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CV screening: Improve your application

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Whether done by a human, or an algorithm, some roles elicit hundreds of applications so making your CV scannable for relevance is an important consideration when applying for jobs.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and automated machine learning algorithms, commonly referred to as applicant tracking systems (ATS), are often employed by large organisations to streamline the process of screening hundreds of CVs to save time.  
An important aspect of ATS is CV parsing – this software enables the automatic processing of data from a CV. It conducts a preliminary scan of your CV to analyse the skills, experience, education and job titles presented. 
By parsing, the data obtained from a CV is translated to a structured profile in a recruitment system. This way a recruiter or hiring manager immediately has access to a large amount of information on the potentially hundreds of CV received that are applying for a role. 
And while technology makes this quicker, this same process is essentially performed by any person hiring for a role, so it’s important to hone your CV for these processes. 

Identify the hard skills

To do this, you need to add keywords to your CV and online professional profiles which are relevant to the jobs you're considering applying for. Read through the job descriptions of your ideal role so you can determine what these keywords are and where they can be incorporated. For example, you may include “project management”, “governance”, “health and safety”, “financial reporting” or “budget management” under your responsibilities. 

The industry in which you work and the systems you work with are also relevant in the screening stage and should be incorporated into your CV. When detailing the companies that you’ve worked for, you should also include the keywords related to the position that you’re applying for.  
A simple trick is to add synonyms for your identified keywords to increase the success of the final result. 

Identify your soft skills

Don’t forget keywords for the required soft skills, such as “communication”, “adapt”, “organise”, “time management” or “professionalism”. Use these soft skill keywords throughout your CV and LinkedIn profile to describe your achievements. For example, “I used my time management skills to plan a successful annual conference within a strict budget and time frame that saw an attendance of XXXXX people.”

Make sure you link keywords with proof that you performed your previous roles well. A simple trick is to combine an action verb with a keyword. For example, instead of writing that you “always achieved your target goals”, try “I surpassed target goals by 20 per cent in Q1 and 18 per cent year-on-year.” 

Create a strong LinkedIn profile

Write yourself a effective LinkedIn profile. Many leave the summary field blank, but use the full character count to highlight your successes, skills and value that you could offer an organisation. Use appropriate keywords here too, as well as making use of the relevant skills function that allows you to list skills underneath each role that you’ve held. 

Use an accepted format

Remember to ensure your CV is in an accepted format such as a .doc or .pdf as an alternative style might not contain the content that the algorithms recognise, meaning your application could miss making it to the shortlist.

Avoid generic statements

Whether a person or an algorithm is scanning the document, tangible results is what is being searched for, and vague descriptions can be penalised. Commonly used terms such as “team player” and “innovative” may describe you well from a professional point of view, but do not provide much concrete information. So, don’t use these clichés without any evidence of your achievements in this area.

Under the ‘work experience’ section of your CV, highlight the five best, relevant responsibilities and successes you achieved for each role you held. Describe these activities concretely, so that it becomes clear to recruiters and hiring managers – and an ATS – that you have the required expertise.  

Recruitment will always remain a people business. At its heart are career partnerships, which means that the value of the human touch can’t be overestimated. But at the same time, technological advancements such as smart algorithms, are improving certain elements of the process. The process of hiring and attracting talent is an evolving one, however these tips will help you evolve with it.

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Resume & cover letters

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Our templates and tips cover all bases so you can begin your job search journey with confidence.

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