Your CV is getting rejected by a computer! Seven tricks to get past Applicant Tracking systems!

You are highly-qualified for the role, but getting rejected because your CV/Resume is not making it past the Applicant Tracking System.  An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is software that helps recruiters handle the recruitment process, by sorting through thousands of CV’s/Resumes to identify candidates to shortlist. The software does this by searching CVs/Resumes for keywords.


Many companies are using this automated form of CV/Resume screening. Ignore this at your own peril! Recruiters can even command the ATS to search the applications database for CVs/Resumes based on certain key words contained within e.g. skills or qualifications.  If your CV/Resume contains keywords the employer is looking for, then the ATS will rank you higher in the search results.  Basically, the software scores the CV/Resume to determine which candidates are most qualified to move to the shortlist where an actual human (recruiter) will review. The flaw of ATS is they can reject great candidates because their CV’s are not key-word compliant or formatted to appeal to the ATS and they slip through the cracks.


Here are seven ways to ensure your CV is ATS attractive and actually lands in a human recruiters hands.


  1. Mirror the Job Description wording in your CV, including the tense it is written e.g if job description says “management of suppliers” change if your CV says “managing vendors and contractors”. This requires customising your CV for every job. NB:  Do NOT copy and paste job description word-for-word you may be penalised by ATS or recruiter.
  2. Nail those keywords. There is lingo in every profession/industry. It maybe software, skills, certifications, licenses, responsibilities, or  procedures. The words that matter in your profession need to be included in your CV/Resume. Use both acronyms and spelled out form of titles.
  3. Repeat important keywords related to your skills a few times in your CV. Do NOT merely stuff as many key words as possible as the new scanners pick up this tactic. It will also be a turn-off to the recruiter who actually reads the CV if your CV does get past the scanner process.  A recommended suggestion is using a keyword two to three times per CV, taking into account that it is coherently placed.
  4. Make use of free cloud services like Wordle and TagCrowd to help you determine the right keywords to use in your CV. Just copy and paste the job description into the generators and the software will tell you which keywords are important to include in your CV.
  5. Only use text. Don’t use graphics, logos, or tables in your CV as fancy graphics, images, tables, and logos confuse the ATS. Anything placed in header and footer areas is invisible to the ATS, do not put important information in these sections.
  6. Headings. Put in straight forward traditional headings such as; Work Experience, Education, Qualifications, Experience, Hobbies, and References and avoid creative titles as they may not be recognised by the ATS
  7. Job Titles. Pay attention to the job title in the advert. E.g. if you are a Finance Manager, but the job title is for an Accounting Manager, be sure that you include “Accounting Manager” somewhere in your CV.


Most companies are using ATS and if you are making online applications, you can no longer ignore the requirement for your CV to be ATS “friendly”.