Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are used by nearly all employers. In fact, most of the Fortune 500 companies and a growing number of other mid-scale businesses also take the help of an ATS to filter out resumes. It has also become increasingly popular with small businesses in recent years.
If you are a prospective candidate who is applying to these companies, your resume will go through an ATS before it reaches the eyes of a human recruiter.
As a matter of fact, 78% of recruiters think that by using an ATS, the quality of candidates that they hire has improved significantly.
Given the popularity of applicant tracking systems, it is important for job seekers to know how these systems work and what they should do to get their resumes noticed by the ATS.
Let’s dive into this article where we will tell you the 4 key things about applicant tracking systems.
1. What Exactly Are Applicant Tracking Systems?
You must be wondering exactly what you need to know about applicant tracking systems.
Well, for starters, an applicant tracking system is a piece of software that helps businesses manage job applications and track applicants throughout the hiring process. Most applicant tracking systems work by scanning resumes for keywords that match the job requirements. If your resume does not contain those keywords, it will likely be filtered out.
The systems are designed to help employers save time by weeding out those candidates that do not fit the job requirements. But, more often than not, they also end up filtering out some great candidates as well.
2. Why Use An ATS?
Employers use applicant tracking systems to save time and money on the hiring process. Applicant tracking systems automate many of the tasks associated with managing job applications, such as sorting and storing resumes, conducting initial screening interviews, and scheduling follow-up interviews.
Large companies receive thousands of applications for a single job application. Imagine how time-consuming and costly it would be for human recruiters to read through all of those resumes and identify the best candidates. This would also mean that the hiring process is too long and qualified candidates would move on to other opportunities.
By using an ATS, employers can quickly and efficiently screen resumes to find the most qualified candidates. Some applicant tracking systems help save extra time and money on the hiring process by making a list of the top candidates whose applications fit the most closely to the job description.
In order to prevent your resume from being filtered out, it is important to include content in your resume specifically for each job you apply to. To understand this better, you need to understand how applicant tracking systems work which brings us to our next point.
3. How Applicant Tracking Systems Work
Applicant tracking systems typically help in various stages of the recruitment process.
Firstly, they help in writing compelling job descriptions which is used by employers when post job openings.
Then, the ATS is used to track applicants before they can be used in the screening process. The screening process can be considered as a funnel in which the applicant contact information is collected, university, work experience and skills are verified, and an assessment is made on their eligibility.
After the applications pass through the funnel, they are sent to the central candidate database where the resumes are stored and organized.
These are the steps of just a typical ATS. The steps can be customized according to your needs.
There are various filters that can be programmed by the employer. The filters in some ATS systems not only have a resume parser that can help in extracting data from resumes and storing it in a central database, but also analyze if the candidates followed the instructions that were given in the job application.
In addition to that, as part of the recruitment process you can also use the option of giving a test to some candidates with screening questions.
In short, the ATS works by helping you post on multiple job boards, helping you in conducting an initial screening of the candidates and then shortlisting them for further rounds.
4. How To Beat Applicant Tracking Systems
There are a few things you can do to improve your chances of getting past an applicant tracking system and into the hands of a human recruiter.
Keep Your Resume Formatting Simple
Applicant tracking systems use special algorithms to scan and parse resumes. As a result, it is important to format your resume in a way that makes it easy for applicant tracking systems to read and understand.
Make your resume chronological, for example, make sure to list your most recent job first and include the month and year for each position. When listing your skills, use bullet points instead of paragraphs.
Avoid using graphics, tables, or special characters, as an ATS might not be able to interpret them. In addition, do not use headers or footers, as they can also interfere with the ATS’s ability to read your resume. The last thing you want is to add your skills in the footer and the ATS disregarding your application because it couldn’t read what was written in the footer.
Use Relevant Keywords
Use keywords that are relevant to the job you are applying for and that are likely to be used by the applicant tracking system.
Let’s assume you are applying for the job role of an SEO analyst. The ATS will not only be looking for the word SEO, but also for semantically related keywords such as off-page SEO, technical SEO, backlinking, link building, optimization, ranking, primary keywords, secondary keywords, on-page SEO, and so on.
Basically, if you have experience in the field of SEO, you need to make sure to demonstrate it in your resume so that the ATS can easily shortlist you as a qualified candidate.
As mentioned above, you also need to pick keywords from the job description.
For instance, if the job requirements say:
“The ideal candidate should be well-versed with different SEO tools.”
Then, the applicant tracking system would be looking for related keywords so you can include Google Search Console, SEMRush, Ahrefs, Ubersuggest etc. in your resume (of course you need to write that only if you have the relevant experience using the tools, otherwise it would be simply lying on your resume which is unethical.)
Avoid Over-optimizing For Applicant Tracking Systems
Do not try to cheat or game the system by using tactics like keyword stuffing, which will likely do more harm than good.
While there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of getting past an applicant tracking system, there is no guarantee that you will be successful.
As a result, it is important to focus on writing a clear and concise resume that will appeal not only to applicant tracking systems, but also to both human recruiters (Remember: your ultimate goal is that your resume lands in front of a human who then reviews your resume and shortlists you for the job role.)
Summing Up The Key Points About Applicant Tracking Systems
Applicant tracking systems are used by companies of all sizes in a variety of industries. While applicant tracking systems were originally designed for use by large employers, they are now being used by small businesses and companies in a wide range of industries.
In fact, ATS are not going away anytime soon. As a result, you are better off familiarizing yourself with how they work and what you can do to improve your chances of getting past them.
Applicant tracking systems are useful because they assist employers in quickly narrowing down the pool of candidates to a manageable number. Hence, companies can save time and money while still being able to find the best candidates for the job.
Remember that applicant tracking systems are designed to save employers time, but they often end up filtering out great candidates as well.
As a result, you need to ensure that your resume is formatted correctly and you make use of simple language using the right keywords that can be easily understood by a machine.
It is true that you can beat applicant tracking systems by using the right keywords.
However, do not try to cheat or over-optimize your resume for applicant tracking systems. If you wish to land your dream job, you have a better chance if you familiarize yourself with ATS and how to get your resume past them.