You've spotted your dream job being advertised; you can’t believe it. This role is your perfect next step, your skills couldn’t be more aligned. You spend countless hours perfecting your CV and Cover Letter, ensuring you have showcased your skills, highlighted your USP and you’re feeling (quietly) confident. You receive an automated rejection email 2 days later.
Why? It could be because your CV is not ATS-friendly.
Firstly, what is an ATS? An ATS (or Applicant Tracking System) is a type of software often used by Recruiters and also Employers to manage applications efficiently and store candidate information for future use.
We are told so often how to ‘write the perfect CV’, but how much do you know about the ATS your perfectly crafted CV and Cover Letter are going to land in?
Most ATS’s incorporate what is called a parser to manage your application. Essentially a parser ‘reads’ your CV and populates the correct information from each section of your CV, to the relevant section of your candidate profile. This means when a recruiter sees your application, chances are they can quickly see your name, address, contact number, current job title, current employer, and your skills – all without even opening your CV.
What if I told you that the way you are formatting your CV could mean that you were rejected for that ‘insert dream job here’ role because the parser has inserted your very first job and employer as your current information. So, at first glance, as far as the recruiter is concerned, you’re a cashier at a fast food chain, rather than a Marketing Manager at a leading FMCG company. Are they going to take the time to read open your CV, when they have 100 other relevant job titles jumping out at them? Sadly, probably not. It’s no secret that recruiters don’t have much time, and I’m sure we’ve all heard the ‘6 second CV review time’ stat more times than we can count, so follow the below simple tricks to give your application the chance it deserves.
1. Do not hide important information in headers and footers
Parsers generally work by using an algorithm, so they will try to make assumptions based on the order, and positioning of words on your CV. For example, most parsers will assume the first segregated two words it recognises on your CV to be your first and last name; the first email address it recognises to be your email address, and the first series of numerical digits to be your phone number. If you position your name and contact information in a header/footer, the parser will not read it – period. So where would the next series of numerical digits and email address be? Probably your referees… I’ll let you think about how that could turn out.
2. Use a word document where you can
A PDF can be ok too, but sometimes even that isn’t the most ATS-friendly file type. It may preserve any fancy formatting (more on that later), but some ATSs can struggle to read them. The most fail-safe file type is always a Word document in .doc or .docx.
3. Don’t get too carried away with fancy design
The same way you now know not to put your name and contact info into a header or footer – don’t make the mistake of hiding skills behind fancy formatting or trying to make your CV ‘pretty’. I mentioned earlier that parsers can attach skills to your ATS profile, and outside of your direct job application, recruiters often use these skills to search their database for relevant talent. Choosing to include images of Adobe Suite logos to show you have those skills could be detrimental. Why? The parser cannot read it – therefore chances are the recruiter won’t find it. The same goes for graphs and tables and whatever imagery you’re tempted to use to showcase your talents. Words are the winner here.