Finding a job starts with a well crafted CV that beats the applicant tracking system (ATS) is essential to making a strong first impression. Fortunately, there are free CV templates available that are both ATS-friendly and visually appealing.

In this article, we will explore the importance of ATS, what makes a CV template ATS-friendly, and provide some recommended free templates to help you get started.

What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a software application used by employers to manage the recruitment process. ATS helps in sorting, scanning, and ranking applications based on specific criteria set by the employer. This system is designed to streamline the hiring process by filtering out less qualified candidates and highlighting those whose qualifications closely match the job requirements.

Why is ATS Important?

  1. Efficiency: ATS saves employers time by automatically screening resumes and selecting the most suitable candidates.
  2. Consistency: It ensures a fair and unbiased review process by using predefined criteria.
  3. Volume Management: ATS can handle large volumes of applications, which is especially useful for popular job postings.

What Makes a CV Template ATS-Friendly?

To pass through an ATS, your CV needs to meet specific formatting and content requirements. Here are some key features of an ATS-friendly CV template:

  1. Simple Formatting: Avoid complex layouts, graphics, and tables that an ATS may not interpret correctly.
  2. Standard Fonts: Use common fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri.
  3. Keyword Optimization: Include relevant keywords from the job description.
  4. Proper Headings: Use clear and standard headings like “Work Experience,” “Education,” and “Skills.”
  5. Consistent Structure: Maintain a consistent format throughout the document.

Recommended Free CV Templates

Here are some free CV templates that are designed to be ATS-compatible:

1. Simple and Clean

Description: This template offers a straightforward and clean design, making it easy for ATS to read and parse.


  • Minimalist layout.
  • Standard fonts.
  • Clear section headings.

Link to Download: Simple and Clean CV Template

2. Professional

Description: Ideal for professionals in any industry, this template balances simplicity with a touch of elegance.


  • Professional appearance
  • ATS-compatible format
  • Space for a profile summary

Link to Download: Professional CV Template

3. Modern

Description: A modern template that maintains ATS compatibility while incorporating a bit of style.


  • Modern yet simple design
  • ATS-friendly
  • Emphasizes skills and achievements

Link to Download: Modern CV Template

How to Optimize Your CV for ATS

Even with an ATS-friendly template, there are steps you should take to ensure your CV passes through the system successfully:

  1. Customize for Each Job: Tailor your CV to match the job description by incorporating relevant keywords.
  2. Use Standard Headings: Stick to commonly used headings that ATS software recognizes.
  3. Avoid Images and Graphics: These can confuse ATS software and lead to misinterpretation of your information.
  4. Check Formatting: Ensure that bullet points, fonts, and spacing are consistent and straightforward.
  5. Save as a Word Document or PDF: Some ATS software may have difficulty reading PDF files, so a Word document is often safer.

Related: How to Write a Job Application Email in 8 Easy Steps

Common Mistakes to Avoid

To improve your chances of passing the ATS screening, avoid these common mistakes:

  1. Overly Creative Designs
    • Issue: Creative CV designs with intricate layouts, graphics, and colors might look appealing to human recruiters but are often problematic for ATS software.
    • Problem: ATS software is designed to read and interpret text-based information. Complex designs can interfere with the ATS’s ability to parse your CV correctly.
    • Solution: Stick to simple, clean, and text-based designs. Use ATS-friendly free CV templates that prioritize readability and clarity.
  2. Using Headers and Footers
    • Issue: Including important information such as contact details or professional summaries in headers or footers.
    • Problem: Many ATS software programs cannot read text in headers and footers, leading to crucial information being missed during the initial screening.
    • Solution: Place all essential information in the main body of your CV. Ensure that contact details, key skills, and professional summaries are clearly visible and not tucked away in headers or footers.
  3. Typos and Errors
    • Issue: Having spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or incorrect information on your CV.
    • Problem: Typos and errors can prevent the ATS from correctly interpreting your qualifications and may cause your CV to be discarded.
    • Solution: Proofread your CV multiple times. Consider using tools like Grammarly to check for errors. Additionally, have a friend or professional review your CV for any mistakes you might have overlooked.
  4. Inconsistent Terminology
    • Issue: Using different terms for the same skill, job title, or responsibility throughout your CV.
    • Problem: Inconsistent terminology can confuse the ATS and result in a lower relevance score for your application. For example, using “Project Manager” in one section and “Project Lead” in another might be interpreted as two different roles.
    • Solution: Maintain consistency in your terminology. Use the exact wording from the job description where possible. This helps the ATS match your skills and experiences with the job requirements more effectively.
  5. Unusual Fonts and Formatting
    • Issue: Using uncommon fonts, excessive bolding, italics, underlining, or special characters.
    • Problem: ATS software might not recognize unusual fonts and formatting styles, leading to misinterpretation or skipping of important information.
    • Solution: Stick to standard fonts like Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri. Use bolding sparingly to highlight section headings and job titles, and avoid excessive use of italics and underlining.
  6. Including Irrelevant Information
    • Issue: Adding information that is not directly relevant to the job you are applying for.
    • Problem: Irrelevant information can clutter your CV and distract from the qualifications that matter most to the employer.
    • Solution: Focus on including experience, skills, and achievements that are directly related to the job description. Tailor each CV to the specific role to ensure relevance.
  7. Improper File Naming
    • Issue: Naming your CV file in a way that is unclear or unprofessional.
    • Problem: File names like “CV.docx” or “Resume_Final.pdf” can appear unprofessional and make it difficult for employers to organize applications.
    • Solution: Use a clear and professional file name format, such as “Firstname_Lastname_CV.docx”. This helps employers quickly identify your document and keeps your application looking professional.
  8. Failure to Customize for ATS
    • Issue: Submitting the same CV for every job application without customization.
    • Problem: Different jobs require different skills and experiences. A generic CV might not highlight the specific qualifications needed for a particular role, reducing your chances of passing the ATS screening.
    • Solution: Customize your CV for each job application. Use the job description to identify key skills and experiences that should be emphasized and ensure these are prominently featured in your CV.

Creating an ATS-friendly CV is essential in today’s job market where many companies rely on Applicant Tracking Systems to manage their hiring process. By using the right free CV templates and optimizing your CV with the tips provided, you can increase your chances of getting noticed by potential employers.