How to Keyword Optimise a CV for Applicant Tracking Systems & Tailor It CV to Target Roles
Jobscan's ATS research study found that 98.8% of Fortune 500 companies use an applicant tracking system, or ATS, to manage their hiring processes.
As a result, keyword optimisation is an important strategy to consider when updating your CV - especially if you are applying for jobs at large corporations that receive high number of applications.
If you have heard about the importance of keyword optimising your CV for ATS but are not sure how to do so, this article will equip you with the tools you need.
In this article, we provide:
- A free CV optimisation tool that conducts a gap analysis on missing keywords you should consider incorporating into your document
- An ATS optimisation checklist that outlines simple, key factors to pay attention to when preparing your CV
- Instructions on how to keyword optimise your CV to align it with the specific requirements of a job posting
CV Keyword Optimisation Tool
Use the Jobscan CV optimisation tool below to assess whether your CV effectively incorporates target keywords recruiters search for when filtering applications using applicant tracking systems.
Simply copy and paste your current CV and the job description for the role you are applying for into the boxes below.
The tool will analyse your CV and provide a percentage match score that serves as a benchmark of whether your document is sufficiently optimised for a target role.
Once you receive your results, review 4 the key areas of feedback you should pay close attention to below. You don’t need to get caught up in achieving a perfect score!
1. ATS Findings
Check that your Education, Section Headings and Date Formatting align with the requirements provided in the ATS Findings section of the report.
While some of these checks do not affect your percentage match score, they ensure key information on your CV is properly formatted and will correctly import into the ATS.
2. Recruiter Findings
While keyword optimisation is important, your CV ultimately needs to leave an impression on the recruiter or hiring manager who reads it.
Because recruiters want to see specific examples of the value you added in each role, the Measurable Results section of the report can help you benchmark whether you are incorporating enough metrics into your CV.
You can also use our CV metrics tool to dive into this category in more detail and brainstorm additional ways to showcase the tangible impact you made on an organisation.
We also recommend carefully reviewing the Words to Avoid section, which outlines overused terminology and CV clichés that make recruiters cringe.
3. Hard Skills
When recruiters screen applications using an ATS, they typically search for hard skills that are explicitly mentioned in the job description.
If you find that your Hard Skills score is low and agree with the scan's outcome, review the example below to see how you can naturally incorporate additional keywords into your document.
Keep in mind that while you should effectively optimise your CV for applicant tracking systems, your CV still needs to read naturally and be truthful.
"Keyword stuffing" is very easy to detect when a recruiter reads your CV, and it may leave a negative impression.
4. Soft Skills
Although soft skills contribute to a higher percentage match when using Jobscan’s tool, we don't recommend listing soft skills on your CV.
Soft skills such as the following are best communicated during the interview process. On your CV, they are best demonstrated via examples of how you applied them on the job:
- Effective communicator
- Strong team player
- Results-oriented executive
- Excels in high-pressure situations
- Proven ability to negotiate
- Adaptable, driven and motivated leader
Without specific evidence to back them up, such phrases can come off as overused CV buzzwords that do little to differentiate you!
ATS Optimisation Checklist
Follow the strategies on the checklist below to ensure your CV's content gets imported into an applicant tracking system correctly:
- Keep your formatting simple (avoid any gimmicks)
- Use conventional section titles
- Align your content with the requirements on the job description
If you are a senior executive, keyword optimisation becomes a bit less relevant, as:
- You will generally be competing against a smaller number of applicants
- You may be working with a recruiter, who will ensure your CV gets into the right hands
How to Tailor Your CV to a Job
One of the easiest ways to optimise your CV is to read the job description, identify relevant keywords and naturally incorporate them into your document.
Step 1: Highlight the most important responsibilities of the role and the required skills that you would like to highlight on the CV.
When reading through the job description, focus on two key sections:
- Key Responsibilities
More specifically, you'll want to focus on hard skills and industry terminology.
Step 2: Incorporate keywords related to those you identified on the job description.
Make sure to:
- Incorporate a few keywords that were exact matches in a natural manner to avoid the perception of keyword stuffing
- Include similar terminology that wasn't explicitly provided in the job description
- Avoid directly copying and pasting long phrases from the job description
- Avoid discussing any experience that you don't have just for the sake of "optimising" the CV
In today's hiring environment, recruiters are increasingly overwhelmed with high application volumes, and applicant tracking systems help bring order to the chaos.
By taking intentional steps to keyword optimise your CV, you'll help it pass initial scans and get into the hands of a recruiter.
That said, be conscious not to over-optimise by focusing too much on keywords and not enough on human readability.
Also, remember that the most effective ways of finding a job involve networking and human interaction.
About CV Pilots
CV Pilots is an award-winning executive CV writing firm and a proud member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. Our previous clients include CEOs and senior executives at the world's leading companies.
As a professional services firm, we take your reputation seriously. We are committed to delivering writing excellence and superior service while operating with integrity and discretion. Recruitment firms we partner with also trust us to consistently deliver quality documents for their clients.
Our writers have studied at top-tier universities and have strong writing backgrounds coupled with industry experience.
Here's how we can help you:
CV, Cover Letter and LinkedIn Writing Services: If you are looking for end-to-end support, hire one of our professional CV writers to rewrite your documents from the ground up.
Executive CV Template Downloads: If you plan to prepare your own CV, consider using one of our classic, ATS-friendly CV templates for Microsoft Word.