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How to make your CV ATS compliant using SEO techniques

Posted over 3 years ago by Rebecca Thomas
As an applicant you may believe SEO should remain in the hands of a capable digital marketer or SEO specialist, who seeks to improve a businesses prospects. In reality that is not always the case.

Scrolling through Linkedin or alternative recruitment sites, you may have come across the mention of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) often positioned in posts about “how you can beat them” and “the secrets of creating an ATS safe Curriculum vitae”, only to be left bewildered and confused as to how you should prepare your job applications.

Heck, what even is an ATS?

What are applicant tracking systems?

Applicant tracking systems are often used by large companies to automate their recruitment process. The system will be used to scan a candidates CV and cover letter to identify keywords relevant to the job they are applying for, discarding any candidates who do not match relevant criteria.

What does ATS mean for applicants?

If a company uses an ATS, this means your application will not meet human eyes first. If your CV and cover letter are not optimised for these systems, then this could be the reason why your are missing out on jobs which you believe you are perfect for.

Whilst applicant tracking systems do sound intimidating, taking a step back and recognising the methods used to filter candidates via keyword searching are similar to the skills deployed in SEO and digital marketing is a strong step in the right direction to humanising a seemingly robotic method of recruitment.

How can my applications beat an ATS?

Keyword research

It is important to remember not to go crazy here. Don’t include a seemingly blank page with white text saying “Marketing Executive” hoping by spamming you will be successful (it does happen!). Remember just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean the ATS won’t.

Instead take keywords from your experience and the relevant job description and carefully position them throughout your CV.

Starting with your job title, try to make this as relevant to the role as possible. We know some companies, especially in the agency market, can give you a funky job title like “Social Media Guru”, but the ATS won’t pick up on this. Instead try to include specific job titles like “Social Media Marketing Executive” or “PPC Specialist”.

Follow this method throughout your entire CV, emphasising your key skills aligned with the recruiters or hiring companies expectations. You can do this within the job descriptions, but for bonus assurance it may be a good idea to create a skills section either to the side or bottom of your CV, as including lists makes it easier for the ATS to identify your keywords.

Be selective with titles

Be sure to use standard titles throughout your CV. For instance you may wish to segment your application using this structure:

  • Contact information
  • Work experience
  • Volunteering experience (if relevant)
  • Education
  • Skills
  • Personal interests

To get noticed, especially when applying for creative roles, you may think you need to do something wild in order to stand out. In reality this could be more damaging to your prospects if the company uses an ATS, as it will not recognise what you are trying to communicate and may even discard you as a potential applicant.

Be grammatically correct

It goes without saying that spell and grammar checking your CV is an absolute must, as even a small mistake could throw an ATS off track. However, it is also ways to be careful when utilising acronyms.

If you feel the need to shorten your sentences, because honestly, repeating Pay-Per-Click Executive & Public Relations collateral can be a bit of a tiring process, make sure you include at some point both the full and abbreviated versions to ensure the ATS has as much of a chance at picking up your keywords as possible. Whilst, for instance it is wise to assume a system scanning a Public Relations document will pick up on words like PR, it is better to be safe than sorry. Plus, if the system picks it up twice it may improve your chances of getting to the next stage.

Though Applicant Tracking Systems can appear like a minefield, in reality they deploy many of the techniques marketing and communications experts should be aware of and familiar with. However, if you prefer a more human approach, at Pitch we review each CV on a per-applicant basis. So, if you need help finding your next career or changing your job feel free to get in touch with us.

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Header: Edited under a Pexels license. Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels