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CV Algorithms and Robots!

Does anyone remember the days when it was okay to drop off or post a copy of your paper CV to employers – who would sort through them by hand? Advances in technology over the years mean many large employers now use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) or algorithms to speed up the candidates process and save time.

What exactly are CV algorithms, and how can you make sure your CV makes it past the robots and into the hands of the hiring manager or recruiter.

An algorithm is a list of rules or steps that are used to solve a problem, or to accomplish a task. In this case a programmed criteria to hunt for specific keywords and phrases on a CV which show suitability for the job applied for.

It might shock you to know, it’s believed  CV algorithms reject up to 75% of CVs. This might not seem fair, but whether we like it or not, it’s increasingly the norm for large employers. Employers argue since most application processes are now digital and they can often receive a flood of CVs – algorithms allow them to quickly save time and money by filtering out the ones that appear less relevant for the role that they’re hiring for.

While it can be incredibly frustrating if your CV appears to keep falling at the first hurdle, it allows you to focus all your job-seeking effort on making your CV the best it can be to get you through to the interview stage. Thankfully, there are a few different tips and tricks you can try to reduce the chances of the robots placing your CV on the rejection pile.

Top Tips for success!

Your CV is something you should be proud of because it provides a summary of some of your most professional  achievements. Essentially, it’s an advert – for you and your accomplishments. However, even if you have what many would consider to be the perfect CV – if it doesn’t make it past the algorithms, then the reality is that no one will see it. To give yourself the best possible chance at beating the algorithms and impressing the recruiter, try these tips:

Skills and Achievements

Algorithms will typically look for keywords about your skills and achievements – not about your future career goals – so try to focus your CV on these.

When identifying your skills, it can help to break them down into keywords that describe your “hard” and “soft” skills. Your hard skills are those which have been learned and then enhanced through practice and/or education. This could include things like “cash flow forecast”, “SEO marketing”. Soft skills are interpersonal skills that are looked upon as personality traits, attributes, or habits. These could include things such as “empathy”, “good listening skills”, and “highly organised”.

To make sure that your hard and soft skill keywords match at least some of those that the algorithm will be looking for, it’s a good idea to spend some time looking over the job description

*If you’re making a role or career change, then try to identify as many of your transferable hard and soft skills as possible.

Avoid being “fluffy”

Whether you have plenty of relevant skills and experience or not, algorithms will only be able to understand what these are if you choose your terminology wisely. So, avoid using fluffy descriptions that won’t be picked up on. For example, rather than saying that “you’re friendly, with a bubbly personality”, try instead to refer to relevant keywords that describe strong interpersonal skills  – such as “communication”, and “positive attitude”.

It’s also best to avoid including anything that has no connection to the role you’re applying for. For example, perhaps you won an award in 2010 for art – but if you’re applying for a role in finance, then this becomes irrelevant and doesn’t need to be included in your application for this role.

Use standard job titles

When you’re detailing your previous professional experience, algorithms won’t typically pick up on job titles that are a little left field, so it’s best practice to choose standardised titles to describe your role. For example, “Customer Experience Chatting Manager” (even if this is what your job title actually was), write “Customer Service Manager”, or instead of writing “Chief Happiness Officer”, write “HR Officer”.

Never lie about your job title to get past an algorithm but don’t be afraid to convert job titles to clearer, more widely recognised forms .

Look at your style and layout of your CV

Algorithms don’t just look at the skills and words you’ve used in your CV. They’re also programmed to reject CVs if they’re structured in an odd format. Luckily, by remembering to avoid the following you can avoid this:

  • Text boxes and tables
  • Graphics, graphs, or symbols of any kind – apart from bullet points like these ones
    Fancy font types or colours
  • USING ALL CAPITAL LETTERS (unless it’s for section headers)
  • Unconventional headers. Stick to conventional ones “Professional experience”, “education”
  • Hyperlinks (adding a website link to a word or phrase) that contain important documents or information. Some algorithms remove hyperlinks, so always include the website link in full on your CV if needed.

It’s also important to make sure that your CV is easy to read/scan. Algorithms will read your CV from left to right in the same way that humans do, so it should be displayed in such a way that there is no guessing about what information should be read next.

For help with revamping your CV here is our free guide, you can also down a CV template.

Check the file type

A quick way to get your CV rejected by an algorithm and human recruiter is to submit a CV file in the wrong file format, the two most common file types are usually a Word document (. doc or . docx) or PDF – with a Word document being the most popular choice as it makes for easier scanning. CRMs can’t always convert a PDF with it often not looking as accurate and neat . Always best to submit it as a word document for this very reason.

Don’t try and fool the robots!

Once people find out more about how algorithms work, some try to outsmart them by doing things like copy and pasting blocks of keywords onto the bottom of their CV in a white font, in the hopes that no one will notice – or adding a section titled ‘Keywords’.

Even if your CV does make it past the algorithms using any of these methods – a human recruiter, who is next in the hiring chain, will take one look at your CV which is plastered with the words “marketing, marketing, marketing, marketing” and almost certainly dismiss it. Recruiters won’t see it as a positive


It can be incredibly frustrating in today’s modern world that there are an increasing number of technological hoops we have to jump through in order to land a job. However, by acknowledging algorithms for what they are (a time-saving tool) and getting as clued up on them as possible, you can reduce the likelihood of them hindering your job search.

We’re small recruitment agency who "human-read" everything - having said this, it’s the same process as automation just a little slower(!). It’s still important to look at all the top tips and advice to ensure you have more success.

Any questions or help, please contact  - We are here to help 😊


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