When you write your CV, are you designing it for human eyes or for an applicant tracking system? The problem is, we never know if the recipient will feed it into an applicant tracking system (ATS), or read it.
And a CV that is read by an ATS needs to be formatted differently from one that will be read by a person. So what is the best way to format it?
An Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) is software that reads your CV or resume and ranks it according to certain criteria. There are a number of systems on the market and they don’t all use the same criteria.
In many cases they filter applications automatically based on given criteria such as former employers, years of experience, schools, colleges and universities attended.
The ATS allocates a score to your CV or resume according to the criteria it has been given. Most recruiters then only view the high scoring CV’s. The problem is they are not necessarily the resumes of the people best qualified for the job, because if some of the information is missing, this will adversely affect the ranking and the application may not even be reviewed by a recruiter.
When a Recruiter looks at a CV or resume in an Applicant Tracking System, they click on the name of a candidate the Applicant Tracking System has ranked as a good match for the position. But the recruiter doesn’t see the resume the candidate submitted, they see the information the Applicant Tracking System extracted from the candidate’s resume into a database.
The snag is, the Applicant Tracking Systems may not import the information contained in the CV or resume. The ATS contains database fields for information such as the candidate’s name, contact details, work experience, job titles, education, employer names and periods of employment. It attempts to identify the correct information on a job seeker’s CV, but if it isn’t formatted according to its requirements it can’t pull the information into the correct fields. Some sections might be missed altogether, if it can’t identify the section header.
It is estimated that about 65% of recruitment companies are now using Applicant Tracking Systems, and one study indicated that about 75% of qualified job seekers are being eliminated because the document is not formatted for the ATS.
But which ATS will your CV go through? What criteria have been set? Or will the document it be read by a human who will react well to a more creative approach to CV writing that an ATS may misinterpret.
So here are some tips to ensure that your resume has the best chance of being correctly interpreted by an ATS.
1. Start your CV or resume with the words PROFILE or PROFILE SUMMARY.
These headings help the ATS identify the section . So if you just have a job title like
followed by your profile information it will not be identified .
So Instead write PROFILE : TECHNICAL CONTRACTOR followed by your profile information
2. Clearly indicate other key sections.
The ATS needs the section heading to identify the content . Most will look for PROFILE , EXPERIENCE, EDUCATION, CERTIFICATIONS, and AFFILIATIONS.
3. Ensure your Work history is correctly picked up.
The Applicant Tracking System is looking for Company name, Job Title, and Dates of employment and these should be written so that they can be clearly identified.
Use the full company name including Limited, ltd, or Inc, so the ATS can identify this is a company name .
You must also have these three details of company, title, date next to each other.
For example the information may not be interpreted correctly if shown as –
ABT LTD – provider of telecoms solutions Network Installation Engineer (2004- 2006)
ABT LTD Network Installation Engineer 2004- 2006
– Provider of telecoms solutions
ABT LTD Network Installation Engineer 2004- 2006
ABT LTD Network Installation Manager 2006- 2008
4. Use Headers for subsequent pages.
If your resume is longer than one page, repeating your name and contact information at the top of the subsequent pages can confuse the Applicant Tracking System. Instead use MS Word Page Header function.
5. Don’t use Microsoft text boxes, graphics or tables.
Most Applicant Tracking Systems can’t correctly read information in text boxes, graphics or tables.
6. Submit your CV or resume in the right format.
Don’t send the CV or resume in .docx or PDF format as not all ATS can read them. Use MS Word .doc format
7. Use keywords taken from the advertised position description.
But be aware how some Applicant Tracking Systems rank a Resume’s relevance.
Many people think Applicant Tracking Systems rely on keywords to determine the fit between a candidate’s resume and a specific job , so they identify keywords in a job description then work these keywords into their CV.
Actually it is the “specificness “ of the keyword to the particular job. The ATS is aware of all the job ads a company has ever published, and determines which keywords and phrases are unique to that job ad. It then develops a ranking based on how closely the information in the CV or resume matches each keyword and phrase and how many of the keyword phrases the job seeker’s resume contains.
8. Don’t restrict yourself to two or three pages
The length of your resume doesn’t matter to an Applicant Tracking System. Submitting a longer CV or resume could allow you to use more relevant experience and keywords.
Why do recruiters use ATS?
If Applicant tracking systems are so flawed and they filter out good candidates, why do employers use them?
Because they still make recruiters’ lives easier by saving days in performing the initial evaluation and narrowing down the candidate pool to the top candidates whose resumes the system ranks as the most relevant.
Even if some good candidates get filtered out, recruiters still have a place to start. Many recruiters will quickly review the other resumes or CVs as a check on the ATS , but they will allocate only a few seconds to check the machine has not missed something.
Another function of an ATS is to provide a central location and database for a company’s on going recruitment campaigns. Data can be collected from internal applicants via the ATS front-end on the company website, or be collected from applicants on job boards. Applicants can be reviewed from the database of past job applicants.
With all of this in mind, case applicants would be wise to write their CV or resume to be dealt with by either an ATS or a recruiter.; that is to conform to ATS requirements.
Perhaps it is worth having two versions and asking if you can send both in, or which version they want?
And if you know who the recruiter is, and are certain you are a good fit for the position, try to have a quick chat with them just to check your name is the frame.
Prepare a very short “elevator pitch”, ring them and just check they have received your application, mentioning your ability to fulfil all the criteria in your short pitch