker, the formatting choices you make should align with the strategic communication of your qualifications.

When it comes to templates, it is essential to ensure that they serve the purpose of highlighting your background effectively. It is not about whether a template is ATS-friendly or not; it is about whether it helps you strategically communicate your qualifications. Consider factors like work history, career transitions, core competencies, and accomplishments when selecting a template.

The Pitfalls of Graphics and Canva Templates

Graphics can be visually attractive, but they often draw attention away from the actual content of your resume. Applicant tracking systems cannot read text within graphics, which makes them irrelevant in the parsing process. While it is possible to have a graphic in your resume, it is crucial to ensure that the text within the graphic is also presented outside the graphic, where it can be read by the system.

Canva templates, while visually appealing, often lack the necessary content and keywords to effectively showcase your qualifications. They may include nonsensical graphics and fail to highlight your unique achievements. Remember that the focus should be on telling your specific stories and providing measurable accomplishments that resonate with hiring managers.

The Future of Applicant Tracking Systems

As technology advances, applicant tracking systems will continue to evolve. While AI-powered tools like Chat GPT can provide helpful outlines and starting points for resume writing, they should not replace the personal touch and storytelling that only you, the job seeker or resume writer, can provide.

While Chat GPT can generate content based on job descriptions, it often lacks the ability to include specific, personalized stories and achievements. Your unique experiences and accomplishments are what make you stand out from other candidates, and no AI can replicate that. Applicant tracking systems value these stories as keywords, so it is essential to align your content with the qualifications sought by employers.


In conclusion, formatting plays a minimal role in the rejection or acceptance of your resume. It is highly unlikely that formatting alone is the reason why you or your clients are not getting callbacks from job applications. Instead, the focus should be on the content of the resume, specifically the stories and qualifications you convey.

Applicant tracking systems continue to evolve, and their ability to read and parse different resume formats has significantly improved. While formatting choices should draw attention to your most important content, they should not be the primary focus. Your resume should tell a compelling story of your qualifications and achievements, which will resonate with both hiring managers and ATS algorithms.

So, next time you review your resume or create one for a client, remember that it is the words, the connections, and the demonstrated qualifications that truly matter, not just the formatting!

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2024 

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People hire Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter to provide No BS Career Advice globally because he makes many things in peoples’ careers easier. Those things can involve job search,

hiring more effectively, managing and leading better, career transition, as well as advice about resolving workplace issues.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with over 2800 episodes. 

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