Banner Default Image

Making your CV search friendly

2 Helloquence 51716 Unsplash Min

Matt Darvill Blog, Tips, Career Advice...

What do we mean by Search Friendly?

Search friendly relates to the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that filter through submitted CVs. These are pieces of software designed to save recruiters time by checking CV’s for relevant information. The applications that most closely match the requirements are displayed first, with those seen as less relevant further down the list. So whilst this undoubtedly saves the recruiter time, it can also mean that your CV slips through the search, even if you have loads of great experience.

There are a few things you can do with your CV to avoid this happening, and bump yourself up on the list of results.


Certainly, the most important thing is to include as many keywords as you can. This includes the responsibilities, skills, certificates and qualifications that a job will require. Check the advert and job description closely, and pick out words and phrases that are under the ‘essential’ criteria. Where you have the demonstrable experience that relates to the role, make sure to include these words in the summaries.

Qualifications are a really important aspect of this keyword usage. Make sure you use the spelt out version and the acronym for any qualifications e.g. European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), to ensure it’s not missed by the system.

The systems will be set up by the recruiter to filter for these words, so it’s important that you include them where you can. Be aware though, cramming your CV full of these is not a way to cheat the system, use them too often and the software will see straight through it. Your application is unlikely to go any further when the recruiter finds a CV full of keyword stuffing either; honesty is certainly the best policy in this instance.


One of the more mundane elements, but it’s imperative that the system can read what you’ve written. Columns may fall foul of the way the system reads the information; so it’s always best to go for a basic layout to avoid any technical issues.

The same applies to font choices and ornate background designs, both are likely to be rejected by the system. PDF files can also be rejected, standard Word documents will always be accepted, and with basic formatting, there shouldn’t be any issues here. So if in doubt, go for the simple and safe option.

Tailor your CV

Bear in mind that once your CV hits the desk of the recruiter, it is a real person that will be making the decision to interview. This means that a generic or stock template won’t carry as much weight as a tailored, job-specific CV.

If you really want to stand out, then always take the option of writing a cover letter. This is the opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the role and your writing skills. Covering letters are rarely put through the same rigours as your CV, so there’s much more scope for creativity here.

By optimising your CV for the ATS using the advice above, you’ll stand a much better chance of landing the interview. This advice is good practice for all your applications, and by taking the time and making it job specific, you’ll put yourself in an advantageous position. There’s loads of CV and Cover Letter advice on our blog, take a look at the articles here.