How to format your CV to pass HR software

CV format to best HR software
Your CV could not be getting through to humans.

How to Get Your CV Noticed by Humans

According to research I’ve done from time to time through Adzuna, a lot of CVs never get perused by human recruiters, which means that all those CVs you send out to one company after the other might be a waste of your time and energy.

Why? Well because CVs are screened with computerised software these days, highlighting only CVs from candidates that meet certain set criteria such as the right qualifications and job experience. These are picked up through keywords, phrases and other criteria much like Google runs through a website to rank it in search results.

Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) systems are being used more than ever before, most of which operate within global companies. But even smaller firms use SaaS version of large ATSs and many job boards provide some form of applicant management beyond the application. Some ATS systems are state-of-the-art, but there are also rudimentary systems in place, and your CV still needs to pass both types of systems.

The system works using storing CVs in searchable databases where they are then “parsed” (text is broken up into logical parts). When your CV is parsed, the components such as styling are removed from your original document, leaving behind a string of text that can be read and analysed by computers.

From the moment your CV is parsed, the computers can compare your skills and abilities with the set minimum requirements for the job you applied for. The problem, however, is having a CV that doesn’t parse well, in which case you won’t make it past the digital doormen. My role at Adzuna has allowed me to see inside application processes and learn from hiring managers. How you format your CV therefore matters greatly to getting a job.

In an effort to help you get your CV seen and read by actual recruiters (and not just the machines), here are a few tips and tricks you can apply when you format your CV:

  1. Proofread Your CV Again

    Make sure you’re proofread and checked out all spelling and grammar on your CV. You’re going to want to pay special attention to the areas involving job titles and skill sets. While it’s fine to use a standard word editing program to edit and format your CV, try not to save your CV in a PDF format since not all ATS systems are able to read PDF documents.
    Remember, while humans might miss mistakes in your CV, a computer will definitely not miss even one spelling error.

  2. Keep It Simple

    Make sure that you use words from the job ad in your application letter, and try to use a few variations of those keywords, but don’t overdo it with different fonts and styles. Stick to using a standard font in black like Arial, Courier, and Tahoma, and always make sure to use proper capitalization so that the ATS systems can link to the relevancy of your CV. Do not make use of white fonts to include hidden keywords in your CV as some ATS systems can pick this up, and it will make it seem like you’re trying to cheat the system. Another thing you want to focus on is the use of special characters. Stick to using plain bullet points to avoid confusion.

  3. Keep CV Basics in Mind

    Standard CV headings such as Summary, Work History, Skills, and Education need to be used on your CV, because the robots reading it won’t understand if you use a terms like “My Awesome Abilities” or “The Grind”. Remember to stay consistent when detailing your employment history by reporting Company Name, Title, Location, and Date for each entry you have in the same order. Computers can pick up how long you’ve been at each position and may rank you accordingly. You should also be wary of the abbreviations you use in your CV, always sticking to spelled-out versions of the word in the first instance to make it easier for the ATS system to understand.

  4. Don’t Overcomplicate Your CV

    It’s essential to keep in mind that you should never use image files where text is supposed to go since the ATS systems cannot analyse the text on an image file. In many countries, to format your CV correctly includes having a small picture of yourself in the top right-hand corner – that should be fine.
    Avoid the use of tables in your CV, and unless you want your text to be ignored, never place it in the header or footer section of the document. Lastly, omit cover pages that simply state: “Cirriculum Vitae of Name Surname”. These are unnecessary in any event and can be simply put in the filename.

  5. Upload Your CV Like a Pro

    When uploading your CV, be sure to actually upload it, and not just go the copy and paste route as this might interfere with the document format. Once you’ve uploaded your CV, you’re done, so don’t upload multiple CVs to the same company for the same job as it may come across as spam.
    Once you’ve managed to get your CV past the ATS software, you’ll have a real shot at having it read by the hiring manager or recruiter, but that’s just one leg of the race. The next – and most crucial – part will be passing the human test, for which is there are more tips on how to format your CV. After a recruiter has looked at your CV, you might get invited to an interview, but that’s where you’ll need to have what it takes to impress real people, not just machines.

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