How to Beat the Applicant Tracking System

Don’t allow your CV to get lost in a digital filing cabinet! Follow our top tips on how to beat the applicant tracking system. Small tweaks can help you get the job of your dreams.

Are you sending applications to dozens of companies and never getting called for an interview? The problem might not be your skills or qualifications, but rather that your CV is not reaching them. Here’s how to beat the applicant tracking system and get your resume noticed.

What is the Applicant Tracking System?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a type of software used in the human resources industry. It’s an automatic system that scans your CV and chooses the right applicant based on the job description. Every time you apply for a job online, such as via LinkedIn, your CV is read by an ATS. It makes life easier for recruiters when they have to go through hundreds of job applications. 

How to Beat the Applicant Tracking System

It can be scary to think that your next job could be in the hands of a computer. But there’s nothing to worry about because you have more control than you think. With a few tweaks to your CV, you could be well on your way to your dream job! Let us show you how to beat the applicant tracking system. 

  • Use keywords
  • Don’t use tables or columns
  • Pay attention to acronyms
  • Use a screen-friendly font
  • Standard headings work best
  • Save your file properly
  • Update your online profiles
  • Include referrals

Use Keywords

The ATS approves your CV based on how many of the keywords you’ve used match the system’s keywords. This means you have to read the job application carefully so you can make the correct matches. If they are looking for someone with a “BA degree”, don’t write “Bachelor of Arts” on your CV, even though it means the same thing. 

Don’t use Tables and Columns

Tables and columns make information easy to read for humans, but the same cannot be said about computers. It can cause errors in the applicant tracking system. If you must use a table, make sure it’s all on one page under the same heading. Don’t let any information run over to a second page. 

Laptop and a cup of coffee next to it. How to Beat the Applicant Tracking System

Pay Attention to Acronyms 

If you’re applying for a makeup artist job, your resume might say “Professional MUA”. Depending on how the system has been set, your CV might not register. To be safe, you should use a mix of acronyms, abbreviations and writing out the full words.

Use a Screen-Friendly Font

To make your application easier to read, use fonts such as Times New Roman, Calibri or Arial. Not only do fancy, curly fonts look unprofessional, but turns out both humans and computers struggle to make sense of it. Some ATS will change your font, which can ruin the layout of your CV.  

Standard Headings Work Best

I know we all strive to be unique and creative. But using headings that say “My Story” instead of “Work Experience” can lead to your application landing at the bottom of the (digital) pile. Make the ATS’ job easy by grouping your skills and education under the correct, standard headings.

Save Your File Properly

Pay attention to what the job application asks for. They might specify if you should submit your CV in MS word or PDF format. Some applicant tracking systems prefer MS Word, even if you may like PDFs because it keeps your layout intact. It is best to always follow instructions. 

Update Your Online Profiles

There are ATS that check more than just the CV and cover letter you’ve submitted. They can browse through your blogs or social media profiles too. This is especially true for jobs such as marketing, where you might need to have an online presence. For a more complete application, keep those profiles up-to-date and professional. 

Include Referrals 

Ever job-hunted on LinkedIn and seen the phrase “referrals increase your chance of being interviewed by 2x”? Well some companies have referral systems. So if you know anyone at that company, make sure to mention their names. This can lead to the ATS moving your application right to the front.

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Last Updated: June 2, 2022

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tamsyn Gallie
Tamsyn Gallie
Tamsyn Gallie is a Junior Content Writer at Skills Academy. Her aim is to create content that is well-researched, educational and engaging. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, baking and anything that allows her to be creative. She is passionate about lifelong learning and believes it’s never too late to learn something new.