How to create an ATS-friendly CV using keywords.

What’s in a word? Well, when it comes to a CV, words really do matter, especially now the use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are frequently used by companies to scan and filter CVs to narrow down the list of potential candidates. If you want your CV to be read by a recruiter, you will have to be one of the 25% to get past the ATS software first.

How do Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) work?

Typically, ATS scans CVs to consider how compatible an applicant is with the job role requirements. Elements such as terminology and keywords are picked up by the software. The layout and format of a CV is also important to ensure the ATS software can “read” it.

Keywords in a CV are an essential way of demonstrating your knowledge of a field and the job you are targeting. ATS software are tailored to specifically check the volume of specific phrases used within the industry the job is in. If key words are not identified, your CV will not meet the criteria.

Using the right keywords and specialised vocabulary is crucial if you want to show your experience, skills, and knowledge to get your CV in front of human recruiters.

What is the best way to include keywords in your CV?

With the knowledge of ATS software, it is tempting to fill a CV with buzzwords when it comes to submitting an application. But this is not recommended. For a start, the tracking software is likely to pick out that something is amiss and reject it anyway. The best way to include keywords in your CV is to add them to relevant parts to emphasise key skills, achievements, or knowledge. By sprinkling keywords lightly throughout your CV to reinforce how your experience matches to the role, you will create greater impact with your application.

How to know which keywords to use

The best starting place is the job advert itself. Within this, there will be a description of what the role requirements are and often a good indication of industry-specific language. It is important to note however that you should only include the specialised language if you have a strong understanding what it means. Some key areas to consider where there may be opportunity to use keywords relating to the industry are:

  • Awards
  • Technical skills
  • Sectors and market brands
  • Systems and programme names
  • Professional qualifications and training

If the words used attract attention, reflect knowledge and demonstrate your capability to meet the job role criteria, you will be increasing your chances of getting past the ATS.

Reviewing your CV and enhancing your key verbs and adjectives

Another way of enhancing your CV is to review the verbs and adjectives you have used and ensure there is sufficient impact. Where appropriate, you can replace less powerful words with action verbs or technical verbs to increase the quality of your CV.

Action verbs you might include in your CV are:


As with keywords, these should be used sparingly throughout your CV where relevant emphasis is required; it is not a tick-list to squeeze into every section.

Just as including keywords enhances your CV, try to avoid using generic phrases, company-specific jargon or acronyms that may not be understood by the wider sector. Using words like “very” or “so” does little to improve the impact of your CV and reduces the writing space you do have to create a dynamic and original CV.

Remember, when it comes to a CV, words really do matter.

Need more help with finding your dream job?

For more support with your CV writing, I offer the following services in addition to a highly successful bespoke career coaching packages to help you find the job of your dreams:

  • Proof-reading
  • Spelling and grammar checks
  • Key words
  • CV edits
  • CV optimising for ATS
  • CV full review
  • Full CV writing

Contact me for more information about CV or coaching packages to get your perfect role.



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