Career Quandary: How can I get my CV through applicant tracking systems?

Neville Rose, director at CV Writers, answers our reader's dilemma on how to get their CV through applicant tracking systems.

Neville Rose, director at CV Writers, answers our reader's dilemma on how to get their CV through applicant tracking systems.

Question: “I recently read that it’s important my CV passes through applicant tracking systems. What does this mean and how do I ensure my CV does this?”

Neville Rose says...

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are used by many large - and increasingly smaller organisations - to manage recruitment campaigns. Part of this is handling and sifting through CVs in response to advertisements. Similar software is also used by job boards as part of their ‘CV sifting’ service for recruiters to be able to trawl the job board database for suitable CVs. It is estimated that over 70% of CVs are screened out by ATS systems. So it is important to make sure your CV is not filtered out at this early stage.

ATS systems work principally through keyword recognition. This means that you should try to align your headings, key skills and job titles to the most commonly understood industry terms. It is important that you carefully read the job descriptions and person specifications of your target jobs as this will give you a feel for the keyword phrases that employers are looking for.

By far the most important keyword phrases you should focus on are job titles. You should sprinkle your CV with job titles that are most recognised for the roles you have undertaken – and most importantly those you are aspiring to. If you can, try to be flexible with the job titles of your previous or current roles and try to match them to industry understood terms. Do the same in your professional profile and key skills section, if you have one.

Most ATS systems prefer clean, plain formats without tables or pictures. The limitations of ATS technology mean complex formatting will frequently be overlooked by ATS systems. You should avoid using fancy fonts and stick to those most commonly used, such as Tahoma, Calibri or Arial. Whilst paying heed to appropriate keywords, it is important not to overuse them as you still want your natural personality to come through.

Following all the usual best practice advice in writing a CV should ensure your CV doesn’t fall foul of ATS filters.  Remember, your CV needs to work for both ATS systems and humans. It is still a person that will make a decision about inviting you to interview so make sure you focus on content and illustrate your CV with achievements.

If you would like help with your CV, cover letter or LinkedIn profile, CV Writers can help through a variety of CV services.

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