To begin with one may ask whether this topic is worth re-visiting giving the number of articles written on the subject within the last few years. This is undeniably an important consideration. However, when it comes to developing countries such as Ghana, ATS has not received the desired attention.
This write-up is an experiential account of the free CV review offer that was put in place from July 1st to September 21 2018 by Sobiaonline. In all, 230 CVs were reviewed and this write-up is based on the outcomes of the reviews.
The key finding from the reviews as well as through client engagements was that job seekers do not pay much attention when ATS is mentioned and job seekers are generally not ready to learn more about how they can navigate their ways through ATS. This finding clearly answers the question posed at the beginning of this article and is the main motivator for me to come up with this article.
The First question to Ask: What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) anyway?
There is a lot of talk about the future of the world of work this 2018 at the heart of which is how to utilize technology in recruitment and selection of candidates. When it comes to ATS one thing we are sure of is that we are already into the future of the world of work. ATS simply means Applicant Tracking Systems. It is a kind of robot or software that is used to pre-screen job applications before it reaches human hands.
According to the muse careers,
ATS works by scoring CVs for contextual key words and key phrases, mathematically scoring for relevance and sending only the most qualified ones through for humans to review.
Recently, it has been discovered that an estimated 95% of fortune 500 companies employ ATS in their recruitment. This makes it imperative for job seekers especially those targeting international companies of repute to master these latest ATS tricks detailed in the subsequent section.
HOW THEN CAN JOB SEEKERS MAKE THEIR CVs ATS FRIENDLY OR RESPONSIVE?
There is no magic bullet theory regarding how CVs can be designed to beat ATS. However these points detailed below should help job seekers of all kinds to optimize their CVs in a manner that makes it ATS responsive.
Choose the CV Right File Format
There is widespread disagreement among CV writers and career professionals regarding which file format is best suited for ATS. I aim not going to meddle in this debate but to simply provide a way forward. When applying for jobs via jobs portals you would often see a list of preferred documents formats that can be uploaded. I recommend that you should always make sure that your file format is in line with what the job portal has recommended. Generally documents in PDF, Word or Doc X format is good to go with ATS.
Use an ATS Responsive CV Layout & Design
The layout of every CV is as important as its content. To properly understand CV layout you have to think of these four considerations: outline, arrangement, design, and plan.
According to our review statistics 93.5% of all CVs reviewed used at least one form of these formats in at least one sectional area of their CVs. Based on our CV reviews, we recommend that job seekers should avoid text boxes and graphics as much as possible as ATS find it difficult to read information in these formats.
The second tip on CV layout is that you should always put your name on top of the CV. Most ATS systems are automatically set to pick the top most word or phrase as the candidate name. This days it is no longer necessary or essential to write boldly “Resume or Curriculum Vitae” at the topmost part of your CV. The tendency is that this can be picked as your name by some ATS bots and this can negatively affect all the efforts you have put into your CV preparation especially CV rejection!
In like manner, what is kept in the last part of your CV will equally be interpreted as references and hence it is important to always put your references in the last column. I admit that the issue of references is more complicated then presented and from my point of view I recommend that you can avoid references unless it is expressly stated as a requirement. We recommend this because in most instances ATS fails to interpret references and this can significantly reduce your average score.
Lastly, we recommend that your CV should be properly aligned. Text alignment allows you to determine the flow and position of your text. The four primary types of text alignment include left aligned, right aligned, centered, and justified. To use this feature highlight the text you want to align, go to home in your word editor and then click on the align type. Also make sure you do not leave unnecessary columns.
OPTIMIZE FOR KEYWORDS In the Job Description
Some career experts has recently tagged ATS as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for CVs. Just as google rank pages on the basis of keywords it contains, so thus ATS rank CVs on the basis of keywords it contains.
To illustrate the powerful effects of keywords to ATS:
A job description in 2010 called for a programmer with 5 years of experience in Apple IOS operating system but the reality is that the app was introduced in 2007. As a result, all the candidates who applied were turned down. This was because they missed the “5 years working experience” mark!
