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Build your CV to beat applicant tracking systems

Friday, October 4th, 2019

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are the first obstacle you have to clear when applying for a job, and building your CV can help you to do this.

The primary purpose of an ATS is to identify strong CVs and put them to the top of the pile, while weaker CVs are moved further down the list and may never be seen at all.

It’s automated – and therefore, it’s not always accurate. But the good news is that by being aware that these systems exist, you can build your CV in order to beat them.

What do applicant tracking systems look for?

Applicant tracking systems attempt to rank the quality of your CV rather than its content, so it’s important to use a standard structure and formatting.

Even the font you use can affect the ATS’s ability to read your CV, so choose a clear sans serif typeface and don’t alter the character width or character spacing in an effort to squeeze more onto the page.

Likewise, avoid any unusual symbols – such as using stars or arrows as bullet points – and stick to the classic round dot instead.

Choose the right words

Once you’ve got your standard formatting down, it’s time to think about the words you choose and how they will be seen by the ATS.

Some ATS systems are designed to spot specific keywords or phrases and eliminate CVs that don’t contain them.

Because of this, you should read the advert for each job carefully and tweak your CV to make sure you include the relevant job title and any common synonyms for it.

Do they use an ATS?

It can take some detective work to find out if a particular employer uses an ATS or not. If you look carefully at the jobs section on their website, you might be able to find an ATS vendor logo, which is a sure sign that they use an ATS on at least some roles.

You may also notice that the URL for the role’s application page looks unusual, as if it is being routed via a third-party site – again this can be an indication that an ATS or similar online platform is being used.

Ultimately, you may never know if your CV is seen by an ATS, but it still doesn’t hurt to edit your career experience and qualifications so that they are presented in the same kind of language that the employer uses, to make you seem even more relevant to the role.

If the ATS says no…

The worst-case scenario is if the ATS fails to detect the necessary keywords in your application, or filters you out due to some other reason like a pre-application questionnaire.

If this happens, there’s little you can do about it, which is why it’s better to take action beforehand.

However, it might not be the end of your employment chances with that company. Because ATS systems automate the admin work of searching through stacks of CVs, companies that use them are often more likely to keep your application on file.

That means if a similar vacancy comes up in future – but perhaps uses the word ‘technician’ instead of ‘engineer’, for example – your CV could still register a match thanks to the slightly different wording, and you could find yourself called in for an interview after all.

If you need help finding the right job for you we can help! Call us today to start searching for your ideal career.