Why Am I Not Getting Hired? How to Improve Your CV for ATS

My inbox has been flooded with a common query: I have the experience, but I’m not getting responses. Why am I not getting hired?

Oh dear. It seems someone’s CV isn’t getting the attention it deserves. But why is that?

If you find yourself nodding in agreement, let’s dive into why that might be:

A Heap of Reasons Why Your CV Might Not Make the Cut:

  • Perhaps an internal candidate has been lined up for the role.
  • There could be an external star player who caught the hiring managers attention.
  • Sometimes, hiring managers have a bias for alums from certain prestigious firms.
  • Occasionally, amidst the rush of CVs, yours might get missed.
  • An overwhelmed recruiter could be drowning in applications and referrals, especially with recent mass layoffs in recruiting teams.

Often, as an external candidate, you may never know why your candidature was rejected or ignored, but one big and often overlooked reason is the ATS or Applicant Tracking System. This digital gatekeeper can stop your CV from ever reaching a recruiter or hiring manager.

The job market’s shift to the online world means more than just having the right skills is needed. Your CV needs to be seen. And if the ATS blocks it, you’re out of luck.

Recommended: How to Prepare for a STAR Interview

How to Improve Your CV for the Applicant Tracking System Software

Every ATS is different, each is tailored to the recruiter’s needs – and companies keep changing them, but lets have a look at what matters to the applicant tracking system software:

ATS Tip #1: Styling Matters

Tailor your CV’s style to the specific role you’re targeting. Bold colours, elaborate headings, and excessive graphics might only sometimes align with the position’s expectations. Your primary goal is to make essential information easily accessible, so avoid distracting with intricate illustrations, rating systems, or charts.

ATS Tip #1: Use Keywords

Make sure your CV speaks the same language as the job ad. For example, use terms like ‘UX” and ‘User Experience’ if you are in design.

(But don’t overdo it. Too many can seem disingenuous.)

ATS Tip #3: Keep Fonts & Formats Simple

When it comes to formats and fonts, simplicity is the best strategy. A chronological CV usually works best for ATS. Use standard, easy-to-read fonts.

Note: if you are a recent graduate, you may need to have a resume where the chronology jumps a little

ATS Tip #4: Use Clear Headings

Labelling your experience as Things I’ve Done might sound fantastic, but the ATS won’t get it. Use clear labels like ‘Experience’.

Let’s not just rely on direct applicants and have our fingers crossed; there are other ways to boost your chances of getting hired; let’s talk about other ways to improve your CV’s chances of being seen by the right people.

A woman sitting at a table with another person.

How to Improve Your CVs Chances: The Power of Introductions and Applications

Use Your Network

Know someone at the company? Use that connection. Personal introductions or referrals can improve the chance of getting your CV in front of the right person.

Keep it Real

Tailoring for applicant tracking system software is good, but always be yourself on your CV. Honesty really is the best policy. 

Make the Most of Online Platforms, such as LinkedIn

Having a solid online profile helps. Adding the right keywords can make you stand out to recruiters. Sometimes, it is better to be found ” than to apply directly.

How to Improve Your CV: Beware of Too Much AI

AI tools can help polish your CV but keep them from writing it for you. You don’t want to sound like a robot. Not to mention, relying purely on AI can also get you caught out in an interview!

Remember the Human Touch

The goal? Make your CV connect with someone, not just pass a machine check. Think about the real person reading it.

Certifications & Saying it Right

When you list certifications, think about using both short and full versions and adding something like Certified User Experience Designer (CUED), this can catch the human and machine eyes for a UX designer.

So, what’s the bottom line? A lot can get in the way of a good CV, from busy recruiters to picky ATS systems. But besides having a great CV, ensuring it gets seen online is just as important. So, will tweaking your CV for ATS give you a surefire win? Honestly, no. But it can boost your CV’s chances of getting noticed and get you more calls. Want more tips? Check out resources on LinkedIn or ask our good friend ChatGPT for some ideas and follow my LinkedIn Resource group for regular tips.

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