How to craft a CV to pass through Applicant Tracking Systems
Can you Beat the ‘Bot?
We’re hearing more and more of our candidates tell us they struggle with applications made direct to organisations. Despite ‘having everything they were looking for’, the candidate receives a message they’re not progressing through the process.
It’s a lose-lose all round.
And the chances are the CV just hasn’t got through the computer screening.
We've put together some hints and tips on how to optimise your CV for a role you suspect may pass through a ‘bot.
Our first tip. Keep it simple.
Remove any fancy formatting and symbols, logos etc. The software just can’t cope with it. Write a Word document that’s text focused and clear. Some ATS systems can’t process pdf files, and nor do they like graphs, charts and tables. Plain text files work really well for ATS software, but they do limit your formatting options.
If you get through to interview, send through your formatted CV prior to interview which may be appropriate if you’re in a creative role such as a design or marketing role.
Our second tip. Make your contact details visible.
One thing we see many candidates do is to include name, address and contact details in the header or footer of the CV.
For some people, it's an obvious place to tuck them away neatly but...
Some ATS systems can’t process data in the header or footer so make sure you pop your contact details in the main body of your CV.
It’s suggested that up to 25% of candidates have contact details buried in the header or footer of their CV.
Our third tip. Keywords.
Oh don’t we love them?
Not to be confused with buzzwords such as ‘proactive’ or ‘self-starter’, keywords highlight the soft and hard skills you have.
Collect the keywords for the role you are applying for. Pick out the key terms and start to populate them into your CV. Now, there’s an optimal repetition of keywords and each algorithm will perform slightly differently. Some ATS systems will optimise the prevalence of the number of times a term appears, whereas others assign an estimated amount of experience for a particular skill based on its placement in the CV.
In an ideal world, you optimise for both, but it’s a balancing act and after the ‘bot has done their bit, your CV will be read by a human so it still needs to read well.
Our fourth tip. It’s a no to charts, graphs, images.
‘The computer says NO’.
You might be thinking about a certain David Walliams with that phrase, but the ‘bot will boot you away. As amazing as CVs look with fantastic formatting, it won’t get you through the door.
Recruiters also prefer straightforward CVs. Part of our job is to gain the insight into our candidates and we add this into how we present you to our clients.
And our clients say, 100% of the time, they just want the best person for the job.
Our fifth tip. Simplify.
Keep your bullet points simple. I think you’re getting the message by now. A solid circle, line or square works well, sadly emojis do not.
Same with your design. Text where the ATS isn’t expecting it causes upset, as does irregular ordering of your experience. Always, always, most recent role first, and go back from there.
Absolutely fine to ‘squeeze’ your earlier career (remember the 2 page rule) and back to keywords. You can overdo them which has the same effect – the computer says ‘no’.
Good luck with your CV if you’re entering a process which involves a ‘bot. And take heart, these systems do work for many businesses and many, many candidates have successfully moved into roles when they’ve applied this way.
Remember, at the end of the day, humans make hiring decisions not computers.