Your ultimate guide to Applicant Tracking Systems from a candidate’s point of view
Chances are that you may have heard about Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Even if you haven’t, you have come to the right place! This guide will help you better understand what job applicants need to know about ATS systems; from how employers use ATS to how you can maximize your chances as a job applicant when applying for a job through an ATS.
You may ask yourself why I need to know about this? Here’s why: Did you know that 90% of the Fortune 500 companies and a growing number of small and mid-sized businesses filter CV/ resumes through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This is even before a person, such as a recruiter looks at your resume.
Just because it’s convenient for you to apply online; don’t forget, so are numerous other candidates. If you are applying for jobs online assume that your resume/CV will be filtered using an Applicant Tracking Systems.
So, how do you ensure you pass the ATS review of your CV?
Use KEYWORDS—Using Keywords on your resume/ CV is critical in helping you get yourself noticed by employers. This increases your chances of landing a job interview! When companies use ATS to screen resumes / CVs for keywords, if you are missing certain keywords, your opportunity is eliminated or less highly ranked than better optimized CV’s. Keywords indicate that you are a good fit for the job, and usually consist of skills, competencies, from your previous jobs. The core skills needed to do the job that you’re applying for are usually listed out in the job advert and job description. By identifying the keywords required and ensuring that these keywords are in your CV you are dramatically increasing your chances of your CV being read by a person, and eventually shortlisted to be invited to interview.
If you want to learn more about how ATS work and how to better optimize your CV/ Resume with keywords—this blog is your in-depth guide we will look at :-
● What are ATS and its algorithm
● How employers use ATS
● How to make your CV ATS friendly
● Tools to test if your CV/ resume is ATS compatible
What is an Applicant Tracking System?
“An Applicant Tracking System is a software used by companies to help them with administration of their recruitment, and hiring needs. While each system offers a different package of features, applicant tracking systems are primarily used to help companies organize and manage large numbers of applicants” (Jobscan).
The main function of the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is to collect and sort the large quantities of CV’s/resumes received by companies. The ATS reduces the complexity of the recruitment process by providing a simple centralized platform to view applicants, track their progress through the hiring process and filter applications based on different requirements specified in the job adverts.
When a potential job applicant applies for a job online and sends in the CV/ resume, it most likely imported directly into the ATS. There are dozens of different ATS, each with its features, strengths, weaknesses, and quirks.
How employers use applicant tracking systems and how does it work?
To better understand how ATS work, job applicants must understand how employers use Applicant Tracking Systems. Numerous job sites have an easy application process, giving job seekers the possibility with just one click, to upload a resume and apply for job. As a result, employers are every so often flooded with applications, several of which come from unqualified candidates.
According to a study done by Capterra, 94% of recruiters and talent managers who used some form of Applicant Tracking System (ATS) said that it improved their hiring process and helped them manage applications more efferently.
For employers the purpose of using an ATS is to find the candidate who is the best fit for the job, speeding up the hiring process, be cost-efficient and increase relevancy for job applicants. One of the main uses of an ATS is tracking and managing Job applicants, let’s face it no employer or recruiter has the time to go through an irrelevant resume, which is why ATS plays a vital role in this step.
- An ATS will filter and rank applicants based on an employer’s selection criteria.
- Most importantly employers can identify key skills that they are looking for on a CV, and the ATS will search for those skills on the CV uploaded. Depending on the ATS it will rank or score the application based on how closely the CV matches the key skills entered by the employer. For example, managing a team or a budget, project management or sales development experience. An applicant whose CV has all three skills will be more highly ranked than an applicant who lists one or two.
The job applicants who more closely match the shortlisting criteria stated in the job advert will be reviewed fully by a recruiter.
As a job seeker, the Applicant Tracking System algorithm will not help you, it has been put in place to help the employer. To stand out, it is very important that you understand the ATS algorithm and how it works.
