Jobs Search and ATS

There are many ways to track applicants today, so we will help guide you.

When looking into your options, it's important to keep these items in mind: 1) ease of use 2) total cost of ownership 3) integrations into existing systems 4) stability and security.

Related Topics (ads)

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a human resources software that acts as a database for job applicants. ATS are used by companies of all sizes to organize, search, and communicate with large groups of applicants. Ninety-nine percent of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS as part of their recruiting strategy.

The main goal of an ATS is to make life easier for recruiters and hiring managers. Companies often hire for multiple positions at once and receive hundreds if not thousands of applicants for each job opening. When a recruiter or hiring manager receives that many resumes, it’s not feasible for them to carefully read each one.

ATS makes searching easier—or even automated—saving time while avoiding human error. As an applicant, you should optimize and tailor your resume to the job for which you’re applying. 

How do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?

Regardless of each ATS’s strengths and weaknesses, they all follow the same basic process.

When you apply through an ATS, you will most likely be asked to answer what are called “knockout questions.” Knockout questions can be in the style of check boxes or short answer questions. Their purpose is to narrow the pool of applicants.

If an applicant answers any of the knockout questions unsatisfactorily, the resume will either be flagged or auto-rejected by the ATS. If you answer the knockout questions correctly, your resume will make it through to the next stage.

All applicant tracking systems parse and store resume information in ways that make candidates easy to filter and search by keyword.

Related Topics (ads)

Recruiters and hiring managers can then search the resumes stored in the ATS by using a few different functionalities.

Viewing applications: Many recruiters will glance at each resume that comes through their applicant tracking system. It will likely be a brief glance, so applicants should always be careful to make their top skills and qualifications easily visible.

Automatic rankings: Some applicant tracking systems will compare your resume to the job description and rank applicants based on how well their resume matches the job description. Recruiters can focus on top-ranked candidates instead of reading through each resume.

Keyword Searches: Recruiters and hiring managers can search resumes stored in the ATS by using keywords. These resume keywords are commonly the keywords used in the job posting. They could be based on skills, experiences, location, former employers, or work experience. The image below shows a candidate search window from the perspective of the hiring manager/recruiter.

Applicant Tracking System Features

Each ATS is different, but most of the top ATS have the same general features. These features include:

Resume ParsingThe ATS will extract and organize the parts of each resume into structured information.
Resume StorageOnce entered into the ATS, resumes remain in the system as possible candidates for future positions.
Keyword SearchRecruiters and hiring managers can search by any keyword, often with the Boolean search. Boolean search connects keywords using AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR.
FiltersFilters can include the job seeker’s location, the source of your application, how long ago you applied to the company, and whether or not you are a referral.
Automated Email CustomizationCompanies can customize rejection letters and other emails to ensure that applicants get a response to their application.

It’s good to note that there are hundreds of applicant tracking systems, each featuring unique specialties. They don’t all parse, rank, or filter your resume in the same way.

This means that optimizing your formatting or keyword density for one ATS may not be ideal for another. For this reason, Jobscan now offers ATS-specific advice. Just add the URL in your Jobscan match report and the tool will return unique tips based on the company’s applicant tracking system.

Social Media and Application Tracking Systems

Your social media profile can help your job search, since some ATS use social media to search for potential employees. How does it work? Certain ATS softwares have the ability to search through social channels for keywords. So, update your profiles with common keywords for the job industry you are interested in, as well as your work experience, and you might just be contacted about a great job.

How to Beat an Applicant Tracking System

Optimizing your resume for ATS is an important part of the modern job searching process. Without paying attention to keywords, formatting, other ATS-friendly elements, qualified candidates can slip through the cracks.

Here are some quick tips on how to beat applicant tracking systems:

1. Tailor Your Resume to the Job Description.

One-size-fits-all resumes do not work well for modern job searches. Customizing your resume for each job gives you the best chance of being identified as a great candidate. Tailor your resume headline to match the role and prioritize your most relevant skills and experience.

2. Match Your Resume Keywords to Skills Found in the Job Description.

Optimize for ATS search and ranking algorithms by paying close attention to the keywords you include on your resume. Keywords are most commonly the hard skills requirements listed in the job description. Include as many relevant skills and keywords as possible on your resume.

3. Use Long-Form and Acronym Versions of Keywords.

Recruiters and hiring managers may search by keywords when looking for candidates. Some ATS will only return exact keyword match results, which means that if you included the term “Search Engine Optimization” without its acronym counterpart, your profile may not appear in a recruiter’s search for the term “SEO.”

4. Use Chronological or Hybrid Resume Format.

Formats that deemphasize work history, like the functional resume format, don’t work well for applicant tracking systems that count on more traditional reverse chronological formatting to understand an applicant’s experience. Recruiters are also most familiar with chronological and hybrid resume formats.

5. Don’t Use Tables or Columns.

Even though tables and columns can improve readability for human readers, they may cause parsing errors in the ATS.

6. Use a Screen-Friendly, Traditional Font.

For readability, it’s best to use a traditional serif or sans serif font. Some ATS will automatically change unfamiliar fonts which can alter the design of your resume.

7. Don’t Use Headers or Footers.

The information in headers and footers may get lost or cause parsing errors inside and ATS.

8. Use Standard Resume Section Headings.

Section headers like “Where I’ve Been” in place of “Work Experience” may confuse applicant tracking systems, causing them to organize information incorrectly.

9. Save Your File as a .docx if Possible

A docx file is most compatible with ATS.

(sources: jobscan, capterra, wikipedia)