How to Make Your CV Searchable 

Have you ever wondered how recruiters find your CV on a job board? They use special search engines and applicant tracking systems (ATS). Just like Google or Yahoo, these search engines will pick out specific keywords as they trawl the CVs uploaded to a job board.

While you can certainly give yourself an edge by following some basic ground rules when it comes to writing your CV, optimising it for a search engine could be that extra step that puts you on the path to your next role. It’s also just one of the things you can do to help you improve the chances of job search success (check out our Ultimate Jobseeker Guide for more info).


Job Description Detective Work

The idea of putting keywords into your CV might seem daunting, but fear not: Job descriptions will usually give you plenty of pointers. Read the descriptions of roles similar to those you’re looking for. Make a note of how roles are described, what titles they have, and what key skills the employer is looking for.

You can then use this terminology in your own CV to increase the chances a recruiter’s search software will find you. It’s important to note that you should try and spread these words out throughout your CV as much as you can, rather than bunching them up all in one place. You can use our CV Wizard to make designing the look and content of your CV much easier too – read all about how to use it in our CV Wizard Guide.


Sector Specific Terminology

Let’s say you’ve got plenty of experience as a warehouse manager, and you’re looking for something similar as your next role. Putting ‘warehouse manager’ as a previous role will certainly get a hit on any search that includes the complete term (warehouse manager) or separate terms (warehouse + manager), but what if a recruiter is searching for a distribution or deliveries supervisor? In order to make sure any potential searches of this kind discover your CV, you need to include these terms too.

The best way to do this is to make sure you include a variety of terms for your roles. You might use ‘Distribution Manager’ as the main job title for example, but then, as you describe the role, say something like: ‘As a warehouse manager, it was my responsibility to..’ and so on.

Additionally, make sure to throw around industry jargon as much as you can. Recruiters will use industry specific terms in their searches, especially for more specialised or niche positions. Use these terms and spread them throughout your CV as much as is feasible. It probably goes without saying, but avoid spamming certain words just for the sake of it.

An employer ticks boxes as she looks over a candidate's CV


Get into the Details

The skills section on your CV is another area that can really help you get picked up in a search. Many employers and recruiters will be looking for certain skills, and you can guarantee these will put into the search terms.

Let’s say you’re a PA – instead of simply putting ‘Microsoft Office’ in your skills section, put ‘Microsoft Word, ‘Microsoft Excel’, ‘Microsoft Powerpoint’, and so on. These more specific terms will instantly make your CV more visible to more specific searches that might have missed it otherwise.

The same is true for your education or any awards you might have won. Make sure to state the exact nature of any qualification (Bachelor of Science/Art Degree, MBA, etc) as well as the place you got it from – some universities or institutions can add additional search quality to your CV.


Format Finesse

This can be a tricky one, because it really depends on where you’re uploading your CV. Most of the automated software used by recruiters is designed to pick out certain search terms, yes, but many then convert any matched CVs to a simple text format. This can mean that all those hours (or minutes, if you’ve read our guide on creating a winning CV) you’ve spent making your PDF CV look stunning is for nothing, because some recruitment software might miss it completely due to them being unable to read it clearly.

If we’re talking purely about searchability and the ease with which you CV can be read by an ATS (Applicant Tracking System), then it’s best to stick with a Word document, or even .txt file. This will limit your design options of course, but it is likely to give you the best results if you’re aiming to get the most out of ‘passive’ jobseeking – that is, refining your CV to get as many hits from automated recruiter searches as possible, so they approach you.

Keep in mind you can always make two CVs as well: One designed purely to be searchable, and a more aesthetically pleasing one that you send directly to employers or recruiters. Is there any must use format? Essentially, yes. It’s generally best to stick with .doc or .docx, as you still have some capacity for design if you prefer, and it’s also easy to read for most recruitment software.

Now you’ve got the tools to make your CV more searchable than ever, don’t forget to share it with us here at JobLookup, so we can help you find your next opportunity.

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