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Creating a CV that will beat ATS

CV Knowhow shares 5 tips to help you create a CV that beats Applicant Tracking Systems.

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Have you ever applied for a job online and either not received a response, or got a generic email saying, “we’re sorry, but you do not match our criteria…”?

The chances are, this is a reply generated by an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) and your CV may not have been read by an actual person.

ATS systems are designed with time saving in mind; they scan your CV, pick out key information about you, your experience and skills and make sure you match the job criteria set by the employer. If so, you might be invited to interview, if not your CV could be discarded.

Here are some top tips to help you create an ATS friendly CV that will help you to secure interviews:

1. Layout

Your CV needs to pass through the system and features like graphics and text boxes tend to move around the document, causing confusion and leading to a rejection.

Instead of a text box, try using a table, make sure your document is properly aligned and justified and does not contain columns.

It is also essential that your name and contact details are at the top of your CV to give it the best chance of picking up the right information.

2. Key skills

Each job description will list a set of key criteria they need applicants to possess, so to increase your chance of success, make sure each of these come through strongly in your CV.

Consider creating a ‘Key Skills’ section at the top of your CV and include important skills within your role descriptions.

3. Dates and job titles

This may sound obvious, but the ATS will use these details to create a summary of your career, so it needs to be accurate. To make it easy to read, include the months and years you were in each role and your job title.

If you have a 20-year career, with 15 years of management experience, you want the system to tell employers of your success, not skim over it.

4. References

Adding references is not recommended for lots of reasons, however it is especially important for a CV that will be used to apply for jobs online.

If you have referee contact details on your CV, there is every chance that the system may mistake these details for your own and a potential employer may end up calling your current employer (if they are a referee) to invite them to interview, which could get awkward.

5. Tailor your CV to each role

As each role is slightly different, each ATS will be set to look for slightly different things. The best way to make sure it recognises your suitability is to look through your CV and make sure it shows each skill and qualification required in the job description.

If you have chosen to include a ‘Key Skills’ section, it’s easy to change these in accordance to a job description.

One final note – ATS systems tend to prefer documents submitted in a Microsoft Word or .docx format, so try to use this where possible, there are converters online if you currently have a different document type.

CV Knowhow are totaljobs’ exclusive partner for CV writing advice and reviews. Get your CV rewritten by CV Knowhow.

Learn more about ATS and ‘robotic recruiting’

The AI is hiring: Winning tips for woo-ing the Robot Recruiters: The next time you go for a job, it may be a machine waiting for you.
The benefits of ATS: How applicant tracking systems help the recruitment process.

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(All comments have to be approved before they appear)

  1. konstantin

    Hallo Mrs. Blanchard, I’m impressed from readed above, and hope You give me the good advice for my further seeking of job. So far I assume, thath unsuccess in my job search is because I have not sertificate issued by English authoryties for job I applied. If You can suggest me a job which no need sertificate in advance. I can apply my CV if needed.
    Konstantin Fotev

    • Andy

      Konstantin focus on your correct use and spelling of the English language ,Good English is a prerequisite for a job in the U.K.good luck

  2. Christopher bullman

    I’ve applied for lots of jobs and no reply

    • Paul Gillett

      Hi Christopher,

      I have made a few job applications myself with few if not no reply.
      Don’t worry, this is quite common, but extremely rude and ill-mannered, due to the fact that most hiring managers are not professionals and never think about the fact that someone has taken considerable time to put an application together.
      You can always tell a dumb arsed interviewer, if it get’s to that stage, by some of the dumb arsed questions they ask of you. Like, Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Not a relevant question. What are your weaknesses? Stupid question, usually gets a stupid reply or a canned answer. Best advice I can give here, Walk out of interview, you are worth so much more than this. Good Luck and press on.

      • Andy

        Paul, I think you’ll find a brain is a prerequisite ,even for a bin man,from what you’ve written ,may I be so bold as to ask you to visit the library and look up the vocabulary ,I use ,which you obviously have no idea of.Possibly in fact more than likely why your struggling to find any work.An attitude readjustment might help in that respect.

        • Lizi

          If you’re so intelligent, Andy, you should know that improper usage of punctuation is a huge turn-off for any employer. I’m not entirely sure that your vocabulary IS any better than Paul’s: in fact, Paul comes across as significantly more articulate than yourself. You seem a bit verbose at best, and are being unjustifiably unpleasant to Paul, insinuating that he is stupid. What exactly are you trying to prove by behaving in such an unpleasant manner?

      • Noel Danagher

        Great reply Paul.

  3. Betty N

    Thank you

  4. Robert James

    A very nice set of recommendations however they are totally different to my DWP “JOB COACH’S”, ideas. he says to include referees names, my age*(which I disagree with) all in small print(12pt). Who should I take advice from?.

  5. Chris Dancer

    are diplomas important ??? in most interviews I have had there were no mentions of being in possession of certificates, it only shows that you have done research into that particular job,I get the impression that a lot of the employers out there dont want people with experience you might just as well call yourself an idiot and know nothing to get a job.

    • Steven

      WOW.I am 100% in agreement. I have gone through hundreds of CV in my career. Yes I look for Key Words and Originally. But to use a computer system to go through CVs is like Drones looking for Drones. No wonder you don’t have Stability in your job any more. I might as well go and get a job Stacking Boxes, Oh they have a robot to do that. What happened to Human Interaction, I think I ask my physiatrist.

  6. John Tominey

    Hi Katy
    This sounds very interesting. let me try it on my CV. I’m moving back to the UK very soon from Hong Kong and am seeking employment (LOL, i’m too young to retire yet) so let try
    Thanks for the article

  7. muhammad iqbal

    Dear madam
    My cv is similarly such as your points but reference are not present in cv please.CV is excellent but fate is less.
    Kind regards


    Dear Katy Blanchard I have read you are the specialist of CV I am a qualified and skilled mechanic technician with experience and I have applied a lot of job but still I can not sell myself and attractive any employers so could you please give me your advice and help?
    yours sincerely

  9. Omar

    Thank you for your value information about how to build CV.

  10. Tchanica

    Thanks for the great info about the how to build a CV.
    My CV look almost like but I always receive negative feedback…I never understand that…I really need your help.


  11. John

    “If you have chosen to include a ‘Key Skills’ section, it’s easy to change these in accordance to a job description”.

    Or just include all your key skills, and the ATS will pick up all of them, including the ones relevant to the job…

  12. Bakuzibwe faustine

    Thanks for your time I like thanks
    Bakuzibwe Faustine

  13. Sampi sebico

    I’m always applied for the job overseas but unfortunately I didn’t get any relevant answers always they telling me to come for interview in a shot notice, without giving me clear information what must I bring or what I take to go there so please help.

  14. Lisa fallan

    Hi could you please help me make a C.v a don’t know where to start

  15. stephen

    dont take any notice of any dwp staff they know nothing of the employment market they are all just pen pushers on a very good salary believe me i know.


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