When you send out your CV as part of an application, where do you expect it to go?
You may assume that you are sending it straight into the hands of a hiring manager or recruiter, but, in most cases, it’s unlikely as many companies now rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS). Also called resume robots or CV parsing tools, these systems are the first stage gatekeepers of the application process. They filter the CVs and resumes that are uploaded, using keywords and algorithms to find applicants who appear to be a good fit for the open position.
Providing this initial layer of review, an ATS makes it quicker and easier for employers to manage large groups of applicants. If, for example, a company is recruiting for a new ‘video editor’ and they want someone who is good at ‘3D animation’, they’ll put these key words into the ATS, which will prioritise CVs that match these requirements.
While applicant tracking systems offer obvious benefits to employers, they can create unexpected obstacles for applicants. You may, for instance, have created a highly visual CV with side panels, images, borders, infographics, tables, symbols, graphs or specialised fonts, which may be very appealing to a person. However, an ATS can’t read any information presented in that way. It strips out all your lovely formatting, ignores images and produces a very simple text document. A document from which many crucial elements of your CV may be missing.
But how do you know if the company you are applying to is using an ATS? In some cases, it can be quite easy to tell. For example, if you’re asked to fill in an online form, it’s probably an ATS. The URL of the page you’re on may also give it away, listing the name of a specific tracking system. If you’re not sure, you can always reach out to the company to ask. Job boards nearly always use ATSs: LinkedIn does this via its ’Easy Apply’ function.
You can quite easily create a CV that works for both machines and humans: a text-based document, with clear sections and minimal formatting, cleanly laid out with a basic font. However, you may love your visual CV and it may be valuable to you as the impressive document you hand to a recruiter or hiring manager at your first interview, but if that’s the case, you’ll need a second version for the machines.
A few additional tips for your ATS-ready version are:
- Use key words throughout that are in the job description
- Make it a .doc file (ATSs can’t even read PDFs properly)
- Have clear sections with standard headings, such as ‘Work Experience’, ‘Education’ and ‘Skills’
- Triple check your spelling as misspelled key words may be missed
With an estimated 60% of employers using applicant tracking systems to vet candidates and 75% of CVs being rejected by the machines, it really pays to optimise your CV for ATSs. Just ensure you tailor each CV or resume to the role you’re applying for and keep things simple to avoid the many ATS pitfalls.