Define an applicant tracking system

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is software used to help manage and automate an organization’s recruitment and hiring practices by providing a central location for managing job postings, filtering job applications, screening through resumes, and identifying strong candidates for open positions. ATS software often uses artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing to score and sort resumes based on how well they match job requirements. Candidates who pass through ATS filters are then matched with recruiters or hiring managers to move on to the next steps in the hiring process.

Search from Capterra It found that 75% of recruiters use some kind of recruitment or applicant tracking system in the hiring process. And Data from Jobscan It found that more than 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS when hiring new employees. This means there’s a good chance your resume will stand up to ATS before you land on the desk of an employee or hiring manager.

Since ATS will scan your resume for relevant keywords and work history to quickly decide whether to advance to the next round, optimizing your resume so that it is ATS-friendly is an important step in your job search. Otherwise, you risk getting your CV disqualified despite your qualifications for the job.

Here’s a look at how the ATS screening process works – and how you can fine-tune your resume to pass its filters successfully.

How do applicant tracking systems work?

ATS software enables companies to enter specific parameters for job postings and use the systems’ automated algorithms to analyze the large number of resumes they receive. It is often the first step in the hiring process and serves to eliminate the time human employees spend sorting through resumes.

“Most applicant tracking systems platforms have analysis and matching ratings built into their process, so when you upload your resume to ATS, the system will immediately rank your resume and match it to the job you applied for,” says Aaran Stewart. Co-founder and Head of Vision at

Although it is impossible to know exactly what parameters and weights employers specify, there are general categories that you can expect to play a role in ranking your resume.

Most grading or weight items such as qualifications, education, job titles and comparing your resume to the job description. Some employers use “knockout questions” within the system, such as “Do you have at least 5 years experience.” Once you answer No, you are out of consideration. In most keyword and headline searches, a resume is “scored”, says Caroline Kleiman, professional coach and expert at, and the higher the score, the better the chance of the actual person being reviewed.

There are several ways you can find out if a potential employer is using ATS in the hiring process. You might see a related brand on the website, or if you look at the links carefully, you’ll often see the name of the ATS software at the beginning of the website’s domain, Stewart says.

How accurate are applicant tracking systems?

While ATS software enables HR to be more efficient at sorting resumes, it is not without errors. a Study from Harvard Business Review It found that 88% of employers felt that qualified and highly skilled candidates were vetted by the ATS because they “did not meet the specific criteria set by the job description,” and this number rose to 94% for medium-skilled candidates.

A problem can arise when it comes to updating and detailing requirements in job descriptions. Job descriptions are often too high or perfect, with a long list of skills or experiences in demand that quickly narrows the pool of candidates. The survey found that 72% of employers admitted that they rarely updated or changed job descriptions or modified them only slightly.

Over time, job descriptions can swell due to excessive or outdated skills and requirements, resulting in qualified candidates being disqualified from the job. The candidate may have the right experience, but not the specific skills listed in the job description, which means that they will not be noticed by the ATS. This has a negative impact on both candidates and employers – candidates are overlooked and employers run the risk of creating a self-skill shortage.

How to Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems

A few simple strategies can help prepare your resume for success in passing through the applicant tracking system. Most important advice? Keep things simple. An aesthetically pleasing resume with titles, different fonts, and visuals won’t impress ATS. Save this to the recruiter or hiring manager by creating a second copy of your resume in plain text format that is easy for ATS to scan.

“The font, formatting and style options should be as simple as possible. There is no reason not to use the default font. There is no reason to use multiple points, multiple levels, fancy formatting, or anything stylistic.” Mark Sendella, CEO of Ladders, says The simpler it is, the better.

Also consider any other diagrams, graphics, or images that look nice to humans, but may confuse the ATS.

“Most ATS does output formatting and plain text parsing, but you can still make your resume look nice. It’s best to stay away from inserting graphics, columns, headers, footers, or tables. ATS reads top to bottom and left to right, if you have columns Embedded in separate information, ATS may read two separate classes of information as one. Standard category headers, bold, uppercase, and italic are all fine. Most ATS can read a PDF but Word.doc is always the safest bet,” says Kleiman.

Another tip is to carefully tailor your resume to the job description. If there are skills listed in your job description but they usually leave your resume, be sure to add them before you submit.

Resumes should be tailored to the job and, if possible, also with the company before applying. Stack your resume with the words in the job description as much as possible, down to the way it’s written or the wording in the description—even if it’s against everything you know about the rules—and stay away from abbreviations unless they’re an industry standard practice,” says Kleiman.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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