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Applicant Tracking Systems: Making Your CV Sharper, Better and More Concise to Beat the System

  • Publish Date: Posted 11 months ago
  • Author: James Kenealey

​Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are often used when recruiting for roles that will likely draw a large number of CVs. An ATS is used to streamline hiring processes and speed up the initial candidate selection process by automatically removing those whose experience or qualifications make them unsuited to the role without relying on human intervention.

Once the key CVs who most accurately fit the job descriptions are identified, human recruiters get involved to further analyse each description.

Applicant Tracking Systems could easily be seen as just another wall of red tape that separates your CV form a potential interview, and it may seem disheartening to know that there is an additional level to get through before you are considered by an actual person. However, the advent of ATS use actually poses a great opportunity for candidates to fine-tune their CVs to make them more concise, eye-catching and ultimately successful.

Beat the ATS and improve the overall quality of your CV at the same time:

Keyword customisation

An ATS is most interested in the keywords it has been told to look for. A job description is often split into keywords to make it easy for the ATS to ascertain your suitability. This means that your CV can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution. It must be something that’s tailored based on the position.

This also means that within your descriptions of previous roles, keywords based on the job description you’re applying for should be included where relevant in a clearly formatted way. Consider summarising your experience using the same language used in the job description.

It’s important not to just fill your CV with endless keywords (especially not in hidden font colours). The systems are intelligent enough to know when there are too many keywords and could filter your application out. 

Use full acronyms (and check spelling)

Applicant Tracking Systems, while intelligent, may not recognise colloquialisms or acronyms used to illustrate experiences or qualifications. Be sure to write out these things in clear, unabbreviated form as many times as required without being tempted to shorten them. This will allow the system to register each time the phrase is used accurately.

Likewise, if there are other acronyms that can be used to describe your experience or qualification, be sure to use whichever one is used on the job description that you’re applying for. The system will likely not be intelligent enough to recognise it otherwise and your perfectly suitable CV might end up in the wrong pile.

Formatting is key

Format your CV in a way that is easy for a machine to read. Remember, these systems may be intelligent, but they aren’t as clever as humans when it comes to certain elements, particularly formatting.

Use clear heading titles, remove any unnecessary lines or charts and keep everything simple. Forget headers and footers, diagrams or any other additional formatting that might be confusing for an ATS.

If the role requires, once you’ve made it past the ATS and are in connection with a human recruiter, save your more elaborate CV for then.

These steps might make it seem like you’re being forced to adapt yourself to suit the needs of a recruiter, when in fact it should be them doing the work. In truth, an ATS is actually not only making the life of the recruiter that bit more convenient and ultimately improves response times for the candidate, but it’s also encouraging you to streamline and improve your CV and ultimately make it more successful – ATS or no ATS.

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