In writing your CV, your key skills must be highlighted based on the job description. Again, If you are conversant with web SEO you would have treated your ATS like google and your key skills as your SEO keywords. It works in the same manner. Core skills that are not in your job description of interest will seldom add any weight to your CV. One word of caution though is don’t overdo this or try to use all keywords in the job description even if you do not have such requisite skills. To properly present your core skills you would need to observe the following:
Keywords that are often repeated 3x or more are highly desirable and is important they are captured in your CV and featured in like manner
Differentiate between Hard Skills, Core Skills and other keywords. Hard skills are learned through specialized training and include specialized skills, knowledge of software and tools. Hard skills are the most sought after by recruiters and the more you match up the hard skills the better. Once again focus your attention to skills that appear most often in the job description which are mostly the hard skills. Soft skills are skills obtained without much specialized training such as attention to detail, team player. They are quite difficult to assess compared to the hard skills and are less prioritized by recruiters. As mentioned earlier your focus should be on the hard skills. Finally, the other skills are simply buzzwords, industry lingo or company specific jargon and are weighed less in the match rate.
Once you identify these 3 skill sets it is important to prioritize which ones to emphasize. Typically hard skills comes first, followed by soft skills and then lastly other skills.
Use ATS Responsive Dates and Job Titles
One important consideration which must be born in mind in making your CV ATS friendly is choosing the right job titles and using a responsive date format. Once there is a good fit between a candidate’s job title and that of a job description the CV will be scored higher by ATS.
Career experts often recommend that your job title can be slightly changed to meet a job description if you performed very similar roles as described in a particular job description. For instance, Marketing Manager, Head of Marketing, and Senior Marketing Executive can all mean the same thing and may have similar job descriptions in some instances and each can be modified as and when necessary to suite a job description. One note of caution though is that you would need to notify your referees of the change before it blows things out of proportion.
In writing ATS friendly dates, always make sure that you include the month and years of all events and ensure consistency. When it comes to the current position it becomes more tricky than the usual. I recommend that you would need to put your current month or year instead of indicating present or till date as these phrases will not be read by most ATS.
Writing an ATS Responsive Profile Summary/Career Objective
There is an ongoing debate regarding whether a Career Objective is necessary or not. I seek to pry not in this debate but to offer the way out.
Based on the CVs reviewed recently by Sobiaonline,wide gaps were found in candidates profile summaries vis-a-vis the main body of their CVs. In like manner, Sobiaaonline also found out CVs whose content failed to match the job descriptions they are applying for in any way.
The problem in all these has to do with the inability of candidates to determine what to include and what not to include in their profile summaries. My recommendation is to present a concise profile summary using the keywords in the job description. Another alternative is to avoid the profile summary altogether and rather place your core skills based on the job description.
Writing an ATS Responsive Work Experience
In this section, I will not touch on how to present your work experience but rather how to make your experience section ATS friendly. For detail information on how to present your work experience please watch out for our next article on how to write your next winning CV using achievements As a job seeker you would need to work on your greatest achievements and commit it to the job description. According to Victor Mc Lean, a certified advanced resume writer,
A good CV is all about highlighting and presentation of objective achievements alongside optimizing keywords. In senior level positions demonstrating potential, motivation and commitment is essential
One important point worth mentioning is the need to make sure you utilize the job description key words as much as possible in detailing your achievement.
Make sure that you relate all your qualifications to the job description. State the full version of your qualification in sentence form.
There are various attractive CVs displayed out there in the name of helping candidates but how many of these CVs are actually ATS friendly? In formatting your CV observe the following:
Use simple bullet points and make sure each phrase or word makes meaning standing alone.
Avoid graphs and symbols as ATS finds it hard to read them. Also avoid tables as much as possible
Most companies do not entertain candidate’s pictures as it is believed to have been causing discrimination.
Use similar key words in both your main CV and profile summary.
Use the right fonts. Arial, Times New Roman and Courier which are mostly recommended.
Use Traditional headings such as Education, Experience, Skills, among others. Avoid naming subsections with words that are less commonly used
Repeat important skills 2-3 times only.
Finally, be Conscious that it takes a Thief to Catch a Thief
Once you observe all these we believe your CV should be ATS friendly. However we recommend that you utilize relevant software to scan your CV before forwarding your job applications. We have provided a list of popular of 18 popular ATS software you can use to scan your CV below: