Is it better to submit a simply structured, well-organized, very blocky, dull resume that a parser can easily extract information from when submitting a job application online; or is it better to submit a well-designed, more aesthetically pleasing resume that a parsing system might have a bit more trouble going through?

I guess it comes down to whether or not a hiring manager or HR will look at the resume? I'm expecting everyone to say go with the dull, parsable resume, but follow up question: when should you use the aesthetically pleasing one if ever?

  • 1
    Keep in mind that throwing your resume into the black hole of an ATS along with thousands of others rarely yields a "hit" (interview opportunity). Much better to make something a human will appreciate and then do as much as you can to make a connection within the company and have the resume forwarded directly to the hiring manager or peers.
    – teego1967
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 21:54

3 Answers 3


Why not strive for a resume that accomplishes both? I have a resume that is well-designed(but could be better), aesthetically pleasing and (at a glance) highlights my most meaningful achievements.

I have a small grid section that details all the tech I use (For ex: SQL, Java, .NET, etc). Therefore, the ATS will pick up my skills and the HR will pick up my achievements.

  • I agree with this and suggest that you do a search for free resume templates, and look at a lot of them to see if you can find anything that you like more than the standard "blocky" style you mention. Many of the more unusual designs require access to graphic design software, but keep searching and you should be able to find others that use more readily available software like MS Word.
    – magerber
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 16:31

I guess it comes down to whether or not a hiring manager or HR will look at the resume?

This questions answer will vary to a degree by company, but I would always assume a human being will look at your resume and make it as easy to read and process for a human being as possible.

Most HR applications will allow for either the uploading of your resume through their own portal, via a linkedin quick apply, or they will allow for you to attach (upload) your resume.

Your resume is your first impression that is made on your first point of contact with a company. Always assume a human will look at it, and the ATS will almost always parse it well enough.

As a side note, if you are able to upload your resume or email it to a recruiter be certain it is in a format that can be read by the employer. PDF is probably the most universal format.

  • 1
    I think this is accurate for many situations, but it is important for the OP to have a good understanding of their own job market. If s/he is in a market where there are likely to be several hundred applicants for every available opening, then I think s/he needs to optimize the resume for getting past the applicant tracking system so it will actually reach a human being. In the end, a person will indeed review the resume, but if they are inundated with options, it can take some work to get past the ATS.
    – magerber
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 16:36
  • @magerber Good point, but most ATS systems will process almost any resume format. And if the number of qualified applicants is that high, then its a crap shoot anyway.
    – Neo
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 16:37
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    @MisterPositive, I think magerber is talking about the difficulty of making it past the buzzword filter in the ATS.
    – shoover
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 16:39
  • @shoover Ah, that would make more sense. There is only so much you can do to get by those filters.
    – Neo
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 16:39
  • @shoover, that's exactly what I meant...thanks for clarifying. :-)
    – magerber
    Commented Sep 7, 2017 at 16:42

I agree with the other answers already posted, but just wanted to suggest that you might want to create different resumes depending on their usage. If you have a LinkedIn profile, and you upload a resume with that profile, I would make sure that that resume is optimized for ATS, so that if employers are generally searching for candidates with specific skills, your resume is likely to be found via that search.

If you are responding to a specific job opening, however, I always advise optimizing that resume for that job opening. If possible, use a hybrid resume that looks good and will work with the ATS, but always rework your resume to highlight those skills/positions that you think are most likely to resonate with the particular employer.

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