How to Create a Winning Digital CV to Get Through Applicant Tracking Systems

Posted on Monday, February 15, 2021 by The CV WizardNo comments

Whether you’re looking for a permanent or temporary role, your CV is your calling card. But when it lands on a hiring manager’s desk, it has just a few seconds of attention before it’s discarded or carried forward. That’s enough to scare most candidates, but nowadays there’s probably another hoop to jump through that can potentially work in your favour — if you know what you’re doing. That hoop is Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS.

At our London recruitment agency, we know that many employers now use ATS to gate-keep applications. This means that you need a digital CV that can pass the bot’s algorithms and rank your CV highly against its set criteria for the job in question.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Applicant Tracking Systems operate like a search engine. Their job is to cut admin time and introduce fairness and clarity by assessing CVs according to their suitability. Each CV is scored, and usually only the top-scoring CVs make it to interview — or even get looked at by an actual human being. Given that many office support jobs in London have hundreds of applicants, it’s understandable that digital tools are needed to make the process easier.

So, how do you make sure that it’s your CV that scores highly when fed into the ATS? Here are our top tips:

  1. Use keywords

    Job descriptions are excellent clues when it comes to how the ATS will be programmed to rank CVs. Identify the skills, qualifications, and wording that are used within the advert or job description (or reasonably would be for a role of that type), and make sure that you use the same or similar terms in your CV. You still want your CV to read naturally, and like SEO keywords, you can’t stuff them in, but must align your language with the recruiter’s.

  2. Focus on skills, not duties

    It’s very tempting, especially when writing CVs for office support jobs in London, to list your duties in your previous roles. However, simply listing duties doesn’t say anything about whether you performed these well, or provide the information that the ATS is scanning for. Instead, you need to list skills, such as inbox management or payroll processing.

  3. Focus on skills, not clichés

    Similarly, ditch your clichés. There is a person whose job is to set the ATS to screen CVs in line with the job requirements, and the ATS is also clever software. They won’t put in something as clichéd as “team player”. Instead, they’ll use wording that evidences more quantitative skills and aptitudes.

  4. Take care with acronyms in qualifications

    Qualifications must be listed, but make sure you write the full name of the qualification and awarding body as well as the acronym. For example, if applying for an HR role, you can list Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development qualifications, but also include “CIPD”.

  5. Think about formatting and layout

Remember, this is a bot. Ditch funky fonts and groovy graphics — neither have any place on your CV anyway. Don’t include any symbols beyond basic ones like bullet points, and keep the font a consistent and uniform size and type.

Don’t be scared by Applicant Tracking Systems; your digital CV doesn’t need to be massively different from the paper version. Always write your CV for the employer as a human first, and then double-check it in terms of the above. That way, you’ll be sure to provide clear, focused content that works for both human and computer.


Love Success is a leading London PA & office support recruitment agency.
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