Seven ways to optimise your CV for ATS robots

By Hannah Kingston

Wednesday October 21, 2020


An Applicant Tracking System, also known as an ATS is a software that is used by organisations to filter and store candidates resumes.

In simple terms, the software is used to scan through job applications to find compatibility with the job spec as advertised on the website. If a Hiring Manager is using an ATS and your CV does not match up with the filters they are using, it’s possible that your application will never reach a human. Bit unsettling eh?

An ATS may be implemented for small to large businesses and there’s no easy way of telling if an organisation uses one. So how can you optimise your CV for an algorithm?

Here are 7 ways to optimise your CV for ATS

  1. Include a simple “elevator pitch”
  2. Sprinkle buzzwords that are used in the job spec throughout your application
  3. Stick to text
  4. Spell out acronyms
  5. Use literal headings
  6. Ensure that everything is spelt correctly
  7. Don’t go overboard

Include a simple “elevator pitch”

Include a simple elevator pitch within your application, whether that’s through an online application form or within the CV you upload through the portal, you need to ensure that you are selling yourself as opposed to answering mechanically. Do not use “yes/no” answers on an online form if there is an option for free text. Answering in full sentences will make it easier for you to stand out through an ATS.

Sprinkle buzzwords that are used in the job spec throughout your application

Sprinkle buzzwords throughout your online application form and/or CV. If there are free text options on an application form, ensure that you are feeding the job spec back to the system (without overdoing it). Include some key buzzwords that relate back to you in the online form, and do the same with your CV.

Stick to text

ATS can read text (or HTML) but it cannot read imagery, so if you have included a skills graph or a headshot, the system will not be able to pick up on it, which could damage your chances if you have put all of your key information into the images you have included.

Spell out acronyms

Imagine that the hiring manager is filtering through resumes and they are typing in some of the buzzwords that they hope to find in a candidate. It is unlikely that they will use abbreviations during this process, so spell it out. Make everything literal.

Use literal headings

On the literal note, it’s important to use literal headings. Use a language that a computer system would understand. For example “Education” instead of “Studies” and “Experience” instead of “History”.

This makes it easier for the ATS to make sense of your CV, which improves your chances of it getting into human hands!

Ensure that everything is spelt correctly

While applicant tracking systems exist to make things easier and more streamlined for the hiring manager, they can also act as a hindrance if you have spelling mistakes. Ensure that everything is spelt correctly so your key experiences and skills are picked out from the other pool of candidates.

Don’t go overboard

While you want the ATS to be able to pick up on the fact that you have X years of experience, or are proficient in X software, you still want it to read nicely because all things going well, a human will eventually read your application. You do not want to stuff it to the brim with buzzwords in a way that does not make sense.

Choose keywords that relate back to you, imagine that the application is being read by a non-sentient being and you’re halfway there.

Now read: How to write a cover letter to stand out from the crowd 

Now read: CV Temaplate | What to include and avoid 

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