Do you find yourself submitting loads of CVs and cover letters to job postings, and never hearing back? Does it feel like throwing dozens of fishing lines into the sea, but not a single bite? Let’s face it, applying for work can be very demoralizing when you never hear back. You may even ask yourself if anyone is actually reading your application on the other end. After all, you really are the perfect fit for so many of those job postings. What is happening?
Well, it is very probable that there actually is not a human being on the other end reading it, at least initially. In fact, about 75% of CVs never get read by a person. Maybe you’ve heard of software or “robots” that filter your job applications, moving some along to the “potential candidate” file and rejecting others outright. Known as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), this software sorts through CVs to make recruiters’ jobs easier. Fortune 500 companies can receive hundreds of applications per position. Therefore it’s no wonder that 99% of them rely on ATS to save them time and resources in selecting candidates for interview.
Matching Talent with Company’s Needs
Though the ease of applying for jobs in just a few clicks has increased the size of the applicant pool, all too often unqualified applicants end up applying for jobs. This means that the sheer number of applicants per job can make selection absolutely unwieldly. In this article, former recruiter Yolanda Owens stated that she would often receive about 300 CVs per job and manage 15-20 job openings at once. Phew! Thank goodness for ATS when you have 6,000 CVs to sort through at once.
ATS makes recruiting much more efficient. Nevertheless, the system has many downfalls, namely, many top candidates that can slip through the cracks. But if you as a candidate understand how the systems work and are highly qualified for the target job, you can adapt your CV to make it through this first filter.
Here are some tips on how to get your application through ATS:
- Tailor your CV to the Job Description: Incorporate keywords
When looking for talent, the recruiter is looking for a series of skills and competencies that should be detailed in the job description. (As a side note, some job descriptions are very detailed and others provide less specifics.) As a candidate, it is crucial that you identify what the company needs and tailor your CV to those exact needs. That means there are things that might have to come off your CV because they are not relevant and other experiences or skills that you may have to develop a bit more. So, for example, if you are an industrial engineer applying for a supply chain management position, incorporate the keywords relevant to supply chain and logistics and leading teams rather than the highly technical design skills.
- Incorporate Keywords Organically
When tailoring your CV, also pay special attention to the exact words that stand out from the job description. These are the keywords ATS detects and uses to sort through applications. Thus, include this specific vocabulary in your career story organically, i.e., do it naturally because that word really belongs in that sentence. In other words, please do not overdo it: Creative ideas such as writing keywords in white in the headers or repeating them excessively throughout your CV will be detected by the ATS and backfire.
- Use Clean Formatting
The format is one of the most important elements when it comes to ATS since they are designed for certain file types. The most common are PDF(.pdf) and word (.doc/.docx). While PDFs are best to keep your CV in place, Word documents are best analyzed by ATS. Usually the application instructions will specify which formats are acceptable, so follow those guidelines.
- Remember Some Do’s and Don’ts
Like every software, ATS simplifies the information it extracts from your CV and usually transcribes it to a text-only file. Therefore, all fancy formatting will be lost. Avoid putting tables, text boxes, logos, images or hyperlinks. If you have a portfolio or online content to showcase, paste the link on your resume indicating what it is.
To highlight features and skills, there are ATS-friendly tools, such as Bold, Italics, Underlining, or colors you should use. In addition, bullets are highly recommended to make reading easy and because they don’t trip up ATS.
The ATS is unlikely to read the keywords and concepts in a graph, but it is fine to include this in your CV so long as the value of the information you include there is also somewhere else in text that the system will pick up.
- Write so it’s easy to read, for both ATS and humans!
Once you’ve tailored the information and the format to the job posting, it is important to present it in an easily readable way. That means choosing a style in tune with your industry and target audience, placing key information at the top of the page where it is more likely to engage the human reader, and writing efficiently to get your message across quickly.
With these tips, you are significantly more likely to reach the recruiter and hopefully, get back a handful of fish from all the lines you have thrown into the sea.