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‘Beat the Bots’: how to create an ATS-friendly CV

‘Beat the Bots’: how to create an ATS-friendly CV

Research conducted by Jobscan found that over 98% of Fortune 500 companies use some form of  Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software. If you want to get your CV noticed, chances are that you’re going to have to get past ATS software, such as Oracle’s Taleo or IBM’s BrassRing. So what do candidates have to do to get their CVs noticed? Here’s what you need to know…

You’ll often be told that tailoring your CV is an important part in helping you to improve your odds in terms of how well you match to a job. It is and rightly so. Hiring managers will be looking for evidence that you can meet their competency requirements. Part of that customisation process is ensuring that you add the right keywords to your document.

In essence, you need to create an ATS-friendly CV. This is because ATSs effectively score CVs for relevance by keyword so that the hiring manager will quickly know if you’re a good fit for the role. Carefully scrutinising the job description and required skills will give you the best indication of what they’re looking for and is always the best starting point.  

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So what types of keyword should I be adding? You will need to adapt your CV to every role you’re interested in. The important words to focus on are a combination of technical and interpersonal skills. Don’t just put ‘proficient in MS Office’, include the various programmes such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as these may be important pre-requisites for the role. Be sure to include all relevant qualifications and certifications, especially for more technical roles. And stick to traditional headings such as ‘Relevant work experience/work history’.

Keyword optimisation is not the only area to consider to get the ATS’s seal of approval. Formatting is another. In most cases, you will be given file options so you will follow instructions, but it’s always better to have different versions ready – not all ATSs can read PDFs for example, so if in doubt, play it safe and submit your document in Word or plain text. Use a standard sans serif font such as Arial, Times New Roman or Helvetica. Avoid any fancy tables, graphics or charts – even headers and footers are best left out.  

We cannot overemphasise that it takes time and effort to create a killer application. Not only do you have to tailor and optimise your CV, you must take great care as to how the document looks and reads. Yes, you have to make it ATS friendly, but don’t forget that’s the first stage of the process. There will be a human person reading it too, so don’t go overboard with the keyboards or try to cheat the system.

And finally, check your document for any typos. You might be tired and spent a lot of time finessing your CV, but all that hard work will go to waste if you don’t check it thoroughly. The algorithms aren't programmed to pick up on your misspellings.  

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