Applying for a new job requires patience, determination, and lots of hard work. You’ve researched the company you’re applying to, written your CV and covering letter, and away it goes into the digital world of an online application system. You eagerly await news of an interview, but there’s nothing. Radio silence! After all that hard work, did it even land on a real-life person’s desk, or was it screened out by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

Initially created for large corporations to streamline their recruitment processes, Applicant Tracking Systems are now commonly used by recruiters and employers to collect, scan, sort, and rank the job applications they receive.

Did you know that big companies can receive up to 75,000 CVs a week, and in the current climate many roles are attracting over 500 applicants? Staggering, isn’t it? It’s no wonder they turn to software to help analyse and categorise CVs and applications!

So, what can you do to beat the bots? Here are my 7 top tips:

1. Keep important details out of the header and footer

Not all Applicant Tracking Systems can properly read the information in the header or footer sections of a CV. So, avoid placing your key contact details, such as name, email address and phone number in these sections. Remember to include these in the main body of your document instead.

 2. Use a simple template

Fancy templates may look nice, but they quickly get scrambled in an ATS. They can also annoy recruiters and hiring managers who are quickly trying to scan a CV to see if a candidate is suitable or not. Choose a clean, unfussy CV design with a clear hierarchy of sections. In this situation, less is definitely more!

3. Include relevant keywords

Applicant Tracking Systems scan CVs and job applications for keywords. By keywords, I mean the soft and hard skills, and the expertise you need to qualify for an advertised role. A simple way to find these is to collect three or four job descriptions representing the role you’re applying for. Scan them and look for the terms that are used regularly. If you possess these qualifications and skills, make sure you include them in your CV.

Some Applicant Tracking Systems determine the strength of your skills by the number of times they appear, so remember to sprinkle them about liberally! If there are common abbreviations for your skills or competencies, such as SEO (search engine optimisation), it’s worth using both throughout your CV to ensure they are identified.

If you’re not sure what relevant keywords to include in your CV or application, then you could always try using a free tool such as’s Text Analyzer.

4. Use a compatible file type

PDFs are great for maintaining the format and design of a document, but they’re not always compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems. Err on the side of caution and stick to a good old fashioned Word document!

5. Avoid images, graphics and charts

In this situation, a picture doesn’t paint a thousand words! Yes, images, graphics, and charts can look impressive and eye-catching, but they mean nothing to an ATS. They just become a scrambled mess and are unreadable. Stick to reliable, plain text.

6. Use simple bullet points

In the same way, intricate bullet points can seriously confuse the bots! Stick to a simple square, solid or open circle design.

 7. Make your CV ATS compliant

To check how your CV will fare once it goes off to ATS-land, I recommend saving a copy as a plain text document (.txt) and reviewing it thoroughly. If any details are missing or in the wrong place, or characters are saved incorrectly, it could mean your CV won’t be ATS compliant. It’s therefore important to go back through your Word document and rectify these sections.

Want to stand out from the crowd when it comes to applying for a new job?

I hope these tips have helped you understand what an Applicant Tracking System is and how you can navigate your way through them.

If you want further help to develop your CV, please visit the CVs & Interview section of my website or contact me to book a free, no-obligation 30-minute phone consultation.

Good luck!