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Life after the job: are you applying for roles but not getting a response?

Andy Labrum explains why 75% of CVs don't get viewed by a human and what job applicants can do to overcome the problem.

Life after the job: are you applying for roles but not getting a response?

Date - 1st November 2021
By - Andy Labrum

In last month's article, I mentioned why you should try and avoid using 'Easy Apply' on LinkedIn or applying for roles directly through the bigger recruitment websites. This is because of the use of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

If you’re not aware, ATS is a software system that collects applicant’s information and scans and ranks CVs, to make the job of the recruiter or hiring manager easier.

ATS scans your CV for keywords that are within the role description and person spec of the ad, before sending successful applicant CV’s through to the recruiter. ATS is basically there to try and eliminate candidates that don’t appear to have the correct skills and experience, based on those keywords.

So, what this means is that ATS is actually looking for the least ‘qualified’ applicants, rather than the most appropriate candidate or best fit.

When you’re looking for a role, you’ll maybe see one that’s a great fit, but if you submit a generic CV and don’t review the role description and don’t do your best to identify the key words and add them to the evidence in your CV, you’re unlikely to even have it reviewed by a human, and you won't get through to the next stage.

That's why, on many occasions, you don't actually hear anything from the organisation or recruiter. It’s thought that as many as 75% of CV’s submitted for roles, don’t get seen by a human, because you’re not including the words they’re looking for, in your CV.

If you consider it from a large organisation’s perspective, they get hundreds of applications every week and need to whittle them down to roughly 2-6 candidates to be invited for interview. It makes sense, both financially and time wise, to use clever software and algorithms where possible.

It’s really important to understand that keywords are not just buzzwords!

Keywords represent the soft skills and hard skills we possess, and also the expertise you've acquired over the years that qualify you for the role you’re applying for.

So, what can you do to maximise your chances of getting through the applicant tracking system?

  • Review the job and person spec and highlight the soft and hard skills that stand out or are repeated in the role and person spec, (and maybe check other similar roles), or where you’re likely to be asked a question if you went through to interview
  • Try and ensure the key words are included in your professional summary and core competencies, skills and experience
  • Use plain CV templates, not fancy ones
  • Make sure you submit your CV in the supported formats. Word or PDF are best
  • Make sure the header has your contact details laid out and formatted correctly and ensure the professional summary at the top of your CV is clear and 'shouts out' the keywords
  • Avoid applying direct through any of the big recruitment firms and LinkedIn unless you have no choice
  • Go direct to the company website and apply directlt through that where possible

To summarise, please put time and effort into every application to improve your chances of getting through to interview and don’t just submit a generic CV. Yes, it's time consuming and a bit of a pain but it's the difference between getting through to interview, or not even getting a response to your application.

After successfully transitioning from policing to a new career in Project Management, Andy moved into Organisational Change Management, then went freelance and moved into IT and has worked for a number of organisations, and alongside numerous consultancies and global organisations, including Microsoft.

He is currently the Platform Lead for Modern Workplace technology for ASOS, a global online fashion and cosmetics retailer, with a turnover of over £3 billion pounds.

Andy has helped many Police, staff and other emergency service professionals, find new roles and careers after policing, as can be seen in the video and written testimonials on Blue Light Leavers which can all be accessed via

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