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Is your CV optimized to pass through an ATS?
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Written by City Job Offers

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Make your CV ATS-friendly with these simple steps

ATS have reduced the workload for a recruiter but it makes it a bit more complicated for candidates who don’t optimize their CV to be easily scanned by an ATS. When you send out an application and think it’s been lost in the black hole of CVs and never receive any feedback, it’s probably because your resume didn’t make it through the ATS.

It’s even been shown that 75% of job applications are rejected by the software and are never seen by human eyes. 

But don’t let the robots stop you from getting your dream job, your CV can be optimized easily and you’ll be one step closer to landing your next job. 

So what is an ATS and how can you improve your CV to make it through the recruitment process?

What is an ATS?

An ATS (Applicant Tracking System) is a software that is designed for recruitment and hiring needs. It is used to scan, filter, sort applications based on keywords, skills, languages, and so on.

With the growth of ATS software, candidates have begun to optimize their resumes in order to increase their chances of landing an interview. 

The software’s job isn’t to find the best fit candidates but rather to filter out those who are least qualified. This helps recruiters save time since they don’t have to look at CVs that don’t meet the requirements and can focus on those applicants that are better matches for the role. 

ATS softwares are used by 98% of Fortune 500 companies but have also become common tools for all organizations, big and small.

How does the ATS work?

Applicant Tracking Systems analyzes the content in a resume and organizes it into categories. It then looks for the relevant keywords that match the job description. This is a key part in determining if the application should proceed to the next phase and if the CV should be sent to a recruiter.

Here is a visual example of how the ATS works:

ATS System Graph

How can you improve your CV to get past the initial phase and be recognized by the ATS?:

Use the right file type

For ATSs, the best file types are .docx. If a company tells you to send your CV in a PDF format then of course send it as a PDF but if there is no specified format then .docx is the format that is scanned most accurately by the system.

Include keyworks

Use the keywords that represent the skills you’ve acquired in your experience that make you the best candidate for the job. Avoid fluff terms and focus on the keywords that match the type of role that you’re applying for. Use the specific qualifications that are listed in the job description.

Some ATSs will analyze how many times a term appears in your CV to determine the strength of your skills. This means that using the keyword 2 or 3 times will increase your chances of moving on to the next phase. 

The software also scans the placement of a specific skill on your resume so it’s key that you create different sections within your CV such as “Core Skill” where you list your hard skills that can be quantified such as software knowledge, languages, or other abilities (keeping in mind what the job position is looking for and the skills that you possess).

In sections like “Education” or “Work Experience”, you can mention those skills again and if possible explain how you used them. 

Even the title of the job itself can be a major keyword as well.

Use clear job titles

If your previous role was as a software developer then use that title. If you try to use other words and make it sound more creative or unique, the system will not recognize it. This will just hurt your chances of getting hired.

Use a simple format

If the design of your resume is too complicated, then the ATS will not be able to read it. Use these tips to optimize your CV:

    • Use basic circle or square bullet points, not complicated symbols. 
    • Divide your CV into sections like Experience, Education, Contact, Core Competencies. 
    • Make sure your font size is larger than 10 points but don’t make it too huge.
    • Align your document to the left. 
    • Avoid embedded images or fonts that can’t be read. 
    • Keep important information out of the header or footer.

Don’t apply too many times at the same company

An ATS can tell if you’ve applied to multiple roles at the same organization. Try to limit how many times you apply at one company. If there are two roles that interest you and match your skills then you can apply but tailor your CV to the specific requirements of each job. 

If you do apply more than once, try to apply for positions that are at similar levels. If you send an application for a higher level position but also for an entry-level position, it can leave recruiters confused.

Apply for positions that you’re qualified for

If you try to go after a role that you don’t have the qualifications for, you won’t make it past the robot gatekeeper that is the ATS. If you don’t meet the requirements, the software will know.

You don’t have to meet every single qualification that the job is looking for but save your own and apply for jobs that you have the skills for. 


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