Don't let your CV go unread!

Today, the bulk of the recruitment process is completed online. Thus, a large chunk of applications is initially reviewed by automated programmes, called applicant tracking systems (ATS). An ATS collects and sifts through thousands of CVs, sorting the wheat from the chaff.

The result? Many CVs end up settling in the abyss: the CV black hole.  

At TopCV, we regularly speak with job hunters who are frustrated by the lack of response from employers about their applications. In fact, studies suggest that up to a third of job seekers are rejected from a role by never hearing back from a prospective employer.

But there is a strong chance that your CV never made it to the HR Manager before being rejected. Instead, it was electronically screened ‒ and tossed ‒ by an ATS: the gatekeeper of applications.

Around 90% of Fortune 500 companies adopt this technology because they receive such an influx of applications. They simply don't have time to review every single one manually. The hiring bots are programmed to eliminate the least-qualified candidates for the role. They are instructed to scan the CV for vital pieces of information and keywords related to the job.

If the document meets the criteria, it has a strong chance of progressing on to the next stage, which is usually a human review. But if your CV doesn't make it past the bots – which happens to around 75% of appliations – the recruiter may never even know you applied.

Here are a range of CV tips to help your application avoid the CV black hole, make it through the initial reviews and into an HR manager's view.

Refrain from adding headers and footers

Avoid adding your name and contact information to the header portion of the document. Often, an ATS cannot parse text in these sections, so the information will  ultimately be ignored.

If you're struggling for space, decrease the page margins to 1.5 centimetres and place your name and contact details at the top. Do the same for the footer section too, to maximise the space on the page without compromising formatting.

Keep the formatting simple

Creativity is a highly sought-after trait. However, your CV is not the best place to demonstrate this. Most ATS programmes won't read the extra bells and whistles such as logos, graphics, charts and shading.

If you want to speak fluent robot, shoot for ATS-friendly formatting. This includes plain, standard fonts like Calibri, Arial, Tahoma and Cambria. Also, use standard headers for each section of your CV, such as Employment History, Qualifications, Technical Skills, and so on.

Upload your CV as a Word document rather than a PDF. While PDFs have their benefits, such as locking in formatting, some ATS software has some difficulty processing that file type. Play it safe and save the PDFs for when you're emailing your CV to a networking contact.

Proofread your CV thoroughly

Even though most recruiters consider typos unacceptable, they'll still be able to understand what you mean and may even breeze past your error if you're a good fit for the role overall. An ATS, however, will not recognise a word if it is spelt incorrectly. Don't let your application get sucked into the CV black hole because of a misprint.

Proofread your CV carefully. Then proof it again, reading it aloud to yourself – you'll be more likely to spot the errors as you'll verbally trip over them. Then hand it to a friend or family member who feels confident proofreading and ask them to review it. If you take proper precautions, silly mistakes like typos can be easily avoided.

Incorporate relevant keywords

Every industry has a selection of jargon, acronyms, qualifications and skill sets that are associated with it. As an ATS is programmed for the job in question, it's going to look for said keywords in your CV to determine you have the skills needed for the role.

To get past the bots, you need to optimise your CV with relevant keywords. But identifying the right language is no mean feat, and it's a reason many job hunters end up seeking the help of CV writing services.

If you fancy taking the plunge, start by reviewing the job descriptions of the roles you're applying for, highlighting the frequently referenced terms and phrases. If you're struggling to identify the common keywords in the job descriptions, you can always use a word cloud generator which will do it for you.

If any of these buzzwords apply to you, incorporate them into your CV, particularly throughout your Core Competencies, Work Experience and Technical Skills sections. Don't be afraid to mirror the language referenced in the job descriptions either, as it will highlight that you're a strong match.

Be sure to add full names of job titles, qualifications or organisations that are associated with your professional experience. For example, you may put "PMP" after your name at the top of your CV, but if you do be sure to spell out "Project Manager Professional" under your list of certifications.

Final thoughts

Don't let your application slip into the CV black hole. While you might not be able to control the actions of the HR Manager, these CV tips will increase the chances of your CV passing through the ATS and onto the next stage for a human review.

Want to make sure your CV is optimised to beat the ATS? A free CV review will reveal all.

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