Tips for modifying your new CV with key words for ATS.

You have invested time and money into a new CV and you are ready to go! Well, perhaps not just yet… key words open the door to an interview so essential to every good application is a pre-submission CV check. Here is how to do it:

  • Familiarise yourself with the job description and person specification of the role to which you are applying
  • Re-read the details from the recruiter’s perspective – out of all the hopeful applicants, often numbering into the hundreds, which key words will they use to filter out the most suitable CVs?
  • Identify four or five key words and key phrases that would help a recruiter sift through applicants. These are likely to be hard skills such as the requirement to hold a specific qualification, to have had a specific number of years’ experience or to have worked in a certain industry or sector. Less likely is use of soft skills such as ‘collaboration’, ‘leadership’ and ‘team work’
  • Using the ‘search in document’ tool, check your CV for each key word and phrase - if your CV contains the key word it will be highlighted in yellow
  • If the key word is not in your CV, see where it can be appropriately included. If it is a key phrase, ensure the use of the correct word order e.g. ‘IT project manager’ rather than ‘project manager for IT’
  • Aim to include each key word once in the opening profile, once in your key skills section and once in the first or second bullet point of your most recent job description, if possible
  • Do only include key words where you are able to present a great example of your successful use or knowledge of the skill at interview e.g. where you have delivered the skill or perhaps learnt the skill during your training and education (avoid randomly inserting key words throughout your CV in the hopes of getting to interview!)
  • Double-check the CV for spelling and sense and also check that with the modifications, the CV still remains within two pages, removing any irrelevant bullet points if necessary

Applying the above principles takes 15-20 minutes and can make a significant difference to how your CV performs in the ATS CV parsing process. It can be more effective to apply for three jobs a week whilst practicing the above than three jobs a day using an un-checked CV.

As a highly experienced executive CV writer, I can assist you in honing your CV prior to submission. Do contact me at for more details.

I have helped clients to secure interviews with leading organisations including ...

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