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Andrew Arkley|July 27, 2018

How To Optimise Your CV For ATS Software

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You might be perfect for a job, but if you don’t optimise your CV for an applicant tracking system, it may never get read.

That’s because many recruiters now use ATS software and carry out pre-employment screening on candidates.

When an employer searches through the CVs, they’re shown the ones with the highest scores.

But the technology isn’t perfect. Qualified applicants are missing out because their CV isn’t optimised for ATS software.

So how can you beat the ATS robots and get your CV past an applicant tracking system? Let’s take a look…

Get the right keywords that ATS software will find

ATS software wants to find the candidates with the most relevant experience.

To do this, the software scans CVs looking for industry-specific keywords. But if an applicant doesn’t use the words the bots are looking for, they could receive a low score.

For example, a dental assistant role might call for experience in “dental health maintenance” or “infection control”. 

If a candidate doesn’t use these exact terms (or phrases them in a different way) they could miss out on the role.

It sounds like a harsh system but there are things you can do to maximise your chances of using the right keywords for an applicant tracking system.

The first thing is to research which terms your potential employer uses. 

When applying for a role, head to the job description and see which keywords they have included. Copy and paste those into your CV.

Next, you should research terms used within the industry which may not have been included in the job description. If you see some that pop up over and over again, it is a good idea to include them. 

This includes acronyms. Remember to add the full and shortened titles, for example: chief operating officer (COO).

You can also paste a job description into a service like WordClouds or TagCrowd to create a visual “word cloud” and see which are the most relevant keywords.

Highlight your skills and experience

Many employers use ATS software to search CVs for industry-specific skills or qualifications.

Their searches will be clearly defined, as they will be looking for certain certificates or expertise in their industry. So it’s important to cut out anything that is too general. 

For instance, many applicants include phrases such as “team player” or “good communicator”. These are too generic and no employer is going to search for them.

Instead you should highlight the skills employers will look for.

In addition, if you have any industry-specific qualifications, those should definitely be included.

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Double-check for typos

Spelling mistakes are a big no-no when it comes to CVs!

Errors on your application make it seem like you don’t care. Many bosses will simply scrunch up your typo-ridden application and chuck it in the bin.

Applicant tracking systems are just as harsh.

Once you’ve finished typing your CV, make sure to read through it more than once. Then you could ask a friend to go over it again.

Your goal should be to have an entirely error-free CV. 

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Format your CV for ATS software 

Frustratingly for those who love to inject a bit of life into their CVs, ATS software can’t read everything.

That means you need to follow certain rules when putting your application together.

Firstly, applicant tracking systems struggle to read graphics — which means photos, graphs and logos are out.

Some also can’t read headers and footers, so make sure you don’t put any important information in them.

You should also think about the phrasing of section headings. It may be tempting to jazz up your CV by calling the employment history section “My working life” but the ATS software will be confused.

When it comes to ATS software, simplicity is the way forward.

Sound natural

It’s important to remember that getting through the ATS robots is only the first round.

It may be tempting to cram your CV with keywords but think about the poor person who has to read it next. They’re the ones you’re really trying to impress.

So while you should include industry-specific keywords, you must make your CV is readable. After all, humans are still the ones with the last say on who gets the job.

That’s one reason why people are increasingly using professional CV writers.

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