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How to make your CV stand out

Neil O'Brien

Many businesses are starting to use automation in their recruitment process and, as a result, some classic approaches to writing a CV may be hurting your chances of being selected. So we’ve put together some tips on how to help your CV stand out in the current climate and how to navigate a more data driven, automated recruitment process.

What is an ATS?

Recruiters hiring for roles with a large volume of applicants will often choose to use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).  The system scan through a huge amount of submitted CVs, searching for relevant key words, and promoting them to the top of the recruiter’s pile to review. This is a practical way for recruiters to quickly find candidates with the exact qualifications and experience required. Before, ATSs were expensive software, reserved for big firms with enormous recruiting needs. Now, any hiring manager can find a free or cheap ATS online, many job sites incorporate an ATS as part of their offering to job posters, so it’s a very common obstacle for job hunters.

Keywords not buzzwords

There are a few ways to use an ATS to your advantage. Check your CV against the description of the job that you’re applying for and align your experience by ensuring you’re using the same phrasing and vocabulary as the job description. This way, the ATS’ filter is more likely to pick up your CV as a match and add you to the short list.

Keep your formatting clean

Bad formatting, spelling mistakes and excessive use of graphics can confuse an ATS and you may get filtered out before a human can review your CV, so try to keep your CV simple and well organised. That way, the ATS can easily recognise your skills and qualifications and promote you up the list.

Use foolproof titles

Be sure to use standard titles in your CV. For example an ‘About me’ section might feel more unique, but ‘Personal statement’ is far more likely to be picked up by the filter and help categorise your background more accurately. If you have a relevant qualification or job title that can be abbreviated, be sure to use both the abbreviation and long title on your CV, just in case the filter is only searching for one specific phrase.

Remember the human

Keywords are important in an ATS-friendly CV, but what you write still has to make sense. The whole purpose of using keywords is to increase the chances of your CV being moved forward to the human review stage. However, the person reviewing your CV will be confused and unimpressed if you’ve stuffed too many keywords into it or you’ve digitally-optimised it beyond comprehension.

Although not for every job you apply for your application will be processed through an ATS, these systems are becoming much more common nowadays. Also, best practice for ATS-friendly CVs is valid for CV writing in general - clearly laying out information and demonstrating how you are specifically suited for the job is a great strategy whether it’s being checked by an algorithm or a human.

Read our related blog: Top soft skills for career success

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