04 August 2020

What You Need To Know About Applicant Tracking Systems


What You Need To Know About Applicant Tracking Systems. We've all been there: You find the perfect job opportunity, submit your application online, and within a few seconds you receive a rejection letter. 

So what happened? 

Well you didn't pass the infamous six-second resume review test by ATS systems. 

What many job seekers don't realise is that of job applications are rejected before they are seen by human eyes. Before your resume reaches the hands of a live person, it often must pass what is known as an applicant tracking system.

If you are seeking a job, you might have noticed that even after submitting your CV, you don’t get feedback. Why? It’s probably the ATS!

Below is everything you need to know about applicant tracking systems — and what you can do to optimize your CV and beat these bots.

How do applicant tracking systems (ATS) work?

Today, more and more companies turn to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to manage the hiring process more efficiently. With ATS, a recruiter or hiring manager simply plugs in a few keywords and can seen in an instant which CV match their criteria.

If you’re applying to a large organisation, chances are you’ll face an ATS. If you’re applying through any online form, you’re applying through an ATS. 

Applicant tracking systems act as an electronic gatekeeper for an employer. The ATS parses a CV's content into categories and then scans it for specific keywords to determine if the job application should be passed along to the recruiter. Its job is to essentially weed out unqualified applicants so the recruiter can devote his or her time to evaluating the candidates who are more likely to be a match for the position. In other words, the ATS is apt to toss the least-qualified candidates, rather than identify the applicants who are the best fit.

Unfortunately, that means if a CV is not written and formatted with the applicant tracking system in mind, a qualified candidate can be easily passed over. 

Keyword Searches
First of all, these systems are designed to look for specific keywords and types of backgrounds for advertised positions, meaning good candidates might slip through the cracks of the system unnoticed.

As a job seeker, if your application doesn’t have these keywords, you can bet it finds its way into the garbage, never to be seen again.

So, before you hit send on a job application, make sure you take the time to properly customize your resume to the specific job you’re applying to. A big part of this is keyword optimization, the process of strategically placing keywords throughout your resume so it’s more easily searched (and foudn!) by ATS.

The simplest way to incorporate more relevant keywords into your resume is by scanning the job ad you’re applying to. When reading it, jot down keywords that stand out — often these are the job title itself as well as must-have hard skills and soft skills.

There also can be technical issues. Some systems will eliminate candidates if they can't interpret a scanned resume properly. This can happen if a resume looks slightly different than what the system is programmed to understand, or if the resume is more complex than it can interpret.

Here’s our simplest advice for how to beat ATS:
  • Carefully tailor your CV to the job description every single time you apply.
  • Optimise for ATS search and ranking algorithms by matching your resume keywords to the job description
  • Avoid images, charts, and other graphics
  • Use a clean CV design with a clear hierarchy
  • Use both the long-form and acronym version of keywords (e.g. “Master of Business Administration (MBA)” or “Search Engine Optimization (SEO)”) for maximum searchability
  • Don’t use tables or columns on your CV as they often cause major parsing errors
  • Use a traditional resume font like Times, Helvetica
  • Don’t use headers or footers in your CV as the information might get lost or cause a parsing error
  • Use standard CV section headings like “Work Experience” rather than being cute or clever (“Where I’ve Been”)
  • Save your file as a .docx if possible
Remember, you have to get through the ATS before you can impress a hiring manager. If your formatting choices confuse the ATS, the application might not get through to them in the first place.

Article Sources: The Balance, JobScan