The ATS paranoia shows no signs of abating and can only grow stronger as more people chase fewer vacancies. Fear that your CV is being missed by hiring managers, H.R., internal recruiters and recruiters is reaching (dare I say it?) epidemic levels. 
 
Not including the right keywords on your CV is one of the major fears. Now why the heck would someone applying for a role in a certain sector not be using the right keywords? It boggles the mind. Of course you’ll be using the keywords for that role or sector, or else you wouldn’t a) be applying for the role or b) be a suitable candidate in the first place! 
 
Can anyone tell me who is going around applying for roles with CVs that don’t have the same words that they’ll find in a job specification, or are generally accepted words that are used fairly often in a specific sector? I’m sorry but ATS or no ATS, then you probably aren’t landing that job and your CV is being passed over either by some magical CV robot (which it isn’t) or a human being. 
 
So, scrub the above worry from your jobsearch mind and just ensure you are writing the appropriate words by way of your skillset on that document. The thing that is far more important than worrying about an ATS system, which really won’t automatically prevent your CV being read by a human more than anyone else’s CV, is to ensure that you offer compelling evidence that you can add value in solving a potential employer’s problems, by answering the “questions,” in the job specification. Or, if uploading your details to an industry/sector specific CV database, ensure your Master CV has the relevant skillset and evidence of achievement presented succinctly and with impact. 
 
Please stop worrying about the ATS. ATSs are designed to help humans to search for CVs, not to hinder the search. Humans will sometimes enter some keywords to help them in the process when sifting through CVs, but to try to second guess how the human will search in too much detail is simply impossible, in the same way that would apply had the vacancy required CVs to be posted in the old fashioned way. You will still be at the mercy of a human being within the process. 
 
There are ways of using an ATS to set up rejection criteria, but I am yet to work in an environment where recruiters are purposefully making these criteria more onerous against candidates’ chances of being identified. Think about it, what software developer is going to create a system which ‘loses’ suitable candidates from the process? Can you imagine the sales pitch? “Well, Mr. (Or Mrs. Or Ms. - got to be careful these days!) HR Director, we want to sell you this ATS system. It’ll definitely streamline your process but in doing so you’ll miss many perfectly suitable candidates who’ll likely end up employed at your competition.” 
Not likely is it?! 
 
Recruiters generally want to run their eyes over every single candidate who might just be suitable. It’s a competitive market and having done this myself many times, I can vouch for sore and tired eyes as a thorough and regular CV sift takes place. Don’t worry, the recruiters and by extension, the hiring managers and internal recruiters, who use the same or similar software, know your CV is there, have read it, absorbed it and either shortlisted you or perhaps rejected you. 
 
If they have rejected you because they haven’t seen your CV, it will more than likely be the case that your CV was not viewed along with everyone else’s, because the vacancy was filled by an internal candidate or a referral. The ATS is not out to get you! 
 
I can’t say there may not be a tiny, infinitesimal figure that could be attributed to someone’s CV being missed whom was a perfectly suitable or even “star,” candidate because of an ATS system, but to think there is something that many candidates are doing fundamentally wrongly (and that’s the reason for being missed), is frankly not the case. The fault, which would be representative of this absolutely tiny percentage, would be of the human utilising the ATS incorrectly. 
 
I am also not claiming that ATS systems are never set to automatically reject candidates on some bases. However, if this has happened, then, guess what? You weren’t selected for a very good reason and this would have been replicated had ATSs never been used. It’s blindingly obvious that to attempt to second guess this is nigh on impossible. 
 
Wasting your time worrying about this is RIDICULOUS and your energy should remain in creating a suitable document which outlines your key selling points in line with the job specifications and general requirements of the sector to which your CV is geared and gaining exposure. 
 
The debate still rages about which format to upload your CV in. Having operated with some ATS systems I can only vouch that I have never had any problems with viewing CVs in Word or Pdf. Word is most definitely more friendly to the recruiter, whose day can sometimes be made more difficult when wanting to format a Pdf in the way they would like to, in order to present it to their client, for the benefit of the candidate, but in terms of exposure levels, I would say that it really doesn’t make a difference. 
 
Trust me, 15 pagers, ones with crazy mugshots and all sorts of boxes and tables have made through any ATS I have ever used! If you want to err on the side of caution, then by all means (and I will be thanked by the recruitment world for this!) keep it simple. Standard. ACCESSIBLE! 
 
If you are a suitable candidate to be shortlisted, rest assured, as long as you have presented a compelling case by answering the specific job specification and have achieved this using a generally standard font and a professional presentation, then your CV will be identified. Similarly, it’s more than likely your CV will have been “seen,” even if this is not the case. However, it probably won’t be afforded more than a few seconds. 
 
Of course, if you’ve been searching for a long time without success I can easily understand why you might start to believe the ATS is somehow to blame. The ATS will not prevent you from landing the interview. A poorly presented, poorly marketed, ineffective and inaccessible document, lacking in targeted evidence and achievement probably will. 
 
Need some advice please do feel free to drop me a line - neil@massiebutler.co.uk 
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