How to get your CV through the application process

Coach Martin Garrity advises those who have been applying for jobs, but are not getting interviews.

Job Description


Martin Garrity aka The Jobsearch Coach helps people who are looking for a new job, wanting to change their job and are getting interviews but getting rejected. His service is for jobseekers, job changers, job returners and job starters. Here he outlines advice for those who have been applying for jobs, but are not getting interviews.

The internet gives us so much. We can shop, watch TV or films, listen to our favourite music and read interesting stuff any time.

It also means that when an organisation is seeking new talent, the opportunity might be advertised online. (Many vacancies are not filled this way, as recruiting organisations rely on networks of candidates of whom they are aware already. But that’s a story for another article).

So when a vacancy appears on the internet, literally anybody with a connection can see it. Which in turn means that recruiters may get thousands of applications for a single vacancy.

(Which explains why I often advise my job-seeking clients to ration the amount of time they spend trawling through job boards such as Monster or Indeed to a few minutes a day. It can be soul-destroying to keep making applications and not getting replies)

Recruiters have to find a way to manage the large number of CVs and covering letters.

They use software called an Applicant Tracker System or ATS. If you’re applying for a role online, it’s very likely that you’ll need to navigate one of these tools. They take some getting used to…..

Here are some key tips that will give your application the best chance of clearing this hurdle and being read by a real human being!

Understand how an ATS works

It will probably store your application – sometimes long after the role has been filled. This is more likely to happen if your application comes close to the specification the recruiter is looking for. The database of previous applications is a handy resource for the recruiter – she/he can scroll through these CVs and covering letters if any future vacancies arise. Why re-advertise a job if you already have some close matches, right?

The software will probably also review your CV for the right keywords. This is one of the secrets to cracking the ATS challenge.

Understand the importance of keywords

The job advertisement to which you are responding most likely contains a description of the role and (if you’re lucky) a list of essential or desirable skills or capabilities which the recruiter is seeking. There are keywords in that text. The ATS will search in your CV for those words, and if they do not appear in your CV or are not there enough, most likely the CV will receive a low ranking.

You can work around this issue by carefully reviewing the job ad with a highlighter pen in hand. As you read through, mark the most relevant and important words. Once you’ve got a list of keywords, make sure that they appear in your CV prominently.

It would even better to make a wordcloud of the job advertisement and of your CV. Worldclouds are a visual representation of text. The more frequently a word appears in text, the larger it appears in the wordcloud.

This is easy and free if you use a tool like Upload your CV and covering letter into and the result will look something like this which I produced using my own CV.

You can produce a wordcloud for the job advertisement as well. Which means that you can compare the requirements of the job with your letter and CV. If the keywords from the recruiting organisation don’t appear in your CV and letter as often as you’d like, you can get to work editing both.

Some CV coaches advise adding multiple repetitions of keywords in ‘invisible’ white text to the CV. Although this trick might get your CV ranked higher, recruiters are unlikely to fall for it – it’s a simple matter to highlight all text and reveal the added words. Once the white words are revealed, your application is likely to be rejected.

Think about the style of your CV

Some Applicant Tracker Systems reformat your CV so that it’s consistent with all the other applications. What’s more, some ATSs don’t work very well so in restructuring your CV will unintentionally omit some parts of it. Imagine your CV being delivered without the key section that is most relevant to the job!

So keep the style of your CV simple with consistent headings and employment history listings. Avoid tables if you can. And save your CV in a .doc,.docx or pdf format.

Complete all the boxes!

Many Applicant Tracker Systems request that you fill in various boxes onscreen. Some systems will automatically reject applicants who do not complete all the sections. So I advise my coaching clients to complete all the boxes, even if they have to insert ‘Not Applicable’ in some areas of the online form.

Tailor your CV and cover letter

Perhaps the most powerful advice of all is to tailor your CV and covering letter to the opportunity. That’s the best way to get your application seen by a real person. So get to work analysing the requirements. Do your research on the organisation. Look up connections on LinkedIn who have worked there or are connected to employees. Use the information that you discover to make the CV and letter surgically targeted at the opportunity.

*If you need help with your CV and covering letter, visit or email Martin at [email protected].

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