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Getting Your CV Past the Applicant Tracking System(ATS )

Almost every company uses either an ATS (Application OR Applicant Tracking System), an Artificial Intelligent Program or a Boolean search to source and find suitable candidates for a job.

98% of these the Fortune 1000 companies use an ATS which acts as a filter and parses every resume submitted, qualifying only those candidates who meet certain requirements based on qualifications, skills, job titles, key words etc.

These ATSs save tons of the hiring manager and recruiters time, bringing near accurate results (with minimum effort) to the table.

The good thing is getting past the ATS is a lot easier than you think, provided you create an ATS friendly resume that is not only found, but also impresses the hiring manager.

Below are key pointers to follow

1. Apply for Relevant Roles only

Out of 100 applicants that are reviewed for a job, the ATS filters an average of 25% only, which means , these "artificially intelligent" programs, bin 75% of CVs for various reasons.

Hence it is very important that you do not waste time applying to irrelevant roles because registering your CV and applying for the job could well take upto 30 wasted minutes.

Make sure you are truly qualified and meet at least 60% of the job description. If you don't have the skills needed to perform a job, you’re better off not wasting your or the recruiter’s time .

2. Don’t Apply to Multiple Jobs in the Same Company

An applicant tracking system also allows recruiters to see all the roles you’ve applied to at their company. If you apply to every single opening within the company, you inevitably convince the reader that you do not know what role suits you best or you’re not self-aware about your abilities. It only means you want to try your "luck".

You shouldn’t be applying to an entry-level position and a director-level position, or a sales position and a video-editing position.

3. Include the Right Keywords

Any applicant tracking system is programmed to “read” a resume: It’s scanning for key pieces of information to find out whether or not you’re a match for a job opening. So when you are preparing a resume that can make it past an ATS, you want to make sure that the key information in it, is easy to find.

One of the ways the ATS narrows an applicant pool is by searching for specific keywords.

The recruiter or hiring manager decide which keywords to search for—usually whatever skills, qualifications, experience, or qualities are most important for performing the job. The most important keyword could even be the job title itself!

When in doubt, match your phrasing to what’s in the job description, as that’s likely to be what the ATS is looking for.

4. Put Your Keywords in Context

Applicant tracking systems can only recognize if a key skill or experience is present. Interpreting the strength and value of that experience can only be done by humans. The HR, recruiters and hiring managers will test your abilities via case studies, cultural based questions, analytical questions, presentations etc. Avoid using the same buzzwords. It is always going to be your accomplishments that make you unique and your resume stand out.

Prepare an accomplishment based CV with numbers, %, values or amounts (currency) in bullet points while describing your responsibilities (actually naming it Achievements, if you have a few of them). This will show them how you’ve used it and what the results were.

5. Don’t Try to Trick the ATS

ATSs develop problems for the applicants when you "try to cheat the system” by copying and pasting the advertised job description in your CV or if you try and stuff keywords just for your resume to be found by the ATS.

As shared in point 4, Don’t do any of this!

Any tricks that have do will only prove you’re that you’ll cheat to get ahead! You will lose credibility and any future consideration for another role, will be lost.

What you can do, however, is include a keyword-rich CV Headline (at the top of your document) that puts your expertise in context .

Be careful you’re not just stuffing your resume full of keywords. The reader will immediately realize what you have done (or trying to do to get past their system).

6. Choose the Right Document Type

While the submission of a PDF format resume is most appropriate, the .docx format is most accurately parsed by ATSs. So if you want to get past the ATS, use a .docx file. However follow what the job posting says. If a posting says a PDF is a must, then only use PDF, else submit in .docx

TIP: If you don’t have Microsoft Word or another program that can convert your resume to .docx or .pdf. You can use Google docs to create your CV and then download it in either format for free.

7. Make Your Resume Easy to Read (by ATS and Humans)

ATS-friendly resume formatting is very similar to recruiter-friendly resume formatting. The ATS will read from left to right and top to bottom, so keep that in mind as you format. For example, your name and contact information should all be at the top, and your work history should start with your most recent or current position.

Among the three common resume formats, recruiters prefer chronological and combination formats. Ultimately recruiters just want to find the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible. So making a resume ATS friendly will actually help your resume be more readable to recruiters as well.

8. Don’t Create Fancy Formatting

Creative or fancy resumes are not only harder for an ATS to read, but also recruiters. Most ATSs will convert the document to a text-only file. So at best, any fancy formatting will be lost. At worst, the ATS won’t be able to pull out the important information and so a person may never lay eyes on your nice designs—or read about the experience and skills that actually qualify you for the job.

When designing a resume to go through an ATS, avoid:

  • Tables, Text boxes, Logos and Images

  • Graphics, graphs, or other visuals

  • Columns: Since ATS reads left to right and sometimes columns contain information to read from to to bottom.

  • Headers and footers: Information in the header and footer sometimes gets dropped by the ATS completely. Make sure all text is within the document body.

  • Uncommon section headings: Stick to conventional labels like “Education,” “Work Experience,” and “Technical Skills,” so the ATS knows how to sort your information. This is not the place to get creative with something like “Where I’ve Made an Impact.”

  • Hyperlinks on important words: Some systems will display only the URL and drop the words you linked from, so don’t link from anything important (like your job title or an accomplishment). Instead, paste in the URL itself or link out from a word like “website” or “portfolio.”

  • Less common fonts: Stick to a universal font like Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Garamond, Georgia, or Cambria. Avoid fonts you need to download, which the ATS may have trouble parsing.

Here are some elements you can use without tripping up an ATS:

  • Bold

  • Italics

  • Underline: But stick to using underlines in headings and for URLs. In general, people have been trained to see any underline within sentences as links.

  • Colors: Just know that the ATS will return all text in the same color, so make sure your color choices aren’t vital to understanding the text of your resume.

  • Bullets: Bullets are an important component of any resume, but stick to the standard circle- or square-shaped ones. Anything else could get messy.


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