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5 Tips to Creating an ATS Friendly CV

Updated: Apr 20

What is an applicant tracking system?

An applicant tracking system (A TS) is a CV scanning software used by employers and recruiters to read, scan and rank job applications to make the shortlisting process easier.

Today, almost every multinational, large local company and recruitment agency uses an ATS system to ease their recruitment process.


How do applicant tracking systems work?

An ATS system parses a resume's content into subheadings and then scans it for specific keywords to determine if the job application is suitable. If found suitable its AI platform will flag the reviewer to have a look at the resume and if found not suitable, filters out applicants for the role. In other words, the ATS system's robotic intervention picks what it is programmed to and if used correctly saves 70-80% of the hiring managers' time.


Below are the top 5 points that you need to be aware of when creating an ATS-friendly CV.


1. Select the right file type for your resume

Unfortunately, PDF files are not ATS-friendly. Although most resumes are submitted in pdf format to preserve design, structure, layout, and editability, the ability of an ATS system to correctly parse the data from your resume into its system is not very accurate. Word documents in .doc or .docx. are the best use.

If you are specifically asked to submit in PDF then by all means do so, else I would recommend using a Word document especially when your CV is being submitted through a portal. If on the other hand, you are emailing it directly to the hiring manager's email for him/her to view or handing it across the desk, then PDF format is best.


2. Optimize your resume with keywords

Keyword optimization is very important when designing an ATS-friendly CV.

Keywords could range from common "job titles" like Sale Engineer (instead of Team Leader) to education qualifications like Mechanical Engineer (instead of Mechanics) to words that appear in the job description text - like "negotiations", "installation", "targets", "cash flow" etc.

A hot tip - Use Online-Utility.org's Text Analyzer. Copy and paste the job description text into the given area. The analyzer will give you details of how many and which words are used in the job description and how many times each word appears. Make a note of this. Try and incorporate a similar number of words (without misrepresenting yourself) into your resume. Once done an ATS system will scan your CV and compare the words and the number of times the words appear and rank your CV accordingly. Guess what, you could have a very high ranking based on "keyword optimization".

Create easy subheadings "Key Skills", "Work Experience", Education" etc. These make it easy or the ATS to understand the section or subsection it is collecting information from.


3. Avoid images, charts, and other graphics

ATS systems fail to read infographics, images, icons, colors etc. While graphical representation definitely creates a good impression among humans, robots are not impressed. Again if you are handing a CV across the desk, a graphical representation will create an impact.

ATS systems read your CV left to right, top to bottom, and recognize black and white colors only.


4. Stick to simple bullet points

Easy read solid/open circles or squares are the easiest bullet points for an ATS system to read. Avoid any other symbol or character when creating a bulleted list


5. Use a clean resume design with a clear hierarchy

ATS systems recognize easy to ready resume structures and CV formats. Using single or multiple columns or a combination of rows and columns in your CV gets too complicated for the system.

A simple format from top to bottom and left to right is best to use.




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