How To Optimize Your CV For Applicant Tracking Systems

By  //  October 16, 2023

In today’s job market, where a single job listing can receive hundreds or even thousands of applications, more and more companies are turning to technology to help them manage the deluge.

One tool that has gained significant traction is the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This software allows companies to automatically sift through resumes, ranking candidates based on how well their CV matches the job description. However, for job seekers, this means that even if they’re perfect for a position, their CV might get overlooked if it isn’t optimized for ATS algorithms.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure your CV gets the attention it deserves, and we’ll be delving into these in the following blog post. Let’s explore how to optimize your CV for Applicant Tracking Systems.

1. Format Matters: Keep It Simple

One of the fundamental principles when crafting your CV for an ATS is simplicity. ATS systems can get tripped up by intricate formatting, graphics, and unusual fonts. Here are some guidelines:

  • Use Standard Headings: Stick to commonly recognized headings like ‘Work Experience,’ ‘Education,’ ‘Skills,’ and ‘Certifications.’ Avoid creative headers, as the ATS might not recognize them.
  • Avoid Graphics and Logos: While they might make your CV visually appealing to human eyes, they can confuse the software.
  • Stick to ATS-Friendly Fonts: Opt for universally accepted fonts like Arial, Calibri, and Times New Roman.

If you’re uncertain about formatting or how to best present your achievements, it might be beneficial to use a professional CV writer. They’re often well-versed in the intricacies of ATS and can craft a CV that’s both ATS-friendly and engaging for hiring managers.

2. Keyword Optimization: Align With The Job Description

Your CV needs to resonate with the job description. ATS systems score CVs based on how well they match the job posting.


  • Scan the Job Posting: Identify key skills, certifications, and experience mentioned. If they apply to you, incorporate them naturally into your CV.
  • Avoid Keyword Stuffing: While it’s essential to include relevant terms, don’t go overboard. An over-optimized CV can come off as inauthentic.

3. File Type: Stick To The Basics

Most ATS systems prefer Word documents (.doc or .docx) or plain-text files. While some systems can process PDFs, not all can. To be safe, submit your CV in a Word format unless otherwise specified.

4. Ditch A Career Objective, Embrace A Qualifications Summary

While career objectives were once a staple, they’ve become outdated. Instead, use a qualifications summary at the beginning of your CV. It’s a brief, bullet-pointed section that highlights your most relevant achievements and skills, making it easy for both the ATS and hiring manager to quickly gauge your fit for the position.

5. Use Long-Form And Abbreviations

When it comes to job titles or skills, it’s advisable to use both the long-form and abbreviation. For instance, “Certified Public Accountant (CPA).” This ensures that whether the ATS is programmed to recognize the abbreviation or the full form, your CV won’t get overlooked.

6. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread

Spelling and grammar errors can negatively impact how the ATS scores your CV. Tools like Grammarly can be a big help, but also consider having a colleague or mentor review your document. Sometimes, a fresh set of eyes can catch mistakes you’ve overlooked.

7. Tailor Your CV For Every Application

While it might seem tedious, it’s essential to tailor your CV for every job application. A generic CV might miss out on key terms or skills specific to a particular job posting, reducing its score within the ATS.

8. Avoid Tables And Columns

While tables and columns can make your CV appear organized, they can wreak havoc when being processed by an ATS. The software might not read them correctly, causing essential information to be left out.

9. Prioritize Hard Skills Over Soft Skills

While soft skills like “teamwork” and “communication” are essential, Applicant Tracking Systems tend to prioritize hard skills more when matching CVs to job descriptions. 

For instance, if you’re applying for a programming job, the ATS will likely prioritize keywords like “Python,” “Java,” or “SQL” over soft skills. Ensure that the specific technical skills and tools you’re proficient in are prominently mentioned in your CV.

10. Include A Skills Section

Although integrating keywords throughout your CV is essential, it’s also beneficial to include a dedicated ‘Skills’ section. Here, you can list both hard and soft skills relevant to the position you’re applying for. 

Not only does this make it easier for ATS to pick up on these keywords, but it also allows hiring managers to quickly gauge your competencies at a glance.

In Conclusion

Navigating the intricacies of Applicant Tracking Systems might initially seem like a daunting task. However, armed with these insights and strategies, you’re well-prepared to craft a CV that sails smoothly through the ATS filters and stands out to hiring managers. 

Remember, the primary objective of your CV is not just to pass through the software but to resonate with the human on the other side, who will assess your fit for the role. With a well-optimized CV, you’re taking a crucial step in ensuring your skills and experiences get the attention they truly deserve in the competitive job market. Best of luck in your job-seeking endeavors!