How to create ATS-friendly CVs

ATS-friendly CV

If you want your resume to stand out and get noticed by employers, you need to make sure it’s optimised for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). ATS software is used by companies to manage and track job candidates, and it scans your CV to extract data and determine whether you’re a good match for the role. There are three things that will lead to a strong match score:

  1. Keywords that match terms used in the industry
  2. Job titles that are similar to the roles you are going for
  3. Qualifications that match those required

So, if you want to increase your chances of getting shortlisted, make sure your resume includes the right keywords, job titles and qualifications.


Not sure which keywords to use in your resume? Start by looking at the job description or advertisement. Look for hard and soft skills that are required for the role. Hard skills are specific abilities or knowledge required to do the job, like MS Office or project management. Soft skills are personal qualities or traits that enable you to interact and work well with others. Once you’ve identified the relevant keywords, weave them into your resume in a way that is readable and makes sense.

Job titles and credentials

Make sure that your job title is relevant to the position you’re applying for. If the job you want is for a marketing manager, but your current title is content manager, you may want to consider changing it to content manager/marketing manager. This will show that you have the relevant experience for the job. Another thing to keep in mind is to match the wording of your credentials and certificates to that of the job description or advertisement. For example, if you’re a project management professional and the job description calls for PMP, make sure that PMP is on your resume. This will show that you’re a good fit for the position.


The design of your resume may be pretty, but if it isn’t formatted correctly, an applicant tracking system (ATS) may not be able to read it. ATS technology has evolved and can read data from a variety of layouts, but it still relies on simple, clean design without any frills.

  • Stick to conventional resume formatting (e.g., avoid using tables and columns) so that applicant tracking systems can read your CV correctly
  • Include important information in the main body of your resume rather than in the headers or footers
  • Use commonly accepted CV headings (e.g., Key Skills, Professional Experience) so that applicant tracking systems can easily navigate your resume


CVs should be straightforward and easy to read. Stick to common fonts that will be accessible to most people. Serif fonts (with small ticks or flags on each letter) tend to be seen as more traditional. Some examples of serif fonts are Times New Roman and Garamond. San serif fonts (without ticks or flags) are more modern. Some examples of san serif fonts are Arial, Calibri, and Verdana. You can mix serif and san serif fonts in a document, but be consistent throughout. For example, use serif fonts for headlines and san serif fonts for body text.

Graphics, logos and photos

Stick to text alone, if you want your CV to be compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems. Focus on making your words stand out and crafting a strong CV, rather than adding images and icons to jazz up the document. If you know a human will be reviewing your CV, you can also submit a designer version. Otherwise, keep it simple.

CV structure

There are three commonly used CV styles: reverse chronological, functional and hybrid. The hybrid CV is the best of both worlds: it starts with a summary of your skills and experience, followed by a reverse chronological look at your career. This format is easy for both ATS and human reviewers to follow, making it the best choice for jobseekers.  It is also the format used by Successful Resumes writers.

Be a proactive jobseeker

Don’t just rely on online applications—tap into your connections and develop contacts within the company. This will give you a better chance of landing your dream job. In New Zealand, many desirable jobs are filled through networking, so professional relationships are important.


Main image credit:  Photo by Cookie the Pom on Unsplash