Dreaded Key Words! How do you optimise your CV to work effectively on job sites (ATS)!

A while ago more and more CV writers and recruitment companies used to state that your main concern in relation to a CV is the “split second” decision an employer will make as to whether your CV should be considered or be discarded. Well, things have changed…..

It is a known fact that nearly 90% of large employers use these systems to filter job applications.

Welcome to the world of application tracking systems (ATS). It is a known fact that nearly 90% of large employers use these systems to filter job applications prior to an actual human being reading the CV. Therefore, knowledge of how to rank highly with application tracking systems is now of paramount importance to ensuring your future goals are met.

Firstly, what is an applicant tracking system?

An ATS is a type of software application that handles the recruitment process, namely by sorting through thousands of CVs, to determine which ones are the best fit for the positions for which they were submitted. Applicant tracking systems do not process your CV differently from recruiters glancing at your CV, as both are looking for certain criteria for inclusion. However, the main difference is that human recruiters are often looking for grounds for automatic rejection, such as spelling errors or lack of relevant skills, whereas applicant tracking systems operate by searching CVs for keywords.

When you submit your CV through an ATS, it stores your CV and an entry in the database. The recruiters then search for keywords for the particular job opening. If your CV contains the keywords the employer wants, then the ATS will rank you higher in the search results. The keyword searches by recruiters include the skills and experiences specific to the particular job opening. The employer can even command the ATS to search the company’s entire database of CVs to look for candidates with certain qualifications. This means that even if you submitted your CV a long time ago and never got a response, the company may have kept it on file in its database, and the ATS might identify you as a good candidate for a different position long after you originally submitted your CV.

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Secondly, how do you “beat” the system?

The majority of decent CV writers will know exactly the correct phrases and key words to maximise rankings on ATS. To provide a very basic way to analyse your application and CV, if you were to search a few job boards for the “kind of” role you will be wanting to secure and then review the job specifications you will quickly notice that a large amount of the wording in the required skills section are very similar. This is a great start! Review the words (a printer, large table and highlighter works) and then reflect on your experience and skill base to ensure that if you have a strong match then the correct words and phrases are running through your CV. It is also important to ensure that you place the words in the correct part of the format of the CV and that there is not too much repetition (some repetition is good for ATS). For example, tables and boxes on CVs are not always the best way to optimise the document as some systems are unable to read the content.

In conclusion, ATS is here to stay as there are so many positives for the employer. Therefore, the value a truly professional CV writer has in being able to ensure optimised documents is becoming more and more important in the current market place. I suppose modern technology is taking over! However, it is also vital that once your document is identified as a strong match on a system then the CV delivers the goods to the human being – therefore engaging, formatted impeccably and pitched at the correct level.