Employers and recruiters use ATS software more and more frequently when hiring, so it’s something everyone has to bear in mind when job-hunting. But what does ATS stand for in business, and how can you optimise your CV for ATS software?

What does ATS stand for in recruitment and business?

ATS stands for applicant tracking system. Businesses use ATS software in the recruitment process to collect and process CVs.

Applicant tracking systems sort through CVs electronically and register specific keywords set by the business in question. The software siphons out unsuitable CVs and compiles a shortlist of candidates, whose CVs are then sent to humans to take to the next stage.

Who uses ATS software and what are its benefits?

Recruitment companies and large organisations are the biggest users of ATS software.

Last year, 94% of users said ATS software had improved their recruitment process.

ATS software has many benefits for businesses, including:

  • Saves time – ATS software makes the recruitment process quicker
  • Reduces human input – using ATS means managers receive a much smaller and more refined collection of CVs, rather than sifting through thousands of applicants
  • It’s cost-effective – ATS enables you to automate a number of stages of the recruitment process, including sourcing, filtering, organising and tracking candidates, which saves a business money in the long-term
  • Better organisation – using ATS keeps the recruitment process organised and reduces the chance of CVs being lost or overlooked.

How do I make my CV ATS-compliant?

Now we understand what we’re dealing with, here are five ways to beat the bots and make your CV ATS-compliant.

1. Use keywords

ATS software searches for keywords relating to the position you’re applying for, so if it doesn’t pick them up on your CV, the likelihood is you’re out.

Just like when you Google something and the search engine picks up the terms you typed in to present you with the most relevant results, ATS bots are searching your CV for the key terms relevant to this job role.

Use keywords listed on the job description to tick all the boxes. An easy way to do this is to add a “key skills” section of bullet points to your CV, if you don’t already have one. You can also incorporate keywords into the personal statement and work experience sections of your CV.

However, beware of using too many keywords. Just like Google will punish websites for keyword-stuffing, ATS will be likely to pick up on and penalise this practice too.

2. Keep it clean and simple

When crawling CVs, ATS bots don’t recognise fancy formatting. So, adding graphics, tables and images to your CV can end up being a waste of time at best, and the reason you’re booted out of the recruitment process at worst.

Keep fonts and sizes consistent throughout, use minimal colours and feature tabs and bullet points to format your CV simply and effectively.

Equally, job titles like “Minister of Happiness” won’t be understood by the software, so adapt any trendy job titles so they describe the actual role in terms a bot can grasp, e.g. Mental Health and Employee Engagement Coordinator”.

3. Supply it in the right format

The best format for your CV to comply with ATS software is Microsoft Word, in either .doc or .docx version.

ATS bots don’t like PDFs, and they may not be able to effectively pick up on the content of your CV if it’s in this format.

Submitting a CV in Word increases the chances you’ll end up on the yes pile.

4. Tailor your CV to the role

Sending the same generic CV out for each role may not be the most effective way of securing your dream job, especially when ATS software is used.

Only list keywords, qualifications and responsibilities relevant to the role you’re applying for, as this will be understood and rewarded by the ATS bots.

While this may seem tiring, it’s not a case of rewriting the whole CV each time you spot a role you fancy applying for. Instead, make a few tweaks each time to optimise your chances of appealing to employers for that position.

5. Make it human-friendly too

Optimising your CV to be ATS-compliant is important, especially when applying to large recruiters or global organisations.

However, the recruitment process isn’t 100% computerised for any company. Your CV will always be sent to a person, so the human touch is still essential.

A robotic, keyworded CV will only get you so far. So remember, a human will make the final decision.

I hope these tips on making your CV ATS-compliant will help in your job search.

While 95% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS software to recruit new employees, it’s still much less common among smaller companies and startups. Therefore, if you feel a snazzy CV will boost your chances – especially for creative roles – and you’re confident your application is going directly to a human, feel free to jazz it up and ignore this advice!

Follow my general CV writing tips here.

If you’d like a fresh perspective on your CV to help you bag a new job, feel free to take advantage of my free CV checking service by sending it to hello@wordsbyali.com

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