How to ensure your CV is read by the robots

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Recruiters report that due to the overwhelming supply of talent today, desperate job seekers are flooding every position—but that 50% or more of applicants are unqualified for the position to which they are applying. To save companies time and money, the hiring process has been almost entirely automated. Most large firms will now use software filters to examine digital submissions.

This software goes by the name of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). It will scans and score your profile, and determine whether or not you are worthy of human review. It eliminates much of the chaff in the selection process. The downside is that a lot of wheat is left unharvested as well.

How can you improve your odds against the machine?

First and foremost, create a new CV for every job you apply for. Of course, the basics are the same, but each should be customized to the job, and the company, to highlight your relevant strengths and skills.

Secondly, use keywords. You’ve heard about them in discussions of website search optimization. Simply, they are words that convey significance, or that serve as a key to code. In this case, the code you need is for getting past this electronic gatekeeper. Look at the job description; if it is for “Business Analyst,” you should be sure your resume includes the words “business” and “analyst” numerous times. Make a point of listing the job-associated skills and qualifications listed in the description of the position.

It can help to look at what the company focuses on (research their website). If they are “customer-focused” or a ”world-class brand” or “global” or “strategic,” chances are those terms may be included in their keyword list. Mention them in your resume.

Thirdly, format simply. ATS software can be confused by creative and non-traditional expressions. So, eliminate bullets, tables and graphs (dashes and asterisks are preferred). Keep your headings clearly understandable and put space between sections. List the name of the company before you list the years you worked there. Most programs have been trained to see where you worked, then ascertain when you worked there. Confusion may mean your score suffers.

Creating your resume in a text editor such as TextEdit or Notepad is a good way to begin. It will keep your creative juices at bay. Then when you finalize it as a Word document, restrain yourself again. It’s the content that counts to ATS, not its appearance.

The ATS software helps streamline the hiring process for overworked HR professionals. Making your CV more efficient and focused will help them—as well as you—make the right connections. It takes some work and multiple versions. But it will almost certainly be worth it.

You may have already been made redundant. Don’t let yourself be streamlined out of a new job.