How to get your CV through the ATS... and into human hands

How to get your CV through the ATS and into human hands!

They say it’s all about who you know, not what you know….

And when it comes to searching for a new job perhaps this applies even more. I’m the first to sing the benefits of using your network. HOWEVER today I am focusing on the ‘what you know’ part of job search and specifically how to get passed the organisation’s applicant tracking system (ATS) when applying for jobs online.

Used by companies that receive applications in the dozens, if not hundreds, every day, the ATS is a kind of software that enables employers to manage their applications and quickly and easily assess the suitability of the applications. It works by scanning CVs using keyword trackers to find the candidates that have the essential skills and experience needed to carry out the role. It then ranks them in order of suitability.

For example, if a certain qualification is a prerequisite for a job, the ATS would filter out any applicants who don’t have it. It doesn’t replace human eyes, as an internal recruiter will still review CVs to decide who to contact. However recruiters are typically time poor juggling multiple vacancies and will priortise those applications higher up in the ranking.

So how do you ensure your CV gets through the ATS and into the hands of a decision maker?

1)     KEYWORDS – Ensure you submit a CV that is tailored to the job you are applying for, containing the same keywords that are included in the advert/job description, carefully weaved into your CV. Include both technical skills and soft skills. To be on the safe side when it comes to qualifications, certifications and education, I would recommend you write out the words in full and include the abbreviation. E.g. ACA and Chartered Accountant.

2)     JOB TITLES – the ATS will prioritise those with the same job title as the vacancy. Sticking with the example above of an Accountant, if the job you are going for is Finance Director but your title is ‘Finance Lead’ (but it’s equivalent of a director level position in your organisation) consider putting ‘Finance Lead/Finance Director’ on your CV. Of course there’s no point in being deceptive but if your employer uses unusual job titles it may be an issue.

3)     FORMAT –The rule here is keep it straightforward. For those of you in the creative industries who have opted for a style of CV with a bit more creative flair, unfortunately the ATS is not your friend and you will need to adopt the more standard format. The ATS doesn’t cope well with photos, tables, graphs, logos etc. so your lovingly crafted CV might well be filtered out. Avoid headers and footers and stick to standard headings through your CV such as ‘Professional Summary’ rather than ‘A bit about me’.

Final tips to keep in mind when it comes to writing your CV:

·       Stick to a standard, professional font such as Arial, Calibri, Verdana (considered more modern) throughout your CV. Bullet points are fine.

·       Remember to keep it to 2 pages in length with lots of white space.

·       Ensure it is achievement oriented and so describes you and your experience in the best possible light. Outline your skills, strengths and personal attributes which showcase why they should hire you over a candidate with a similar background.

·       If you do know someone at the organisation that is hiring, be proactive in contacting this person and asking them to refer to directly to the hiring manager. If you can bypass the online application process (by emailing your CV) do so!

Good luck!