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Get your CV through applicant tracking systems

As if it isn’t hard enough trying to get a job already, applicant tracking systems (ATS) and human resources information systems (HRIS) can make it even harder. They do have their advantages though – for recruiters and for job seekers – but with so many systems on the market, it’s hard to know how to create a CV that will work with ATS.

Get your free applicant tracking systems ATS checklist here and beat the bots so your CV gets you screened into the recruitment systems and not out!


If you would like us to create an ATS compatible CV for you then you can find out more here. 

Some ATS systems can only read Word documents. If this is the case, the advertiser will usually ask for a Word document to be submitted.

Save and submit your application documents as PDFs instead of Word documents, unless a Word version is explicitly asked for.

Use your name and targeted job title as filename (i.e: SMITH, John – Insert Advertised Job Title Here – CV Month Year) – never use a generic ‘CV’ as the name of your document.

Design your CV in a way that it will be readable for both human and machine. This means it should follow a lateral layout across the page using universal fonts, with no columns, text boxes, white text on dark backgrounds, no images or non-universal symbols.

Include the title of the job you are applying for, or the targeted position, in a section title on your CV so it it clear to the reader what job you are applying for. This may also assist with ATS scoring.

List your contact information at the top of the document - never in the header or footer as some ATS systems cannot extract information from headers and footers.

Label your contact details properly so that the ATS can identify this information. i.e. T: 01536 1234, email:

Use standard section headers to make it easy for the applicant tracking system to categorise the information. Stick to the classics like “Work History” or “Work Experience” or “Education” and avoid creatively named headers that ATS may not recognise.

Always include dates of your employment (eg: May 2016 – June 2017, and July 2017 – Present) because systems may be screening based on the total amount of experience required for a particular job.

If you have not completed a qualification that is required for job, include a phrase such as “Pursuing (name of credential)” and include the anticipated month and year of completion.

Spell out your credentials in full – Master of Business Administration and include the short-form post nominal alongside the quali cation (MBA).

Use simple bullets (•) or keyboard characters (*, -, or >). Do not use dingbats or other special characters, as these may not be read properly by the ATS.

Ensure appropriate white space throughout the document so the ATS systems can easily read your document.

Avoid special characters and accents on your CV. Some words and phrases can be misinterpreted by an applicant tracking system because it does not recognise the accented letters 

Do not condense or expand text or justify text – some ATS systems can mis-read the space between characters and text may appear jumbled at the recipients end. Only ever left- or right-justify text to margins.

Do not use more than 2 fonts on your resume and ensure the fonts that are used are universal so they can be read on any operating system.

Font size will vary depending on the type of font used, but typically a 10 – 12 point size will work well.

Avoid using images or graphics on your CV as some ATS cannot read them and some may reject documents that contain them

Do not use columns, tables or text boxes as some ATS systems cannot extract the copy from within them.

Keep in mind that some ATS systems cannot recognise plural versions of a keyword, and most ATS do not consider singular and plural forms as the same word. You may need to manipulate your CV content to match the tense used in job advertisement.

Some ATS also use the contents of your cover letter to search and rank applicants.

Spellcheck your CV to ensure there are no errors. Use our spellcheck here.

Incorporate relevant, targeted keywords and phrases in your CV for the type of position being sought.

“Mirror” the job posting in your CV by naturally incorporating job post details into your resume content.

Do not copy and paste the complete job ad because this may lead to negative scoring by the ATS

Populate the file with appropriate and repeated keywords and key phrases. Incorporate these terms throughout the resume, particularly in the “Key Skills” and “Work Experience” sections.

When responding to an advertised position, use the exact same language and punctuation as in the job description.

For example:

  • Some ATS cannot distinguish between front-end and front end. If the advertiser has used ‘front-end’ you should use this in your CV.

  • Many ATS can’t distinguish between Master of Business Administration, Masters of Business Administration, Master’s of Business Administration and MBA. Use the correct title of your qualification as listed on your parchment or the exact same qualification title listed on the job advertisement.

  • Some companies use different titles and keywords to mean something similar. For example, Project Manager vs. Programme Manager.

  • The job description may ask for an executive with a strong “global” background. In your CV, you may have used the word “international” instead. If you want to match keywords in an ATS system, consider swapping the word “international” for “global” in the CV you are submitting for that specific job.

Populate the file with appropriate and repeated keywords and key phrases. Incorporate these terms throughout the resume, particularly in the “Key Skills” and “Work Experience” sections.

Use a keyword two to three times per resume, taking placement into account.

Streamline your headline and section titles to t the job title of the position you are applying for.

Add keywords to the document properties section of your word document as some ATS systems extract this metadata from documents when testing and scoring them against an advertised position.

Applicant tracking systems are not sensitive to the length of your CV, but you should also take note that a recruiter will read your CV after scanning it through an ATS so stick to industry standards for the length of your CV.

List work history in reverse chronological order – meaning your most recent period of employment should be listed first.

If given the option to upload and copy and paste your CV for an online application, do both, and upload a PDF version of your resume, unless instructed otherwise in the job advertisement. Uploading the PDF will retain the formatting of the document so that it can be read on any operating system or device.

Avoid submitting multiple CV's to the same company using the same email address. If you have previously submitted an application and have since updated your CV for another position within the same company, contact the HR department prior to submission and ask for their advise as to how to submit your application to ensure they view the most recent version, alternately create a new email address and submit your application using that email address.