You’re looking for a new job, and you’re finding great opportunities. You have spent hours perfecting your resume to really impress the hiring manager, and you are feeling confident that you will get an interview.
However, the phone doesn’t ring, you don’t receive any email invitations. What went wrong? You have a great qualification, and your experience is fantastic. So, why doesn’t your job search seem to be going anywhere?
This is a hugely common experience for job seekers. Candidates with excellent skills, experience, and qualifications aren’t being invited to interview. Usually, the CV is to blame. You may have made it to look wonderful and be a great example of your writing, all while advertising your extensive skills and experience – any hiring manager should be impressed! However, if you haven’t considered the other reader of your CV, your efforts could be going nowhere.
Who is the other reader?
Your CV will likely be read by artificial intelligence before it even reaches the eyes of a recruiter or hiring manager. Hiring managers and recruiters receive countless CVs from applicants each week, so they use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to assist them. An ATS is a piece of software that helps to rank, manage and organise the massive number of candidates which recruiters receive an application from, or speak to.
What does an ATS do?
Applicant tracking systems vary in their complexity. Some facilitate the full recruitment process from posting a job advertisement and organising applicants, through to interview scheduling and sending evaluations to a client or manager. Some do a lot less; at a minimum, an ATS allows a recruiter to manage their talent pools. Each candidate will have a profile, which organises their details, documents, and applications all together in one place – just like a doctor may have a file for each patient he or she sees.
Another very common function of ATS software is CV screening. The artificial intelligence of the applicant tracking system will scan the CV for keywords to look for specific skills, for example. Some will also read durations of past employment to give an indication of experience level. There are many ways by which CVs are assessed by an ATS.
If a really good candidate applies for a job too late, or they aren’t quite right for another reason, they may still be great for a different role. A useful feature of many ATS is the ability for a recruiter to search their database for a particular skillset. Previous applicants exist in a talent pool, and the ATS can be used like a search engine to bring up a list of candidates who might be suitable for a role – before they have even posted the job ad!
With the near ubiquitous use of ATS software within recruitment it is super important that you make sure your CV is optimised for an ATS. Here are our tips for updating your CV to be ATS-friendly.
Resume writing for an ATS
Focus on Keywords
One of the best ways to make your CV ATS-friendly is to include job relevant keywords. An ATS scans your CV in a similar way to a human reading it; by looking for keywords that are representative of certain skills and experience, which in turn indicate your eligibility for a job. A good place to start is to think of five keywords; use these to represent your key areas of expertise, and include them early and often throughout your CV.
Customise your CV
Different organisations will often use different vocabulary to describe the same, or similar skills. You should be paying close attention to a job ad and incorporating those keywords into your CV.
This is especially true of job-specific skills. If a job ad specifies experience with a particular type of analysis, or piece of software, for example, you should certainly include it in your CV (assuming you do have that experience). Customising your CV is the low hanging fruit you shouldn’t overlook.
Typos are a no-go
This should be obvious – whether it is an ATS or a human reading your CV, typos are not a good look. Typos represent a lack of effort, and low attention to detail. They make you appear careless, and not like a good hiring option.
With the introduction of ATS software, typos have the additional effect of reducing the chance your CV will even be seen. If a recruiter is searching for a term, and you haven’t spelled it correctly, your CV probably won’t be seen.
Needless to say, typos are a no-go. Triple check your CV for spelling errors and grammar mistakes. Ask someone else to check – often we gloss over our mistakes, seeing what we intended to write, rather than what is actually on the page.
Use simple job titles
Some organisations have creative, non-standard job titles. While this is unique and fun, they will almost certainly not be recognised by an ATS. If your previous job title can be changed to a more recognisable one, while still accurately representing the nature of your role, you should do so. If you can’t change your job title to an industry standard one, make sure you describe the nature of your role with recognisable vocabulary.
The advice to keep it simple doesn’t just apply to job titles. Describe your key skills and experience in standard vocabulary. Make sure your word choice conforms to your industry’s vernacular.
Avoid graphs, charts, and images
Most ATSs can’t read images, charts, or graphs. While it is great to have a visually impressive resume, you should ensure that any information locked in unscannable graphics is presented in text format also.
For the same reason, you should also pay attention to your CVs format. Don’t upload your CV in a picture format, as plain text, or HTML. The best option is still to upload your CV as a Word .doc or .docx file. PDF files are okay, but some ATSs don’t support them.
The Balancing Act
Don’t forget that the most important reader of your CV is still another human. ATS software is a great assistant, but a human still needs to read your resume before deciding whether or not to interview you. Don’t jam pack your CV full of keywords, without also paying attention to the readability of your CV. Make sure your CV is still a still a good experience for a recruiter.
Your CV is hugely important for your job search success. For more information on producing your best possible CV, check out the first article in this series: Resume Writing 101, and if you are still really struggling with your CV, sign up to our Talent Pool, and we can give you some advice on potential improvements.