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Creating scannable CVs/ Avoiding computer rejection

Today, it is common for your CV to be sent electronically and saved in an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), a database where it can easily be searched and retrieved. Many large corporations and an increasing number of smaller companies also use computers to narrow the field of applicants by scanning the CVs for skills and experience that match pre-determined criteria.

Here are some tips for creating scan-friendly documents:

  • Just as in a printed CV, use black print on white paper, create a clean, uncrowded page and clearly label the sections. Don’t separate the sections with lines.
  • Put your name on the first line of your CV with your contact information on separate lines below. Use spaces instead of brackets in phone numbers.
  • Use a standard, easy-to-read font such as Arial, Helvetica or Verdana with type no smaller than 10 points for the body and no larger than 14 points for headings.
  • Apart from the personal information, which is often centered, align everything on the left-hand side of the page.
  • If you suspect that a computer will read your CV, don’t use italics, boxes, columns, bullet points or fancy layouts.
  • Include keywords early in the Key Skills and Experience section and in the body of your document. Don’t just repeat the words that were in the advertisement. Use synonyms and various forms of the keywords. Don’t overload your CV with key terms in an attempt to fake out the computer. When a human reads your CV, you will be eliminated.
  • Computers are often programmed to look for nouns so ‘project manager’ or ‘team leader’ is a better choice than ‘responsible for managing coworkers’ or ‘led a team of six’.
  • Don’t use abbreviations that may not be understood by the computer.