Home » Blog » CV basics » CV Tips: How To Survive An ATS

Updated : 03/15/2023

If you send your CV to a large corporation, then your credentials will probably get caught up in an applicant tracking system, also known as an ATS. Small business owners have time to go through the relatively small amount of CV they get on a regular basis, but large corporations found it impractical to spend money on having human resources professionals go through every CV that was submitted. Since just about every CV is submitted electronically, ATS software is used to screen CV.

The average ATS has criteria set by the company that screens out CV that do not fit the company’s job requirements. The CV that get through the screening process are then forwarded on to hiring managers for consideration. It can sound frustrating to have a piece of software reject your CV before a human even reads it, but these CV tips will help you format your CV so that you can survive an ATS screen.

Table of contents

1. Submit CV for roles you are qualified for

If you apply for jobs that you are not qualified for, chances are that the verbiage on your CV will not match the job description of the job role. Matching keywords is the whole point of having your CV make it through the applicant tracking system. An ATS will most likely reject your application if you are not qualified. Apply for jobs that match your work experience, skills and education. As long as you are truly qualified for the roles you’re applying to, you should fare well with the ATS.

2. Carefully tailor your CV to the job description

Although a job description may be part of the same industry and appear similar, never assume they are one and the same and submit the same CV. Take the time to tailor your CV based on each individual job description. Examine your CV and be sure to focus your job skills so they match the skills listed on the job description. This gives you the best opportunity to get noticed by the ATS and advance your CV to the next stage.

3. Customise your keywords based on the job posting

Using the right keywords is vital when it comes to CV scanners. The keyword type, where, and how you use those keywords plays an important role. The good news is that you don’t have to guess which relevant keywords to include on your CV or in your application. As previously mentioned, the kinds of keywords can be found in each job description, ad or posting. If you want to get your CV through the ATS and advance to the next stage, do your homework and strategically place those specific keywords in your CV.

4. Match keywords to your special experience

It has already been explained that the ATS is more likely to pass your CV through by recognising relevant keywords. However, how those keywords are presented are equally important. The ATS as well as the hiring managers are looking to see how their specific keywords match to your work history and skills. Using those keywords, craft content that highlights your accomplishments and shows how you are ideal for that job role. The ATS will immediately recognise that specific experience is present.

5. Use concise sentences and skip the fluff

One of the surest ways to get your CV rejected by an ATS is to use fluff words and words that have no reason to be on your CV in the first place. The ATS scans your CV looking for pertinent keywords and if it finds an overabundance of fluff, then it will reject your CV immediately. If you want to get past the ATS, then use concise sentences and only deal in language that talks directly about your field. Also be sure to write out acronyms. The applicant tracking system typically looks for spelt phrases.

6. Include a skills section with strategically placed keywords

The skills section of your CV is typically the area where you can give a hiring manager a quick glimpse of your abilities. That makes it the perfect place to include relevant keywords from the job posting, as you should have also done in your work history section. A skills section with the right keywords makes it easier to scan for the keywords that the ATS is programmed to look for.

7. Craft a professional-looking CV

The goal of including relevant keywords in a CV is only part of the challenge. You see, once you get through the ATS, you still want to impress the hiring manager. It’s important that you simply don’t cram the keywords into your CV yet your sentences don’t make any sense. Be sure that your CV is of a professional quality and that it describes your career experience in the best possible way.

8. Use basic formatting on your CV

When it comes to scanning your CV for keywords, the ATS is not interested in fancy. Instead, it works best when you use a basic font on your CV like Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman, Georgia, or Helvetica. Avoid using charts, logos, columns, graphs and images. You can however, use bullet points, bold, italics, and underlining. You want to ensure that the ATS recognises the most important CV information so you are deemed qualified for the job you are applying for.

9. Submit the acceptable CV file type

After you incorporate relevant keywords from the job posting into your CV, you need to pay attention to what type of CV file to submit. Typically, the options are docx or PDF. Refer to the specific job application portal to find submission details. You want to ensure that you are using an acceptable file type. If you submit an unacceptable file type, the ATS may not be able to be read.

10. Reach beyond your CV

Social media and website content are often part of the wide array of information that an ATS will look for. Once your CV is submitted to an ATS, that software will scour the internet to find out as much as it can about you and your background. If you want to give the ATS all of the information it needs, then start using the company keywords on your social media sites and your job sites, if you have one. The ATS will want to compile as much information as it can about you and your background and using the company’s keywords in your social media profile will help tremendously.

11. Update your information online

As just mentioned, the applicant tracking system goes far beyond simply reading through the CV you’ve submitted to locate relevant keywords. An ATS may take the scanning one step further by searching the web for your information to make sure it all matches. It’s a good idea to continually update your online profiles so that your information coincides with the information on your job applications. This will ensure your best chances at making it through the ATS and onto the next stage in the job hiring process.

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