9 Things You Need To Know About Applicant Tracking Systems


It is a general and well-known idea that in order to get to a job interview a candidate must past the point where the recruiter takes a quick look at your resume and gets to an instant decision whether to add it in the pipeline or discard it. But it is applicable only to those resumes which actually get a chance to be looked at by real humans.

To reach this phase many of the job candidates and their resumes need to survive the applicant tracking systems first. In this article, we have shared some insights as to how you can make your CV get noticed by an applicant tracking system and get it through to the actual human beings who might call you for the interviews.

1. What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

Mainly an Applicant Tracking System is a software application developed to electronically handle the recruiting process. It sifts through a huge number of resumes to verify which one of them will be the best fit for the job position. The way it processes a resume is no different from a recruiter looking at your resume for a few seconds because both of them search for certain criteria to include or reject it.

While the recruiters mostly look for reasons to habitually reject the resumes, for example, lacking related skills or some spelling errors. Applicant Tracking Systems function by searching for the relevant keywords in the CVs to the keywords they programmed to accept for the job positions.

2. Why use Applicant Tracking Systems?

Applicant Tracking Systems assist the companies in saving time and paper while helping them to stay organized. Remove them and recruiters will be spending most of their time on filing and shredding papers, or moving and deleting the emails. It is possible that sometimes an employer or recruiter may accidentally delete the email with the candidate’s resume that a company wants to hire, but an applicant tracking system reduces the risk.

Initially, Applicant Tracking Systems were used by huge enterprises to deal with thousands of applications. But with the passage of time small and mid-sized companies also have started to use them. They help the recruiters to keep a track of all candidate relevant information in one place.

3. How does an Applicant Tracking System work?

An Applicant Tracking System processes the submitted resumes as well as sometimes it uses the social media to look for potential employees. When a resume is submitted through an Applicant Tracking System it reads the CV with artificial intelligence. This means, it generally uses the programmed keywords chosen by the employers as qualities for the preferred job candidates. If the submitted resume has the keywords selected by the employers, then it sends the resume to the next level of the recruiting process.

The keyword may include names of preferred universities, former companies and most importantly, skills and experience relevant to the job positions. Sometimes the employers may also instruct the applicant tracking system to search through the whole resume database of the company to find the best candidate. Therefore, it is quite possible that you have strong chances to be detected by the ATS irrespective of the fact how long you had submitted your resume.

4. Where does Social Media stand?

Professional networking has been playing an important role in the job seeking process since forever; similarly, social media is also becoming an increasingly important part of it. The general opinion is that social media presence mostly helps the applicants in their job hunt give that if they really understand the significance of having a professional profile on social media networks.

Similar to going through a company’s database, many Applicant Tracking Systems are instructed to “read” the social media sites like LinkedIn to track down potential candidates. They work the same way with social media searching for the keywords selected by the employers for the job positions. Hence, if you want an ATS to detect you on social media make sure you a profile on it. Moreover, it is better to incorporate the basic details like education, professional experience, and skills that make you prominent. Do this and it is enough for an applicant tracking system to find you.

5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The method through which the applicants design their resumes in order to get noticed by an Applicant Tracking System is just like the procedure of search engine optimization. In the search engine optimization process, the web content creators develop and design their web pages in such a way so they can get noticed by the search engines in the first place. But their ranking depends on the quality of the content, the better the quality the higher is the ranking. As far as the matter of written content is concerned, matching keywords play an important role in how the search engine optimization (SEO) works. If a website includes the matching words a user has typed into the search engine, then the page appears in the search results. Therefore, if you want your resume to get noticed against a job position, the best way is to consider the possible keywords the recruiters and Applicant Tracking Systems will be looking for. These keywords can consist of alternative job titles, related skills and experience, and preferred education institutions, locations of former companies etc.

6. Research is the solution

As mentioned before and you also must have heard from the HR professionals to develop and adjust your resume accordingly for every job application you submit. Whether you have to make some minor or major changes in your existing resume, make sure to design it according to the specific job ad you are responding to. Every organization or employer looks for certain qualifications to fill in the vacant positions; they can be noticed by either a recruiter or keyword-seeking Applicant Tracking System. It is important when you are applying to an organization you must find as much as information about it as possible whether it is through person to person networking or online searching, it will help you to optimize for keywords. If the existing employees of that company have a social presence, go through their profiles and look whether you have similar qualifications and will you be a right member to fit in the team. If there is no Applicant Tracking System involved in the hiring process, you may want to get in touch with the potential candidates. Later when you are selected for a phone interview and face-to-face interview phase, you might already know a few of the people working there.

7. Avoid the blunders

When an Applicant Tracking System search for keywords, it generally looks for specific and accurate details in a CV. For example, if you are applying for a job as a manager of banking, the Applicant Tracking System may search for the phrases like “banking services manager” and “banking services” or for the word “business administration” in the education section of your CV. There is a strong possibility that the Applicant Tracking System will not look for words and phrases such as “confident” and “good team player”. Here the main purpose to use an ATS is to find the candidates with resumes matching the requirements for the particular job positions. Similar to task the recruiters do when they have a glance at the resume and where to put them. The only difference is that an ATS make this decision solely based on keywords used in your resume and the humans’ decisions involve keywords and also their sense of random judgment. 

8. Is the Applicant Tracking System a friend or a foe?

An Applicant Tracking System is very useful to streamline the recruiting process for the recruiters and help them to save the maximum of their time, they have to spend sorting the resumes and deciding which candidates are the good fit. For the majority of the job positions’, having a completely automated hiring process is not possible. If you believe that you can show your best qualities to the potential employers only through a face-to-face meeting, you can still grab this opportunity only if you can get through the phase where an ATS will be deciding whether you are qualified for the position or not. The best way to get interviews is to do research on the desired jobs and related keywords and use them in your resume before you apply for the jobs. Using relevant keywords mean you might be considered a qualified candidate, whether there is an Applicant Tracking System or a human involved in the first stage of the recruiting process.

9. Make your resume ATS-friendly

As an Applicant Tracking System is software to read and sort the resumes, therefore, your resume has to be easy for the computers to read. There are many companies both small and big ones who use an ATS to completely manage the initial stages of their hiring process – therefore, if your resume is complicated for the software to read then you are out in the first round. Here are some tips you can use to make your CV easy to read for both an ATS and a human eye:

  • Thoroughly check out your social profiles and website links you use in your resume as nowadays some Applicant Tracking Systems can automatically scan and retrieve information from the links you have given.
  • Some applicants find it easy to send their resumes while applying for a job. But it is preferred that they should fill out the customized application forms used by Applicant Tracking Systems to provide the recruiters with candidates’ information in a uniform format.
  • It is beneficial to use simple and basic fonts (Arial or Helvetica) in your resume to make it readable for the recruiters as well as the Applicant Tracking Systems.
  • Be sure to use a standard format such as highlighting your basic data (name, phone, and email address) by placing it on top of the page and in alignment with the rows and basic fonts.
  • Make sure that your resume is short yet comprehensive to deliver the main gist to the reader just in a glance. If you have a long work experience, summarize it on one page or a page for ten years’ experience.  The longer the resume is the more recruiters will get bored and fatigued.
  • Applicant Tracking Systems accept files in many formats, like PDF, doc, and docx. Mostly the supported file format is indicated on the field where you are providing your information. Although you might prefer to use a doc file, there are fewer chances of making a mistake with a PDF, so always use a PDF file format.
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