Dear Job Doctor, How do I fight against the HR robots, that go through your CV and reject it?

With the drive for more efficiency within the recruitment process some companies and recruitment firms use automated tools to select and reject applications.

With an average of 250 applications for each job advertisement you can understand why some companies use such tools. Most of us who recruit use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to keep on top of each recruitment process; who applied for what and when, have they been informed they have been selected for an interview or rejected (redirected)?

Then there are those who utilise a ‘CV parsing’ feature on their ATS, if your resume is not optimised it will be rejected.

Over the last few years I have seen candidates preparing CVs that are more creative in order to ‘stand out’, however if these meet a ‘CV parser’, it may not be able to read it and may confuse it and reject it. In a previous post I advised against a photograph due to potential discrimination, in the case of a ‘CV parser’ it is unlikely to recognise what it is.

How to avoid the ruthless parser!

Don’t confuse the ‘CV parser’

· Include your location.

Parsing rules may be set up to detect non-EU applications and reject them.

· Use common fonts, such as Arial or Verdana. Use only one font throughout your CV.

· Avoid images, graphics and colours

· State your job title and then dates, many are set up to ‘read’ it this way around.

· Avoid columns or tables.

Beating the odds

Identify the key words on the job posting and add them into your CV, as long as it’s factual, incorporate the words into your profile brief or duties and responsibilities.

Apply early, some ATS systems limit the number of applications

Use a CV checking tool. These identify common patterns in job descriptions and optimise your CV to get you noticed. One of them is Jobscan, it can also help optimise your LinkedIn profile.

After 25 years in the industry I know that technology is not (yet) capable of reading a poorly written CV with an excellent candidate behind it.

It still baffles me why candidates are rejected based on the quality of their CV rather than the content, unless the job they are applying to is for a ‘CV writer’!


Darren Robinson is the Managing Partner at Anderson Wise, an independent local recruitment firm in Luxembourg.