ATS does not really mean “Always target specifically”. But that’s what you need to do nonetheless to make a CV that passes the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) tests that most employers use to filter CVs. An ATS is a software that saves employers time and effort by searching resumes for keywords that describe the qualifications they are looking for in a candidate.
These systems scan job content. CV search for the desired keywords and then rank the resumes based on the number of keywords they contain. Resumes that score the lowest are usually rejected without any human review, while those with the highest rank end up at the top of the pile, so a hiring manager can start reading them.
For example, a magazine is looking for “an art director with five years of experience, proven talent in illustration and design, and excellent skills in Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and InDesign”. All words in bold here are likely to be entered by the employer in the applicant tracking system so that they can search for these keywords in the CV.
You may answer all these requirements and that you are the ideal candidate for this job. But suppose you describe yourself as “a graphic artist with a proven track record in creating striking vector designs and layouts using the latest software in the industry.” Application Tracking Systems software may misjudge your CV because it fails to see that you meet the required qualifications!
You have described your experience professional using words that the system might not recognize because they are not in the job description, starting with the job title. This can lead to either being ranked low on the candidate list or being outright rejected if the requirements for that specific position are particularly stringent.
It is estimated that 75% of all resumes are automatically rejected by ATS systems for such reasons without ever having been examined by a human being. This is why job seekers must understand how ATS programs work and optimize their CV to pass their tests. Here are 5 tips for optimizing your resume to “beat the machine”.
Study job listings carefully and use their language to describe your professional qualifications
Anglers who use bait that the fish are not interested in will never catch one. And applicants who ignore what employers care about will never get a job. It is imperative to carefully study each job posting to understand exactly what the employer is looking for. Obviously, you should never lie on a resume by pretending to have qualifications that you don’t have. But when you have the skills mentioned in a job description, you should highlight them on your resume. This is what it takes to create a CV suitable for ATS.
Take note of the precise language used in the job posting and use the same wording in your CV. Some TTY programs recognize synonyms, abbreviations, or acronyms, but it’s best not to take any chances. For example, if an employer is looking for search engine optimization expertise, don’t bet the ATS will experience “SEO” shorthand. In this case, it is best to mention both the full term and the abbreviation: search engine optimization (SEO).
In some cases, your job search may have led to the desired employer without a specific job description. If so, do some research by looking at their website or other relevant sources. To identify frequently used words on a web page, you can copy them all and paste them into a “word cloud” generator. Do your homework. Don’t go blind.
CV Optimization for ATS
CV Optimization is similar to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so far where both focus on using keywords and phrases that search engines will search for. However, if you overdo it, your efforts will backfire. In the SEO world, “keyword stuffing” is the practice of abusing desired keywords to try to influence search engines and thereby send you more traffic. However, this is considered a form of spam, and in the end, it can do more harm than good. This causes search engines to downgrade your content, which is the exact opposite of the desired outcome.
Keyword stuffing results in sentences written in a way that no one would naturally write. Remember, if you “beat the machine,” a human being will read your resume next, and they’ll be hiring. Once you have identified the keywords you need, put them wisely in your CV, ideally in different sections. Some may correspond to points of your professional experience, others may be classified under the heading “skills” and still, others may be more suited to your profile.
Use keywords in a way that feels natural to the human ear. It doesn’t hurt to repeat them if necessary, but don’t repeat them over and over again.
Personalize your CV to suit each job posting
Your CV should be a dynamic, adaptable, and personalized document for each job offer. In the old days, a CV was a piece of paper to send by mail. Maybe your parents went to a printing house and had 50 copies printed on fine paper. It became their unique CV, the one they sent to all employers. Those days are long gone. A CV is an editable document that must be personalized for each potential employer. This is what we mean by “Always target specifically”.
Use a professional CV template suitable for ATS
There are many potential pitfalls to design and layout issues, including file types, fonts, bullet styles, and graphics that ATS programs cannot read. Some ATS programs have difficulty reading serif fonts – fonts that use small decorative marks, such as two small horizontal bars at the bottom of an uppercase A. Sans-serif fonts do not use these markings and are generally easier to read for TTY programs. Opt for a sans serif font like Calibri or Arial.
Unusual bullets – the small typographic symbols used to introduce items into a list – can also confuse TTYs. Use a solid round chip, a hollow round chip, or a square chip, but beware of anything fancier. Graphics are also unreadable by TTY programs. You might have turned your name into a fancy logo that you want to place at the top of your resume, but if it’s a .jpeg, .png, or .tif file, it’s machine unreadable. The text should never be converted to an image file in a CV.
Professional CV Templates provide a guide on how to organize your CV. It should include:
- header with your contact details
- a profile or summary
- your work history
- your education
- your skills.
Key ATS Challenge Tools
- Don’t play at the very end.
- Don’t use unusual fonts, extraordinary graphics, or other gimmicks.
- Don’t reinvent the idea of what a resume should contain. Stick to a proven layout with a logical hierarchy.
- Don’t overdo it. No one wants to read a CV with endless text. Leave room for white space.
- Don’t confuse keywords with buzzwords. Avoid clichés like “team player” and “self-taught”.
- Don’t forget to include a single page cover letter. Not including a cover letter is one of the main reasons CVs get rejected.
- Remember that the final arbiter of your CV will be a human being. Create a resume that is pleasing to the eye, well-written, and memorable.