How to Get Your CV Past An Applicant Tracking System

It’s easier than ever for candidates to apply for jobs online, thanks to the introduction of applicant tracking systems (ATS). Candidates now have to spend less time job searching, and companies can screen a high volume of CVs more quickly. However, applicants might argue that applicant tracking systems can be too stringent at screening and sometimes filter out applications that are, in fact, relevant. So if you’re wondering how to get your CV past an applicant tracking system and increase your chances of getting a job interview, this article is for you.

12 Tips to Get Your CV Past an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Tailor Your CV to the Job You’re Applying For

That said, your skills don’t need to match 100%. Even if you’re only 60% of the way there, your CV should get past an applicant tracking system.

Only Apply to the Most Relevant Roles

So if an applicant tracking system spots the same CV being submitted to multiple roles with wildly different skill sets, it may reject all applications from that person as spam.

Avoid Complex CV Formatting

  • Colours
  • Tables
  • Columns
  • Skills ratings graphs or star charts
  • Photos
  • Graphics
  • Funky fonts
If you want to get your CV past an applicant tracking system, this image shows all the formatting errors to avoid
CVs can look rather dull so it’s only natural to want to jazz them up a bit but boring is best for an ATS!

Applicants applying for creative positions often have seriously stylish CVs. However, if you think it might have to get past an ATS, it’s good to have a plain text version to send as a backup.

Use Keywords Wisely

For Example, let’s say you’re applying for the role below:

Excerpt from a job advert with all the keywords circled that should appear in your CV
The keywords you should include in your CV if you want to be a good match for this job.

As you can see, we have highlighted all the key skills for this job posting. Listing all the skills you’ve used throughout your previous work experience is the ideal way to include the keywords without making your CV seem spammy.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the same job title as the one you are applying for. However, if you are applying for a Senior Software Developer, as in the example above, an ATS may search your CV for the keyword ‘Software Developer’.

Incorporate a Skills Section or a Summary of Qualifications

Don’t Lie or Embellish Your Skills to Get Past an Applicant Tracking System

  1. The first sneaky tactic is to simply list all the keywords you think a hiring manager wants to see on your CV in tiny white text at the bottom of your document.
  2. The second is very similar to the above but requires less imagination: What you do is copy the entire job description and paste it in tiny white print at the bottom of the document.

In both cases, the candidate thinks they have been cunning: By including precisely the information the ATS is looking for, they believe it will be an exact match for the role. At the same time, they think they have been geniuses in hiding their sneakiness.

In actual fact, they’ve shot themselves in the foot and here’s why: Remember above when we said to avoid fancy formatting? In this case, we’re talking about colours. The applicant tracking system converts all text to black to ensure that the hiring manager doesn’t miss anything important. So the hiring manager will see what this candidate has done, and their CV will end up in the rejection pile.

If the company doesn’t use an ATS, you may manage to get an interview using this tactic. However, you will still need to give examples of your skills during an interview so it’s still best not to lie or embellish your skills, or you could find yourself in a bad interview situation.

Candidate applying for a job via mobile
Applicant tracking systems have made it easier than ever to apply for jobs online but are often criticised for being too stringent.

Don’t Worry About Length

Of course, a CV shouldn’t be too wordy, so keep to concise bullet points rather than lengthy paragraphs. However, you shouldn’t worry too much if it spreads onto a third or even a fourth page.

Make Your CV Readable by Both Humans and Robots

Serif fonts are easier on the eyes — such as Cambria, Didot, Georgia and Times. However, certain sans serif fonts are also acceptable, the best choices being Arial, Avenir, Calibri and Helvetica.

A visual of all the most suitable CV fonts
The most suitable fonts to choose for a CV.

Always Include Dates of Employment

Hiring managers may also want to see that you have no gaps in your CV and that you’re not a job hopper.

Be Consistent With Your Personal Brand

Use The Right File Type

Follow Up With a Phone Call

It’s always a good idea to follow up on your application with a phone call. If you haven’t received an automated response from a company, it may mean they have not received your CV. Even though you may have submitted it, the occasional glitch in the system can result in the intended recipient receiving it.

Even if you have received an automated response but haven’t heard from the hiring manager within the time limit stipulated, it’s good to ask for feedback and find out if they have any other roles that might be a suitable match for you.

The telephone is a highly underrated tool in job hunting and when used wisely can yield unexpected results — don’t be scared to pick up the phone!

A Few Final Thoughts on How to Get Your CV Past An Applicant Tracking System

After reading this article, we hope that you increase your chances of getting your CV past applicant tracking systems. If you found it helpful, please share it on social media.

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