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Tips to optimise your CV to get through the applicant tracking system (ATS)

​Finding a new job is hard enough. You’ve spent hours formatting and rechecking your CV, meticulously crafting your cover letter. You start to feel quietly confident. You know you’re the perfect fit. But then you hear crickets…

Many job hunters are familiar with this situation. You feel like you’ve ticked every requirement, and more, for a particular job – but you don’t even receive a screening call. Often, it’s because you haven’t gotten past the job advertiser’s applicant tracking system (ATS).

ATSs have become standard practice with recruitment agencies and internal recruitment teams. As the volume of applicants increase, companies have sought more efficient and automated ways to screen candidates. ATSs scan all applications and award each one a score based on a set criteria. There are many different types of ATSs, some just scan for keywords, whereas others will look for additional requirements, such as qualifications, previous employment and experience.

If the ATS doesn’t score your application high enough, your application is disregarded and unlikely to be seen by a human being in the next stage of the recruitment process. This means not only do you have to put forward a strong and personalised application, you also need to successfully get through the ATS system. In fact, it’s estimated around 75% of CVs don’t get past this first hurdle.

So, we’ve put together some tips below to help your resume get through the ATS and get noticed.

Include keywords

ATS systems scan applications to look for certain keywords relevant to the role. Make sure you include important keywords mentioned in the job advert, as well as those commonly associated with your role and industry. Avoid overstuffing your resume though. You may trick ATS, but this won’t work in your favour once your application gets in the hands of a person.

Complete all fields

Some ATSs will ask questions in addition to uploading your resume and cover letter. It’s important to complete all fields, even if some are not compulsory. Recruiters and internal talent teams could use these fields as filters, and if these fields are left blank your application will be missed.

Leave out headers and footers

It’s common for people to add their contact details and other important information in the header or footer of a document. However, ATS systems will ignore content written here. So, it’s best to not use them.

Resist the urge to ‘snazz it up’

ATS systems can’t understand graphics, images and colours. And they often have difficulty reading unusual or creative fonts. To give your CV the best possible chance to get seen by a person, stick only to text and well-known fonts, like Arial, Helvetica and Times New Roman.

Format is king

Like the previous point, adding text boxes, columns and tables may make your CV more visually appealing. But in doing so, it’ll also make it harder for the ATS to scan and pickup on important information.

Keep bullet points simple

Using arrows and other non-standard bullet points will likely be incorrectly interpreted and result in a jumbled mess. It may seem dull, but simple is your best bet here.

Spell it out

Always spell out acronyms as the ATS might not understand them. Plus, it’s crucial that your CV and responses to online forms are spelling and typo free. Not only will this help your CV pass through the ATS, but it also won’t raise any red flags once it’s reached the recruiter.

Use common rather than obscure titles

Title each section with standard CV headings, such as Education, Skills, Work Experience etc. Showing off your creative writing skills here will just confuse the ATS.

Choose .doc files

Even though more ATS sytems are now able to read PDFs, they should all read Microsoft Word or .doc/.docx files. PDFs can seem neater, but the main goal here is to get your CV through.

Applying for jobs takes up a lot of time and energy, not to mention the emotional toll it can have as well. By following these simple tips, you’ll give yourself the best chance your application seen by a person and ultimately securing your next role.

Keep reading

​Learn how to upskill to add more value to you as an employee and your resume here.

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