5 Basic Tips To Write An ATS-friendly CV

Today’s article is about something very technical – writing your ATS-friendly CV. What might sound boring should be of utmost importance if you are looking for a new job. I often notice that the term “Applicant Tracking System “or short ATS doesn’t ring a bell. And it should! Not only because NEL Career Services has switched to using an ATS system, but (almost) everybody else has!

Is An ATS-Friendly CV Really Important?

ATS-Friendly CV - Look Up Your Keywords
Look up your keywords before writing your CV!
(Photo (c) by Cleferson Comarela Barbosa)

Short answer: YES!!! Most corporations use ATS software to track and sort incoming CVs. This software – the so-called applicant tracking system – will match your CV against the job position you applied for and then rank you according to the perceived relevance.

In other words, if your CV doesn’t match the “system’s idea” of the “ideal candidate,” it will rank you lower. It might not necessarily create a problem when applying for a rare-to-find expert role, but it will undoubtedly make a difference if you apply for a position that attracts many applications. Chances are no recruiter will look at your CV if you are at the bottom. No matter how qualified you are. It’s a bummer, I know.

The Do’s Of An ATS-friendly CV

So, it’s time to learn how to “beat “the ATS system. There are a couple of things you should pay attention to when creating or updating your CV.

Beware Of The File Type!

It might sound funny in 2020, but pdf is not always your way to go. Each system provides information on which file types are accepted. If pdf is not in there, don’t use it. Send a read-only Word document instead.

No Critical Information In The Header Or Footer!

Many of us have learned to put relevant information like an e-mail address or phone number in the header or footer. It’s no longer the best place as some systems may not show it. Instead, put your contact information at the top of your CV.

Learn The Keyword Game!

Relevant Keywords of your current role are essential these days! Use them as they will help you rank your CV higher. If you are unsure about your keywords, Google can help you. Or look at similar job profiles to get more ideas. Also, it makes sense to create a separate list for yourself to add to your CV accordingly later on. By the way, keywords are equally crucial for hard skills and soft skills. You might come across the term “power words.” Use them! I found a great list here. They can also do great benefit for your cover letter.

Beware Of Company Specific Wording & Abbreviations!

Here’s something I notice over and over again. Many corporations have their “special lingo” that often includes a lot of abbreviations. And that’s fine! However, outside the company, most people won’t know their meanings. So, please double-check before sending your CV.

Do Use A Simple Structure!

It might not look fancy, but a simple bullet point structure serves you best. Please don’t spread graphics or charts all over your CV. Flags to highlight your language skills are a thing of the past. So are the logos of the companies you worked for. Not only all these elements will get lost in the ATS, but you will also make a fool out of yourself. (sorry, not sorry!). Last but not least, avoid table structures. 

Don’t Rush – Be Throrough!

If you handle all of the above points accordingly and apply to a role that is matching your skills, you should be good to go. However, it may require a bit of time and dedication to “get your ATS-friendly CV right. Especially the keyword part can be a bit time-consuming as it may require a bit of research. Also, I recommend spending some time reflecting on your unique soft skills. But I am sure you will get there. 

Good luck! And if you have questions, please feel free to reach out here. Thank you!