Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) – CV scanning software

Organisations are using Applicant Tracking Software to help manage the high volume of applicants who apply for jobs that are advertised online. Many applicants are poorly qualified for jobs they apply for and there just isn’t the time to skim read all application. The ATS software scans for key words related to a particular job.

That’s why key words are so important. Of course the software may miss well qualified candidates who don’t include enough key words but as long as they find a qualified candidate they are happy. Another reason for using this system is that the organisation can prove that it is not discriminating against people as it is the ATS system which has shortlisted candidates.

Let’s look at what you need to do to get through this shortlist.

1. Use Keywords

You must use enough of the right key words.

Pay close attention to the job ad but don’t just copy what’s included in the job ad. CVs that match too closely are treated with suspicion. It’s better to paraphrase and choose similar words to include. If you aren’t sure what words to include start by reviewing the job profiles on the National Career Service website. Also look at job adverts, job sites showing job profiles and through fact finding interviews.

You can also identify relevant words through looking at the company’s website. Organisations use words differently so look for the ways they describe key qualities and values. Using similar will help show you as a good fit.

Don’t just stuff your CV full of ‘buzz words’ like hard worker and self starter but include words relevant for the job you are targeting. If you get shortlisted you will need to be able to provide an example to back up each key word.

2. Use action bullets

Think like an applicant tracking system (ATS) and provide the key skills and key achievements they will search through.  They want to see how you have made a difference in your jobs, and how what you have done relates to the requirements of the job. Use action words to start each bullet.

3. Use headings

The ATS software expects to see headings such as Experience, Professional Experience, Education so if you usually use creative heading, in this case use more conventional ones.

4. Create a summary section

The ATS is looking for a summary section, so write one which includes the value you bring and also  details on how you will increase profits, decrease expenses, exceed targets.

5. Beware the functional CV

ATS systems don’t like functional CVs as they are set up to digest chronological formats. So you may need a conventional CV for when the software will be used.

6. Create a Txt. File

To make your CV as easy as possible for the ATS software to read create a .txt file. This omits any advanced formatting such as boxes, borders, tables and images.

I’d love to know what you think, please leave a comment below about ATS.

Published On: April 24th, 2013 / Categories: Job Search / Tags: , , , , /


  1. Jo April 25, 2013 at 5:55 am

    Hello Denise, enjoyed the blog post as always this week! Great information. Jo

    • Denise Taylor April 25, 2013 at 5:57 am

      Glad you liked it Jo, a lot of people are unaware of this, we all need to stay up to date!

  2. Mary Joy May 14, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Very useful info you have here Denise, thank you! I believe there are various applicant tracking software available nowadays. I guess a lot of developers and users are definitely aware of its significance when it comes to hiring the right people. Here’s a list that you and your readers might want to look into. Feel free to add any ATS on the list that you might know of.
    List of Applicant Tracking Software

  3. Ben Hadman July 29, 2015 at 9:52 am

    I don’t understand the part on .txt file are you saying that you should submit a CV in .txt file format?

    • Denise Taylor July 29, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      Hi Ben,
      My suggestion is to create a .txt version of your CV that you use when you need to upload a CV, or parts of it into text boxes it won’t suffer from formatting problems, best wishes Denise

  4. Denise Taylor September 12, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    Hi Seb, will have to check this out. Looks similar to jobscan that I cover in this blog post –

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