These days many recruitment agencies and organisations use some form of Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to handle job postings, applicant screening, CVs and interview management.

The efficiencies these packages can deliver is more than evident when many job advertisements have in excess of 300 applicants (and more than 2000 for a recent client).

However, if a candidate's CV isn't formatted well and doesn't contain matching keywords and phrases, the ATS will misread it and rank it as a bad match with the job opening, regardless of the candidate's qualifications and expertise.

The dawn of the "robot as recruiter" is upon us, so there are things you need to know, if you want your CV to rise to the top of the initial screening pile (especially if you are applying for roles internationally).


How do they work?

ATS systems usually strip all text content out of a person's CV, and save it into a file. It then ranks candidates based on the number of keyword matches their file contains, in line with the job description of the position they are seeking.

Getting to the top of the pile

A key approach for your CV's success is to ensure it is "ATS friendly". While there are many different types of ATS being used by recruiters and companies, key ways to help your CV move up the stack generally include:

* Keeping the formatting simple - this helps the ATS upload your data easily. Text boxes and graphic-heavy CVs can sometimes cause issues and confuse the robot too.

* Include subject headings like Qualifications, Career Experience, Education, etc. - these again make it easy for the robot to understand and contextualise relevant information.

* Focus on the keywords that are in the job description - this is vital to ensure you are seen as a "solution" to the "employer's problem".

* Use bulleted lists, not paragraphs - paragraphs filled with narrative are inefficient, hence bullet points.


* Don't make any spelling mistakes - course the robot won't understand words that are spelt incorrectly, so check the final version a few times before you submit it.

* Use a standard font - don't go crazy with a unique one-off font the robot can't understand.

* Feel free to submit a longer resume - after years of being told that shorter is better, the length of your resume doesn't matter to an ATS. Therefore, submitting a 3-4 page CV allows you to pack in more relevant experience, keywords and phrases, and may improve your ranking in the system.

Passing the test

However also remember, that if you do pass all the robot's screening tests and make it to the short list, your CV will then be read by a "real person", so all the standard rules of professional formatting and "ease on the eye" still apply!

Contact Tom to be your personal career coach or life coach. Visit to find out more, or email Tom to receive our free "Resignation Letter Template" via