Applicant Tracking Systems are used by companies to manage high volumes of job applications. It is an HR software that will electronically scan your CV and rank your application according to your scores based on the job description.

Optimizing your CV for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

As an applicant, you must optimize your CV so that it can pass the ATS before it even gets seen by “human eyes”. 

Recommended Format:

  • Use simple formatting.
  • Use common CV headings: Summary, Work Experience, Education, Skills, Voluntary Work.
  • Avoid fancy fonts, special characters, images and graphics, symbols (bullet points are fine), tables, borders, lines, shading, boxes, etc. so that the ATS can quickly scan your CV for keywords and phrases. 
  • .Docx file is the best format for most ATS systems. NOT PDF! 
  • Title your CV with your name and targeted title.
  • Your contact information should be in the body of your CV not in header or footer. 
  • Reverse chronological order for employment history.
  • Avoid hyperlinks on important words. ATS will display only the URL and drop the words you linked from, so don’t link from words like your job title or important accomplishment. Paste in the URL itself or link out from a word like “website” or “portfolio.”


Recommended Content:

  • Tailor your CV for the position you are applying for.
  • Use keywords and exact phrases as it appears in the job description. But don’t overuse the keywords! 
  • Beef up your CV. Make sure to include any certifications you’ve received and mention industry-specific vocabulary.
  • Check out current employee LinkedIn profiles in similar roles and look for common language and keywords used. 
  • Do not put distinctions such as CPA or PhD in your header, because ATS will pull this as your first or last name.
  • Create a summary statement about yourself utilizing keywords.
  • Spell out keywords but also use its acronym version. For example: SEO for search engine optimization. 
  • Don’t forget the dates! Use consistent format.


A handful more tips for the job seekers:

  • You cannot cheat the ATS. Only apply for jobs that you are qualified for. It will definitely reflect on your CV.
  • Some ATS scan more things outside the job description such as brand competitors, and universities attended.
  • Complete all fields in online applications even those that are not required.
  • Build your social media presence as some ATS are starting to use syncing tools with these.
  • Find platforms online that do a free ATS-like scan on your CV such as ResumeWorded.com, DAXTRA or RESUNATE.
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