Technology is playing an increasingly pivotal role in the world of job hunting. As organisations seek to streamline their hiring process, more and more recruiters (75% of them to be exact) are relying on software to identify the most relevant and qualified candidates. 

Gone are the days of recruiters sifting through piles of applications. Today, your CV’s first encounter will be with a digital gatekeeper: an Application Tracking System (ATS).

Knowing how to optimise your CV for ATS isn’t just a best practice, it’s a necessity. In this article, we’ll demystify Applicant Tracking Systems and show you how to stand out in the digital crowd. 

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

An Applicant Tracking System is a software application designed to optimise the hiring process for employers. It allows businesses and recruiters to collect CVs and applications, and shortlist candidates based on their skills, experience and qualifications. 

To do this, the ATS extracts specific information from your CV and compares it against the job description. Those CVs that have high compatibility are more likely to reach the eyes of the recruiter. If yours isn’t set up correctly, it won’t make the cut. 

How ATSs use artificial intelligence 

ATSs are more advanced today than they were even a few years ago. Coinciding with the rise of artificial intelligence, they’re often integrated with AI technology for enhanced functionality. For example:

  • Natural language processing (NLP): ATSs use NLP to interpret CV content and rank candidates according to how well they satisfy the job description. This removes the need to manually review applications.
  • Semantic search: To find candidates whose information closely, rather than exactly matches the job description, ATS use AI and NLP to understand the contextual meaning of words and phrases. This goes beyond keyword matching and prevents top talent from falling through the cracks.
  • Predictive analytics: ATSs have surpassed their old role as digital filing cabinets and are now able to forecast a candidate’s success using past hiring data. Powered by predictive analytics, this capability allows employers to make more informed choices.
  • Chatbots: AI-powered chatbots engage candidates in real-time. They can ask preliminary questions, gather additional information and schedule interviews. This saves valuable time and allows employers to assess a candidate’s suitability.

Integrating these technologies makes the hiring process more efficient, reduces admin time for staff and ensures jobs go to the right candidates. That’s why by 2027, 25% of businesses want to adopt AI-driven ATS software. 

How does an ATS read CVs?

Application Tracking Systems read CVs through a process called resume parsing. AI-powered algorithms will scan your CV for keywords and phrases and extract relevant information for analysis.

Here’s an overview of how it works:

  • Text extraction: The ATS uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to convert a CV’s visual content into machine-readable text.
  • Data standardisation: The system organises information into predefined fields, like education, skills and work experience.
  • Keyword recognition: Using NLP, the ATS identifies any keywords or phrases that match the specific requirements laid out in the job posting. 
  • Database: Digital profiles are created for each candidate based on the parsed data. These profiles are stored in the ATS database where they can be analysed.
  • Ranking: The ATS uses matching algorithms to screen and rank the profiles. Recruiters then review the shortlisted candidates.

How can I ensure my CV passes Applicant Tracking Systems?

In 2023, 97.4% of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS. In response to its widespread usage, and the increasingly competitive job market, you need to refine your application strategy. 

Even if you’re the best person for the job, if you don’t cater to the ATS reading process, you might get lost in digital oblivion. Here’s how to ensure your CV passes the ATS process:

  • Use a simple and logical format. The reverse-chronological format is the easiest for ATS to read. Avoid images and unusual fonts as these risk confusing the ATS.
  • Incorporate keywords. Your CV needs to be full of relevant industry keywords and phrases – and it’s ok to repeat them. You should also tailor your CV for each application by including keywords from the job description.
  • Use traditional section headings. Help the ATS categorise your information by including clear, well-defined sections headings. Your CV isn’t the place to be quirky. Stick with obvious headings like ‘Work experience’ or ‘Skills’.
  • Keep your language simple. You can optimise your CV’s readability by using simple, concise language. This makes it easier for the ATS algorithms to understand.
  • Avoid unnecessary formatting. ATS can struggle to interpret graphics, tables and other complex formatting. Keep your layout clean and limit your formatting to bullet points.
  • Get the file format right. Don’t send your CV as a picture file (.jpeg, .png) or obscure format (.txt). PDF and Word documents (.pdf and .doc) are the go-to file formats – but always check what the job ad says before submitting.

Learn more with City CV

Whether you’re looking for your first NED role or a C-suite executive, you need Applicant Tracking Systems on your side. Poor CV preparation means dream opportunities can slip through your fingers. 

The best way to make sure you get noticed is to use a CV writing service. At City CV, we’re experts at writing for ATS. Our understanding of parsing methodology, combined with our industry experience, enables us to write you a persuasive and effective CV that Applicant Tracking Systems and recruiters will love.

A new CV can transform your career. Talk to our friendly team today to find out more.