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April 11, 2024updated 12 Apr 2024 4:01pm

Job hunting? Here are 5 CV tips to ensure you pass Applicant Tracking Systems

It’s not just the HR manager you need to negotiate when job hunting, but also the pitfalls of failing to please the algorithms of Applicant Tracking Systems.

By Amanda Kavanagh

Once upon a time, it was only larger organisations that used Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

But alongside the proliferation of AI tools, companies of all sizes are availing of technology that helps them filter through job applications to shortlist candidates.

This means that CVs that are not ATS optimised can get lost in the mix, even if those applicants are the best people for the job.

Though the technology is always changing, there’s a number of things you can do to ensure your CV nabs you a first interview. 

Tailor each CV

While you’re writing your cover letter, start pulling out keywords from the job spec. These are often verbs like managed, organised, fact-checked, edited and so on.

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Ensure the keywords listed in the job description are reflected back in the CV you submit. Your first go at this might take a while.

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If you’re struggling, there are a number of CV scanning tools that you can use online to cross reference your attempt with a job spec, and often the first couple of uploads are free.

You can learn a lot from one or two freebies, or you can stump up for a subscription if you’re short on time.

Integrate keywords

A recent study found that 96% of hiring managers are now looking at a candidate’s ability to learn new skills, and 21% have replaced CVs altogether with skills-based assessments.

While adding a ‘Key Skills’ section can make tailoring each application a lot quicker, as you can sub keywords in and out of columns, CVs with keywords scattered throughout the text have a higher chance of being approved by an ATS.

This doesn’t mean you need to bin a skills section; you just can’t rely on it to do all the heavy lifting.

Remove graphics

Many job seekers, particularly in media, want to add some extra oomph to their applications with strong visuals, especially if they are gunning for a creative role.

However, photographs, graphs, tables, boxes, imagery and other design elements may not be read by the ATS, so important details can be missed.

To ace the ATS, stick to a text-based CV and save the creativity for any job interview assignments that come up later in the recruitment process.

Spell out acronyms

Though particular terms might be industry standard and widely known, it’s best to include both long forms and short forms or keywords for their first mention.

So don’t shorten ‘Video on Demand’ to ‘VOD’; include both by putting the acronym in brackets after the long form in the first instance, then for subsequent mentions, you can just use ‘VOD’.

This ensures your CV ticks both boxes for the ATS.

Remember your two audiences

Much like writing SEO copy, it’s easy to forget that you’re writing for humans too. A strong CV balances its two audiences, acing the ATS and appealing to recruiters.

If you’re concerned your CV has become too robotic, ask a trusted friend in the industry to review it. If you’ve gone too far on ATS appeasing, they’ll clock it a mile off, and you can make amends before submitting.

Ready to put your CV to the ATS test? Head to Press Gazette Jobs, where you can browse hundreds of exciting jobs now, like these three.

Media Retail Manager, Dentsu Aegis Network, Manchester

Dentsu Aegis Network in Manchester is seeking a Media Retail Manager to lead a team and ensure all clients’ needs are met and exceeded, through the delivery of best-practice campaigns across key marketplaces like Amazon, Tesco, Asda and more. Clear success metrics are outlined in the job spec, and core accountabilities are also defined. Ideally, you’ll have experience working with Amazon Ads, Criteo or CitrusAd, at least three years’ experience in channel working at tier-one agencies, clients or a retail media specialised agency, and a minimum of one year’s experience in team management, mentoring or coaching. Apply now.

Senior Content Editor, Flo Health, London

Media professionals moving to tech is a well-worn path as many of the skills are transferable, and the salaries can be very tempting. Menstruation tracking app Flo Health is now hiring a Senior Content Editor to bring fresh content ideas and work with a group of pros in content, product, visual, medical and analytics to enhance the users’ daily experience. A background in producing highly engaging and scalable content is required, including a significant portfolio of short-form and social media content that’s gone viral. You’ll need to be an enthusiastic contributor, and be buzzing with ideas for creative content formats and unique angles on core topics. Find out more here.

Account Manager, Media & Entertainment UK, Roku, London

Streaming has transformed how we watch TV, and also how advertisers target, reach and measure their preferred audiences. With this in mind, Roku is hiring for an Account Manager in its Media & Entertainment vertical, supporting the UK ad sales team in every step of the sales cycle, from planning and presale, to launch, execution, reporting and billing. The successful candidate will be the lead day-to-day point of contact for advertisers directly and ad agency relationships for campaign management. You’ll need at least three years’ experience in account management or client services, experience in display and video advertising with a premium publisher, and a growth mindset. Read more here.

For many more roles hiring in media, visit Press Gazette Jobs today

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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