Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and Job Applications

Ever thought that you were an excellent fit for a job but never got a call back for an interview? Well, you are not alone. Many of us had the same experience!

Few days ago I was talking to someone about current job market and the topic of automatic application scanning by agencies popped up. While it is now common knowledge, I never really thought about this before.

Being of an inquisitive mind, I decided to read about what Applicant Scanning System (ATS) is and how it is being used.

There are some excellent articles on the Internet about ATS and how to go past ATS so that someone human looks at your resume.

8 Things You Need To Know About Applicant Tracking Systems

The secrets to beating an applicant tracking system (ATS)

How Employers Use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

So basically,

  • employers are more and more relying on external agencies to sort and provide shortlisted candidates
  • Since they can receive anywhere between hundreds to thousands of applications per job advertisement, external agencies have started using ATS to filter out candidates
  • The ATS is configurable and is configured based on key criteria provided by the employer

There have been questions raised about the accuracy of the ATS filtering system and that the filtering is based on certain criteria which is at times poor.

Articles recommend the following techniques to beat the ATS so that your resume is then considered by a person from HR and as such will be given the required attention. It is all about getting past the hurdle of ATS.

  • Use standard resume template instead of fancy styles
  • Submit resume in word document or rich text format to make parsing  by ATS easier
  • Use standard fonts such as Arial, Calibri etc. so that ATS can easily read the fonts
  • Use standard headings such as Career Summary, Work Experience, Educational Qualification etc. instead of fancy headings
  • Use keywords in your resume from the job description
  • Focus on the most important part in your work experience

Because ATS comes from commercial HR companies, you need to request a demo. So I have gone ahead and requested a demo from one of the leading ATS service providers. Let’s see how that goes. Once I have the demo, I will be able to better explain what needs to be updated in your cover letter and resume.

I want to see how ATS stacks up against below arguments:

  • A resume has loads of experience about Testing and Infrastructure Support. The job description is for Head of IT and the person is a good fit. Since in his resume, he has not used the keyword “Head of IT” or “IT Head”, will ATS reject his application?
  • A candidate who can step up to the role of a Product Owner, but does not have current Product Owner experience, would the ATS reject that application?
  • For the above two resumes, what configuration changes are required so that these two resumes are shortlisted?

NOTE that ATS system is here to stay. With time, the system will hopefully become more sophisticated. But for now, we need to understand how it works and how your resume needs to get past the initial screening by ATS.

So, I leave you with couple of comments from different people about their experience with the ATS filtering system (courtesy of ).

ATS and other systems are used for lazy recruiters and organizations who do not want to spend the time reviewing resumes. They are flawed systems bigtime! Nothing and I repeat NOTHING is a substitute for the human element.

There isn’t a list of 100 top words. Because every job has its unique set of top skills that hiring managers ask the recruiters to search for. Jobscan best guess the top skills the recruiters might search for by scanning for the top skills from each job description.

Secondly, we also recommend personal referrals. But even so, recruiters still asks you to fill out an application online. Companies are required by law to track every applicant due to labor laws. Imagine tracking 500 applications a day by hand. It’s not feasible. Therefore ATS exist.

Thirdly, even if the resume reaches a recruiter and hiring manager’s desk. He or she also looks for the relevant skills and experiences from the resume. Ensuring you’re using the exact same language the company is using drastically increases one’s chance of getting an interview.



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