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Build your CV to beat applicant tracking systems

October 4th, 2019 by

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 on to 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 key words 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.

Five easy steps to a CV revamp

September 27th, 2019 by

You’re likely to be decades into your career before the several-page CV becomes a necessity. For most roles, it’s best to keep it to two sides of A4 at the most.

That means when you want to add something new, you need to make space for it, whereas older information like further education qualifications might be less relevant than, for example, more recent job experience.

Here are five simple steps to a CV revamp that cuts the weaker information and puts your strongest credentials front and centre.

 

1. Read the job description

It sounds obvious, but before you revamp your CV, read the job description – in full – for the role you are applying for.

That way you can prioritise your most relevant experience and move anything less important, but which you think is still worth including, further down the page.

Consider your cover letter too, as you can use this to reference your most relevant attributes from your CV and give the interviewer some signposts as to what questions to ask you.

 

2. Summarise older information

As time passes, the older information on your CV might deserve less spelling out, so summarise it if it’s still worth including at all.

That might mean your education section becomes a short list of qualifications with only your higher education and continuing professional development fully itemised.

You might find this a useful opportunity to hide periods of poor performance in the past – it’s best not to leave gaps in your personal timeline, but you don’t have to point out past failures either.

 

3. Check the wording

If you’re polishing an existing CV, don’t just skim read what you wrote in the past, as your personal tone of voice may have changed in the months or years since.

Working in an industry for a long time can change the way you talk about it and about yourself, so make sure any industry-specific words you used in the past are still correct.

This helps you to present yourself as you are now, at this newest stage in your career, as well as to remove obsolete terminology that makes you sound less relevant to the here and now.

 

4. Don’t use filler

You don’t need five bullet points for every role in your career history. If you’re short of space, consider deleting the less significant or repetitive lines.

This not only avoids wasting the interviewer’s time, it also puts the spotlight on the experiences you are most proud of and gives you more confidence about what the interview questions will be based on.

In most cases your more recent jobs will be the most interesting to the interviewer, so unless you had a particularly high-profile role early in your career, list them in reverse chronological order with more focus on the recent past.

 

5. Prioritise your USPs

CVs can be pretty formulaic – in fact that’s the whole point of them, to make it easier to compare one candidate with another.

If you have one or more truly unique credentials, such as an achievement nobody else has matched, major media coverage or a prestigious industry award, include it.

Even if there’s no obvious place to list it, put it in a section of its own if you have to – if you’re proud enough that you want to include it, it’s probably worthy of the spotlight.

 

If you need more help building your best CV try our CV builder tool. Or check out some sample CVs to get an idea of where to start.

How to get a job with no work experience

July 5th, 2019 by

It’s not easy to get a job with no work experience, but we all have to start somewhere and many employers recognise that fact.

However, that doesn’t mean you can just walk in and expect to be offered a job. You’ll still need to make it through the recruitment and interview process.

So what can you do to help your CV look less empty when you apply for a job without work experience? Here are our top tips.

 

1. Focus on other areas

This is the most obvious solution – if you don’t have relevant work experience, don’t try to make it look like you do.

You can prioritise other parts of your CV, such as relevant education or qualifications, or even any outside interests, hobbies and pastimes that give you knowledge of the role you’re applying for.

Don’t be afraid to put your career history at the bottom of your CV instead of at the top, if it’s not as relevant as some of those other areas. Look to our CV Builder if you need help deciding which sections to include and in what order.

 

2. Transferable skills

A lot of work experience comes in the form of transferable skills, sometimes called ‘soft skills’.

These are things like teamwork, flexible thinking, adaptability and capability in a crisis, and they’re the kinds of characteristics that all employers value, so don’t neglect them.

Again, give careful thought to the order of the information on your CV – if you have relevant transferable skills, give them priority, even if they were learned as part of a job in a completely different industry or sector.

 

3. Give more detail

If you don’t have many individual examples of past experience to list, give some extra background detail about each one to fill the space.

Consider your wording carefully – it shouldn’t just be filler – and keep it to brief bullet points to put your point across in as punchy a way as possible.

Remember, you’re aiming to give the interviewer an at-a-glance guide to the things you want to discuss in your interview, so keep it relevant to the role but bring in your best attributes from across the board at the same time.

 

4. Mention past wins

If you’ve seen major success in a role that was completely different to the one you’re now trying to get, it’s still worth mentioning.

At the end of the day, success is success and employers will often value a good business head or a commitment to delivering on a project, even if your only examples of this are ‘irrelevant’ on the surface.

Make sure you highlight how this relates to your current application – and if possible, quantify your success in terms of how much it was worth to your employer or the return on investment you achieved, as money always talks too.

 

5. Make a statement

If you have nothing else you can use to fill your CV, consider making a short personal statement. This is traditionally not particularly common in the UK but it’s on the increase.

A brief statement can allow you to make clear that you have passion and enthusiasm for the role you’re applying for, and that you will be quick to learn on the job.

Just make sure to be specific in what you say – vague promises to work hard don’t mean much compared with, for instance, giving a specific example of when you have thrived out of your comfort zone in the past as proof that you can and will adapt quickly. Our links, tips and tricks can help provide some more insight and prepare you for the next step – the interview!

How to tailor your CV properly

June 28th, 2019 by

We all know that to make the best impression on the interviewer, you should tailor your CV properly for each role you apply for – but how do you go about doing this?

If you’re applying for a very clearly defined role, then your CV might not need changing much each time, although you should make sure to update it regularly anyway.

But if you’re applying for a number of different roles within your chosen industry, and especially when applying for jobs where you’re slightly less experienced, tailoring your CV can help to present you as the right candidate for the job.

 

1. Start with an up-to-date CV

It doesn’t hurt to have a generic CV to use as a starting point, and choose the most relevant experience and qualifications from there. Take a look at our CV builder to get started.

You might want to make this ‘master’ CV longer, listing all of your qualifications, transferable skills, career experience and so on.

Don’t send this monster master to recruiters, but instead adopt a ‘delete as appropriate’ approach to trim it down to the requisite one or two sides of A4 for each application.

 

2. Structure it well

A good overall structure provides you with a framework within which you can change individual details to prioritise the most relevant information about you.

Our CV Builder is a great way to make sure you’ve covered all the important areas, from education and work experience, to transferable skills and relevant hobbies.

Just login to start building your CV today, and we’ll also make sure you don’t miss any of the basics like name, address, telephone number and email address so the employer can actually contact you.

 

3. Change the order

You can change the order not only of information in each section, but of the entire sections themselves.

So for example, if you think your transferable skills are particularly strong for one application, you might move them higher up the running order.

Alternatively, you might have directly relevant work experience to list first instead – or if you’re straight out of education, it could be your qualifications that take top billing.

 

4. Trim the dead weight

It can be tempting to list absolutely everything you can think of in an attempt to impress the interviewer, but an unwieldy CV is rarely welcomed by recruiters or employers.

At first glance amid a stack of competitors’ CVs, you have barely a matter of seconds to make your application memorable, so keep it simple and make good use of formatting to give prominence to your absolute best features.

 

5. Don’t panic

If you’re applying for a number of jobs, don’t spend weeks tweaking your CV – instead, learn to prioritise what you know are your best features and quickly put the most relevant ones up top.

Again, our CV Builder can help you to keep track of your core talents, career progression and all those elusive dates and full names of past qualifications.

That way, you don’t have to write entire sections of your CV from scratch each time, but instead you can quickly and easily build a new version of your master CV that shows only what you want to say.