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ATS CV: How to Pass the Test [+ ATS-Friendly Templates]

Before your CV reaches a human reader, it will have to convince scanning bots you’re worth the recruiter’s time. We’ll show you how to make a 100% ATS-friendly CV.

Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Career Expert
ATS CV: How to Pass the Test [+ ATS-Friendly Templates]

It’s the 21st century—recruiters don’t have time to read all the CVs that candidates send. They only scan the ones that best fit the job description. How do they know which ones these are? Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) help them.

If you want your application to end up in front of the recruiter’s eyes, you must know how to write an ATS friendly CV. And that’s what you’re about to learn.

In this article, you’ll see:

  • What Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) is and how to pass the ATS test.
  • How to write an ATS CV and what to pay attention to.
  • Examples of the best ATS CV templates.

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1. What Is ATS Anyway?

In short, ATS is an umbrella term that refers to recruitment management systems of all kinds. In other words, it’s software that helps recruiters organise and streamline the entire hiring process—from drafting the job offer to scheduling interviews, and anything in-between.

One of the most important functions of such software is creating a pipeline of qualified candidates. How? By comparing the candidate’s CV contents with the requirements delineated in the job offer. If the candidate is a match i.e. their document contains the right CV keywords, they’ll be pushed further in the recruitment process. Simple as this.

Obviously, every ATS will work in a slightly different manner and will offer the recruiter various customization and filtering options. But, at the end of the day, the goal is always the same—preselect candidates that best match the recruitment criteria.

Expert Hint: According to a recent study, a whopping 99% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS software. This is representative of a more general trend among more and more companies automating and streamlining their recruitment processes. 

2. How to Write an ATS Friendly CV

Now that you know how ATSs work, let’s have a look at how you can make a job-winning ATS-compliant CV.

Use an ATS-friendly CV template

There are several things you should keep in mind when choosing an ATS-compliant CV template. First, see if it’s readable to a machine. How? Copy and paste the content of the CV into a simple text file. If the text is readable and more or less follows its original structure, the template should be ATS-friendly. If you can’t select or copy the text at all, no ATS will be able to parse it either—that’s why your safest bet is to send your CV as a Word or PDF file.

Expert Hint: The so-called infographic CVs are certainly good-looking. But unfortunately, most of them will fail any ATS check—that’s because they are often sent as image files.

Reply to a Specific Job Offer

Remember that ATSs will be comparing the content of your CV to the original job posting. To qualify as a match, an ATS-compliant CV must contain the right number of words and phrases from the offer. If you don’t know how to get this right, read our guide on how to make a targeted CV.

Put Your Contact Details in the Header

The key to passing an ATS CV test is structuring your document in a way that’s easy to navigate for both software bots and human readers. That’s why your CV header shouldn’t be a place for your favourite motivational quote, it’s where you should put your contact details.

Expert Hint: If the job ad says you should add your home address, do it to stay on the safe side—the ATS may require such info. If you’re not sure how detailed your address has to be, have a look at our dedicated guide on how to put your address on a CV.

Choose the Best CV Format

There are three main CV formats:

Out of those three, the chronological CV style has the most ATS-friendly structure as it’s clearly divided into easily navigable CV sections.

Expert Hint: Don’t get too creative with naming the sections on your CV—clarity trumps creativity in the context of an ATS compliant CV. So let your experience section be labelled Experience, rather than This Is What I’m Proud Of.

Put Your Relevant Experience

When drafting your CV job descriptions, see to it that your most recent job comes up top and it’s followed by the ones you held previously. Plus, make sure you include all the dates and give proper visibility to your CV job titles (e.g. by putting them in bold).

Also, present your experience in terms of achievements on a CV. Don’t just list your responsibilities. Why? Remember that ATS isn’t the only obstacle on your way to your dream job. There are other candidates you have to beat and the recruiter you need to impress. For maximum impact, use the relevant CV power words.

Expert Hint: Eye-tracking studies show that recruiters spend about 7 seconds skimming your CV. One of the things they look for immediately are your job titles. That’s exactly why they should be easy to find. This also applies to CV ATS checks, if the scanning bot can’t find your job titles, you’ll lose some precious points. 

