How To Optimize Your CV to Beat Applicant Short-listing Software

According to a BBC survey, 18 out of the 20 of the world’s largest companies use hiring software to automatically, search rank and short-list applicant resumes. Why? Because its takes less time and money to have a computer do it rather than a human. This applicant short-listing software is known as an applicant tracking system or ATS.

Why is this important for Dubai Jobseekers to know? Well, because in Dubai – just like most other commercial cities, the local and international employers will be using ATS to shortlist resumes/CVS. And, the issue is that because an ATS and not a human is sifting your resume/CV you must develop a resume/CV that is tuned to be easily read by an ATS, that is if you want to maximise your chance of getting a job with a Dubai employer.

However, before you go and develop a resume to suit an ATS you must try and establish if the employer is actually using an ATS to sift resumes/CVs. There is no steadfast rule to this, but generally governmental employers and larger business that deal with thousands of applicants per year are likely to use some kind of automated system. So, if you apply to these types of organizations it is likely that it will be submitted to an ATS. Another clue is that if you are submitting your resume to an on-line database or sending it to an e-mail address like: or, it is possible that this may be going to an ATS.

Whatever the situation, if you believe that your resume/CV is being submitted to an ATS, there are several steps you can take to tailor your resume to increase your chance of being short-listed by the ATS and I have described these 5 steps below.

1.Avoid complicated formatting; don’t use formatting in your CV such as tables and graphics as the ATS will not be able to read this, which means that in effect these qualifications, skills and qualities  that are located in graphics and tables will be invisible to the short-listing software, and you will not be given credit for these skills, decreasing your rank and likelihood of being short-listed.

2.Never submit your resume/CV to an ATS in  PDF format? Why? Because ATS are not very good at reading PDF documents, meaning that your skills could be misrepresented by the ATS or simply overlooked. Either way, the fact that your skills are being rendered invisible reduces your chance of being short-listed.

3.Don’t worry about limiting the length of your resume; an ATS can read a 10 page resume at virtually the same speed as a 2 page resume so you are not really harming your chances by submitting a longer resume. There is no danger of boring the ATS. More pages can mean increased keyword frequency and relevance which could rank your CV higher and increase your chance of being short-listed.

4.Make sure to use relevant keywords and phrases; ATS look for relevant keywords and meaningful phrases that contain relevant keywords.

5.Use standard headings like ‘work experience’ and avoid unusual headings like ‘career summary’ or ‘career history’ as the ATS might not recognise them.

Good Luck with your next job application.

About the author

Kazim Ladimeji is the Director of—a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers. It includes a blog with career and small business advice articles. Kazim is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practising HR professional for 14 years.

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