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How to write a CV that will get through an ATS

When a large company advertises a job they will naturally receive a large number of applications. So many in fact that these larger companies are now letting a computer do all the hard work. Nowadays it’s not just large companies that use these systems either – they are becoming more common as software increases in availability and decreases in price.

What does ATS stand for?

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System, and is now a common way for larger companies to filter through potential candidates. What it basically does is read through all the CVs it receives and searches for certain keywords as defined by the operator.

The idea behind this type of filtering system is that it can potentially cut out a lot of applications which don’t have the right set of skills and qualifications. Although this system isn’t 100% full proof in its approach, it will still help greatly in the reduction of applications.

If you are looking to apply to a large company it’s important to understand how to write an ATS friendly CV. Here’s how to do that…

Create a ‘Core’ or ‘Key skills’ section

If the job advert has stated a specific set of hard skills, it’s important you highlight them on your CV so the tracking system easily spots them. Consider creating a core or key skills section which targets these skills using the exact same wording.

Extracting keywords from the job advert and using them in your CV is a very smart move. It’s very likely that whoever wrote the advert is also the person involved in setting the search and filtering parameters for the ATS software. By matching the keywords for your skills and qualifications (assuming you have them), you are almost guaranteeing you will reach the next stage.

“When applicant tracking systems search the skills and experience section of your resume for certain keywords, the matches have to be exact”

Terena Bell, CIO.

Use a simple format

Avoid using any kind of graphic or image if you want to pass through a tracking system. “Such elements can be difficult for ATS software to interpret and may mean that your CV is discarded unnecessarily,” Jen Wiss-Carline of CV Template Master explains.

An ATS cannot read anything that sits in a text box, so immediately you are missing vital pieces of information.

Creative CVs can look great, and we would always highly recommend them for creative roles – graphic design for instance. But when it comes to an ATS you really need to remove anything that could cause confusion.

Use an appropriate file format

If the company has specifically requested a certain file format, then you need to make sure you use it. Don’t be dismissive about your file and assume it can be opened by anyone, because there may be a very good reason for the company requesting this specific file format – ATS!

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