Get your CV past an ATS

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You may be aware that many employers use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen and process applications for jobs. So, to get through the first stage of a job application, your CV needs to be set up in the best way to respond to a recruiter’s search.

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

Applicant Tracking Software is often used by big employers, particularly banks, accountancy firms and public sector organisations. As you upload your CV for a job application, the system will scan it, pull out the relevant information and record the details.

When a recruiter looks to narrow down the applications, they will enter keywords into a search. If your CV matches those keywords, your details will appear in the results.

How do I know if my CV is ATS friendly?

Essentially, an ATS friendly CV is one that the software can read easily and pull out key search terms. The main thing to note is that different organisations can use varying terminology.

The key, then, is to make sure the CV you submit for a role mirrors the job advert. There are two areas where this is important:

  • Key skills – make sure that if you have the skills the ad is looking for, they are listed using the same phrasing on your CV. For example, if your current role is in accounting but the job ad specifically mentions bookkeeping, use that word.

It can help to list your key skills in a section at the top of your CV.

  • Past roles – the ATS will look at the dates and job titles of your previous work experience. Make sure that the date format you use is fully consistent throughout your CV. It can also help to spell out how long you were in a role – e.g. “three years as a project manager for [company name].”

How do I pass my CV through ATS if I’m seeking a career change?

You might be looking to move into a slightly different field for your next role. Just approach this the same way as you would for a role without an ATS. Highlight your key transferable skills, using the same terminology as stated in the job advert, and include somewhere the job title of the role you want.

You could state in your personal profile that you are seeking a new challenge as an ‘operations manager’ even though this isn’t your current title.

Formatting your CV to pass ATS systems

Most ATS systems prefer a Word document (docx.) format as this is easy to scan. Make sure that all the content is text – the software can’t pull words from an image.

Keep the formatting simple, with dark text on a light background and avoid using tables if you can.

Should I worry about ATS?

You might be concerned that an ATS will screen you out of a job before a human even sees your CV. But these systems are designed to help recruiters find good people, not eliminate them from the search.

An ATS can actually be beneficial to candidates. Your CV could come up in search for different positions with the employer, for jobs you weren’t even aware of. A recruiter could be typing in keywords for a new role and your CV comes up as a good match.

As long as you keep your CV clear and relevant, an ATS is nothing to fear at all.

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