Highlight Your Professional Skills

Make sure the skills you put on a CV are in line with what’s outlined in the job offer. Sprinkle them throughout the entire document, rather than just put them on a list. During the ATS CV scanning, the system will extract the skills from your CV to see how much they fit the job description.

Include Your Relevant Education

The education section on your CV should reflect the employer’s expectations. If the job offer states that you should include information on your relevant coursework on a CV, do put this by all means—the ATS they use may need this. If there are no guidelines as to what to include, it’s usually enough to list the school’s name, graduation date, and degree earned.

Boost Your Chances by Including Extra Sections

Don’t forget to include additional sections on your ATS CV to boost your chances. If the employer is looking for a specific skill set, the job offer may also ask you to include information on:

Expert Hint: Embellishments aren’t your friends when making an ATS-compliant CV. Keep the number of graphical elements to the absolute minimum, and see to it that the CV fonts you go for are easy to read.

Run a Free ATS CV Scan

The Internet is full of free goodies. And if you’re determined enough, you can find almost anything. If you want to be sure that your CV is 100% ATS-compliant, you can use an ATS CV checker for free online. 

The ResumeLab builder is more than looks. Get specific content to boost your chances of getting the job. Add job descriptions, bullet points, and skills. Easy. Improve your CV in our CV builder now.

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Nail it all with a splash of colour, choose a clean font, highlight your skills in just a few clicks. You’re the perfect candidate and we’ll prove it. Use the ResumeLab builder now.

3. ATS-Friendly CV Templates

Have a look at a selection of our ATS CV templates. Each of them has been designed by a team of certified professional CV writers (CPRW), HR experts, and graphic designers. They’ve been specifically created to be both ATS-optimised and reader-friendly.

1. Cubic


This ATS friendly CV template gives you a lot of space for the experience section. It also includes a visual scale for grading your skills.

2. Diamond


This ATS-friendly template has an infographic-like timeline that gives the document a nice flow and directs the reader’s eye from top to bottom.

3. Newcast


This simple ATS CV follows a single-column layout. Each section heading includes a CV icon for easy navigation.

4. Cascade


This ATS-optimised CV template has a two-column CV layout and bar graphs that represent your level of proficiency.

5. Muse


This ATS-optimised CV template uses subtle lines to separate CV sections from each other. The ribbons next to each section’s title make it super easy to navigate through.

6. Crisp


This ATS CV template incorporates CV icons that help the reader quickly locate each section.

7. Initials


This ATS-compliant CV template gives you a lot of room for your professional accomplishments. It also has a graphical element with your initials.

8. Modern


This ATS CV template makes great use of subtle graphical elements next to each section heading, and large accent bars at the top and bottom of each column. Also, you get a visual scale for the skills section.

9. Concept


This ATS CV template has a sidebar that’s been specifically designed to make all the dates stand out. 

10. Influx


This CV for ATS has a prominent header for your contact details, social media handles, or address.

11. Nanica


This ATS-friendly CV template represents simplicity at its best. It’s an entirely distraction-free ATS CV format.

Double your impact with a matching CV and cover letter combo. Use our cover letter builder and make your application documents pop out.

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Want to try a different look? There’s 18 more. A single click will give your document a total makeover. Pick a cover letter template here.

Key Points

  • An ATS-compliant CV is one that will safely get you through the initial automated scanning stage of the recruitment process.
  • One of the most important things to keep in mind when making an ATS-optimised CV is to target it at a particular job offer.
  • It’s also crucial to use relevant CV keywords. If you don’t, the ATS CV checker will deem you unqualified even if your experience and skills are perfectly in line with the employer’s expectations.
  • Last but not least, you must use an ATS-friendly CV template that will be parsable for the scanner (here you can find a list of free CV templates for MS Word and a list of free CV templates for Google Docs

How did you like our article on the ATS CV? Do you have any helpful tips you’d like to share? Let’s talk about it in the comments below, and, as always, thanks for reading!

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Maciej Duszyński, CPRW
Experienced in the education management industry, Maciej shares his knowledge for every step of your job hunt, from landing an internship to moving to an executive position. Maciej has helped job candidates at all stages of their career paths, from interns to directors to C-suite members, to thrive in their job. His mission is to help you find the right opportunity and create a job application that gets you the career you deserve. Maciej holds a Master’s degree in English with a specialization in communication and education management.

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