Tag Archives: CV writing tips

How to optimise your CV for ATS software

how to optimise your CV for ATS

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@jameso73.sg-host.com

How to write a CV (that gets you an interview)

CV and copywriting writing tips

So, you’re suddenly unemployed, redundant or unsure of your job security. It may be a scary time, but one thing you can do is take a proactive approach to your future. Now is the time to freshen up your CV so it’s attractive to a potential employer. Or, write a CV if you’ve never needed one until now. Here are my top CV writing tips to make sure you bag that interview.

Find a CV template

Is your CV looking a little tired? Or non-existent? Maybe you lack the creativity to format it professionally. But don’t panic, you don’t have to! Check out the range of CV templates on Word or Google Docs. Pick the one you like and off you go.

However, if you are a creative, make a CV that shows off your artistic flair and design skills. As long as the information is clear and easy to read, you’re free to make your CV as snazzy as you like. 

A quick word on which font to use in your CV. It’s best to keep it nice and simple, and avoid any crazy typefaces that are hard to read or remotely wacky looking. Fonts like Arial, Cambria and Calibri are my personal faves. Oh, and never use Comic Sans. Just ever.

Start with the essentials

Start with your name, phone number, date of birth and email. Sorry to break it to you, but now is the time to update that embarrassing email you set up as a teenager and never got round to changing. Yes, I mean you crazyicklelou@hotmail.com

Keep it professional and simple so prospective employers know who you are and how to get in touch.

Write a personal statement

The next part of your mission to write a CV employers will notice should be a personal statement that summarises you, your skills and goals. Keep it short and snappy and don’t include every generic quality under the sun. Make it genuinely personal to you. Write it so it reads like a fabulous reference to make a good first impression. An example is below:

“An enthusiastic, energetic and professional marketer with a real flair for design and a keen eye for detail. Currently seeking a role in digital marketing to use the experience and skills gained in previous roles to benefit a new company.”

Organise your work history

Employment history is next up. Using this as your section header, start with your most recent or current role then list your job history. Name the company, location, your position and dates you worked there. Underneath, include a short overview of your role in each company in bullet points or a small paragraph.

If you’ve had more than four jobs, stick to the ones that are most relevant to the job you’re seeking.

And if you’ve never had to write a CV before and you’re lacking work experience, include any voluntary roles or work experience here. Make it clear this was unpaid work you took on in your own spare time. After all, this is a great way to impress employers with your can-do attitude.

Add your education

The next title on your CV should be education. Again, start with your most recent education and list each establishment with the dates you attended and qualifications and grades received.

Any qualifications or training courses you’ve completed outside of an educational establishment can be included here too, so make sure to add anything relevant to your future employer. This can include online courses, training done in the workplace or extracurricular qualifications.

Hobbies and other information

The dreaded section when you write a CV is the part where you include a cringetastic sentence about your wholesome hobbies. If you can, make it as truthful and personal as possible so your actual personality shines through. Employers will soon be bored reading yet another identikit statement about how you love socialising and fitness.

Be specific and don’t be afraid to inject a little humour to show your funny side. Just don’t go overboard and make yourself sound weird (save that for when you’ve actually got the job).

Take the starting point: “In my spare time I like dance, cooking, knitting and reading”. A good alternative would be: “In my spare time, I enjoy taking hip hop dance classes, cooking Thai food, knitting scarves for my nieces and reading science fiction novels.” Instantly, an employer gains an insight into your personality and you appear as a more rounded individual who stands out from the crowd.

In this part of your CV, it’s also wise to add in the fact you have a full, clean driving licence if you do. If you’re learning to drive and driving is relevant to the job role, include this information too, to prevent an employer discounting you too soon.

Who to include in CV references

Your CV reference section should include at least one former employer or line manager. However, if you’re looking for your first job, feel free to include former college tutors, mentors or work experience bosses. It’s also perfectly acceptable to add a personal reference in there. All an employer is looking for is someone who can reassure them that you are trustworthy, reliable and hardworking. Make sure you include in your CV reference section each referee’s full name and contact details, so the employer can contact them if they decide to progress your application.

And if you’re job searching at a sensitive time and you don’t feel comfortable adding current employer details when you come to write a CV, it’s fine to add “references available on request” into this section of your CV.

Other things to put into your CV

By now, your CV should be in pretty good shape. The ideal length is one A4 page, but make sure it’s no more than two pages of A4 if you’re struggling to limit all of your amazing achievements to a single sheet. If, on the other hand, your CV is looking a little empty, flesh it out with other great information about yourself.

For example, a section titled “key skills and qualities” would be a great way to highlight your strengths, if you don’t yet have the work experience to do this. Remember to make it personal and not too generic, as anything remotely “works well in a team and on own initiative” lacks originality and doesn’t tell an employer much about you.

Get your CV checked

Finally, get your CV checked! Whether you know your spelling and grammar is poor, or you’re pretty sure your CV is ticking all the boxes, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to get your CV checked by someone else. That may be a friend, colleague or a professional proofreader, but whoever you choose, make sure you don’t omit this crucial step. Even the best writers miss things when checking their own work *proofreads this blog obsessively before posting* – so a fresh pair of objective eyes over your CV is essential before you start uploading or posting it.

Right now I am offering to proofread, edit and reformat (if necessary) any CVs sent to me by people who have found themselves recently unemployed or struggling to find work. This service is completely free of charge, with no strings attached. I simply want to help people to find employment and hopefully, nab that dream job.

If you’d like to take advantage of my FREE CV checking service, simply email it to me at wordsbyali@gmail.com

Need to write a CV fast and got a quick question? Drop me a line, or call me on 07305 081277.

Happy CV writing!