Does your CV beat ATS (Applicant Tracking System)?

The recruitment industry has dramatically changed in the past 10 years and candidates get frustrated when they see very little results to their countless hours spent applying for roles they believe they are suitable for.

More than 50% of mid-sized companies and over 95% of large enterprises acknowledge the use of ATS for recruitment purposes. Learn how to pass the filters that are holding your applications back!

Tired of applying to many jobs without any positive outcome? Are you fed up with that feeling of “I know I’m a good candidate for this job and my tailor-made CV reflects it that way, so surely I will land an interview”? Really sorry to break it to you and as you may have already figured out, it doesn’t quite work that way. In order to understand the likelihood of your CV landing on the HR manager’s desk, here is some insights into how ATS (applicant tracking system) work, and what differentiate a good, solid and most likely successful CV from those which won’t get far in the application process.

What is an ATS (applicant tracking system)?

An ATS is a software or application which allows companies to track their recruitment processes, from candidates’ application to hiring decisions in an automated manner. An ATS receives and views your application, carries out keyword search and ranks your profile against the actual job description and against other candidates’ submissions. In short, an ATS is a database where all information about a job post and its recruitment process are gathered. Classic examples of ATS are Taleo or Jobvite, which I’m sure you’re familiar with.

Most candidates don’t often edit their CVs towards a particular job description, so as soon as the ATS scans it and doesn’t find relevant keywords, it’s moved to a “lower position” in the ranking. Think of it as if you had to optimise your own website or blog to be found by Google keyword relevancy, i.e. If your website sells premium Swiss chocolate, you won’t include any terms related to the US automotive industry of 1890s. Visitors would never find you and it would be a real shame for chocolate lovers!

Long story cut short, you need to carry out a résumé optimisation where you must adjust and use the same keywords as displayed in the job ad for the ATS to give you the green light, and for you to land the so desired interview call.

How can my CV beat ATS?

Here’s the golden rules for your CV to beat ATS:

  1. If you can, submit your CV as a Word Doc – it is easier for ATS to scan and extract keywords from such format rather than from PDF, for example.
  2. Use plain, standard fonts i.e. Calibri or Arial.
  3. Avoid graphics, images or unwanted formatting. ATS won’t scan your application so easy and your CV may end up at the bottom of the rank because of these.

Great CV

Tick the boxes

  • Tidy, easy to read
  • Aligned fonts, spaces, paragraphs and bullet points
  • Fonts such as Arial, Tahoma or Calibri
  • Includes a profile overview with responsibilities, tasks and achievements
  • Profile shows clearly why you fit the job description
  • Place importance to the latest 2-3 roles, including keywords
  • 5-8 bullet points per experience
  • Special projects, IT skill set and managerial/leadership experience

Poor CV


  • Too long, too wordy
  • Unusual CV structure and formatting
  • Short summary or separate project list
  • Hard-to-read fonts (Times, Comic, etc.)
  • Large paragraphs, too colourful
  • No details about responsibilities, tasks or achievements
  • Avoid using “we” and instead use “I”
  • Misspelling
  • Profile picture – If you don’t have a professional photo, don’t use any

What happens when I send my CV to a recruitment agency?

When working with a recruitment agency, “Your CV needs to reflect on the very first page why you are a good fit for the vacancy. The average time recruiters or HR professionals spend screening a CV is 6-10 seconds. In order to evaluate whether your CV is attractive enough, they spend 30-60 seconds scanning them in detail”, according to Bernadette Gabathuler, Project and Operations Manager at The Stamford Group.

In this regard, working with an agency may benefit you in a significant manner not only from discovering a wide range of job opportunities you may not be aware of, but also in terms of polishing your CV to beat ATS and interview coaching. At The Stamford Group, part of the Allegis Group, our processes are well-structured, placing the candidate at the core of the recruitment process. Such process encompasses the following:

  1. CV screening and assessment from our consultants and initial feedback; whether your profile is suitable for the role or for any upcoming opportunities.
  2. Feedback on your CV.
  3. Initial phone interview to discuss your future career plans as well as your experience, followed up by a more detailed conversation by phone, Skype, or face to face interview in our Zurich or Basel offices.
  4. Upon your approval, we will present your profile to upcoming suitable opportunities, we write our recommendation and discuss your profile with the client on a one-to-one basis.
  5. Schedule an interview with the client and coaching beforehand.
  6. After interview follow up phone call.
  7. Feedback between all parties and we manage all further on-boarding processes.
  8. After placement candidate care.

Contact us today! Our consultants will be happy to help you with any inquiries you may have. Zurich Office: +41 43 210 12 77  |  Basel Office: +41 61 560 10 90

Ivan Santos is a digital, content and social media enthusiast with experience working in marketing communications at corporate and start up environments in the UK and Switzerland. Contact Ivan on LinkedIn here!