The #1 Reason Your CV Never Gets Read: Applicant Tracking Systems


Have you ever applied for a job on a job board? If so, your resume might not have reached human eyes!

Large companies and recruitment agencies use an automated software called an applicant tracking system (APS), or other artificial intelligence to scan the applications before anyone reads them. This way, they can pre-filter the most relevant applicants from the enormous pile, saving time for the hiring staff at the other end.

If you’re applying for a job where an applicant tracking system is being used, read on to find out how you can bypass it…

1. Include The Right Keywords

An applicant tracking system works by scanning for keywords. Applicant tracking systems typically scan for keywords relating to job title, former employers, experience, qualifications and universities. This is why it’s important to rewrite your resume for every individual job you apply for, so that your resume reflects the language used by that employer (and their APS). For example, if the job advertisement is for a ‘senior construction engineer,’ try to have this exact match keyword in your resume, rather than a synonym that the system may not pick up. Another good idea is to read the employer’s website and try to use the same terminology that they do.

2. Use The Right Format

Formatting is important for any CV, regardless of whether it’s being read by an APS or a human, because you want it to be as clear, professional and readable as possible. However, when applying for a job where an APS is being used, there are some special formatting considerations to take into account. Firstly, you want to spell out acronyms in full. That means writing words like ‘APS’ in their complete form, i.e. ‘applicant tracking system’. Some agencies use older systems which struggle with certain fonts, so try to use Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier. Finally, always use straightforward headings like Education, Qualifications, Experience – don’t try to get creative.

3. Avoid Keyword Stuffing 

Although we’ve described some great tips for beating applicant tracking systems, what you ultimately need to remember is that you’re writing for a human. If your resume is chosen by the applicant tracking system, it’s going to reach human eyes in the end, and this human is going to decide whether or not to call you in for an interview. For this reason, include your keywords and format your resume intelligently, but make sure to avoid ‘keyword stuffing.’ Instead, use short simple sentences that are easy to read.

4. Be Proactive

Applicant tracking systems may be here to stay in our modern age, but there are still a number of ways to bypass them altogether. Are you networking regularly with professionals in your industry? Having a contact at the company you’re applying for can be a huge advantage, as they will be able to put in a good word for you and allow you to bypass those pesky applicant tracking systems.

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