- On average, a job opening may receive up to 250 resumes or more
- Of those 250 applicants only 6-10% will be contacted for an interview
- More than likely that 75% of the resumes will never be reviewed by a person
- 25% resumes have buried contact information in the header
- Not taking the trouble to use keywords from the job description, increases your chances of your resume being rejected
- Fancy resume templates get scrambled by the ATS and can’t be read by the software
How to make an ATS friendly resume/ CV using keywords
The ATS software is far from perfect and unfortunately qualified candidates slip through the cracks. To ensure that you make it past the first cut, you as a job seeker need to design your resume with two audiences in mind. The ATS software and the human recruiter/ employer.
Listed below are ways your can make your resume or CV ATS friendly:
Keyword Searches in ATS
Applicant tracking systems are programmed to look for keywords on your resume and CV. Optimizing the right keywords is one of the best ways to ensure that your CV or resume is compatible with an ATS. An employer or recruiter may decide what specific keywords they are looking for, in this case, it could be skills, qualifications, experience, or qualities that are most important for the performance of the job. For example, an entry-level job may require specific majors or a tech position may require certain coding language. The best way to figure out which skills and keywords to include is by analyzing the job description.
Hard skills that show up more than once in the job posting, as well as appear part of the job requirement or job duties are also important keywords to use on your resume/ CV. Hard skills usually consist of types of software, methodologies, spoken languages, and other abilities that are easier to quantify.
Another good suggestion for keyword optimization is to have core competencies or an area of expertise section on the resume/ CV. This section should list your strongest hard skills and soft skills.
Repetition and abbreviations
Several Applicant tracking Systems software will determine the strength of your skills based on the number of times a term shows up in your resume. As a job seeker, you should aim to add keywords, two or three times throughout your resume. Furthermore, another pointer is if the skill is a common abbreviation i.e. SEO (Search Engine Optimization), include both versions on your resume. One could be listed as a skill and the other could be part of Work Experience or in the Education section. This will help you establish leverage for that skill on the resume.
Length of experience
Some ATS will associate the length of the work experience, based on how long you held the job. For example, if you worked on your previous job for six years and you stated that on your resume that you dealt with SEO for the company—ATS will assume you have six years worth of SEO experience from that job. If a skill is listed on its own, the ATS will assign fewer experience years to that skill, which might not fit the requirements of the job. This is why you as job applicants must repeatedly mention your skills throughout your entire resume.
Instead of telling employers that you have a skill, explain how you used the skill and what the result was. “Use numbers and metrics to highlight them,” says Rohan Mahtani, Founder of Resume Worded.
You also want to be careful and make sure you are not using too many keywords; the keywords you do use need to be in the correct context, which makes them relevant to the job description.
Only apply for jobs you are qualified for
Make sure you are experienced in the role, you are applying to. This does not mean you have to meet every single job criterion or apply to a job only if you have the essential skills and experience the employer is looking for, usually a 70% match to the essential skills is enough to catch the recruiters attention.
This means that if you, as a job applicant are looking for a career change and are applying since you may have the transferable skills for the role. Remember that you may get past the ATS algorithm with the use of keywords in your resume but if you lack the core skills needed to perform the job, then you are wasting your, and the employer’s/recruiters’ time.
Do not apply to multiple job postings within the same company
The ATS also allows employers and recruiters to see all the job openings you may have applied to within their company. As a job seeker, if you are doing this then you need to stop. When you do this, the recruiter is unable to tell what job opening you are interested in, or that you lack confidence in your abilities. If the company has two similar roles, by all means, do apply to both or if you possess a wide variety of skills or interests—but you should tailor your resume accordingly to the specific job openings. What you absolutely should NOT do is apply to an entry-level position, a marketing job opening, a data entry position and then a finance position.
ATS format resume/ CV
Applicant Tracking Systems is programmed to scan the information from your resume and store it in a database. If your resume formatting is difficult for ATS to interpret, your resume will not be read and stored correctly. Instead of PDF format use the Docx format. Even though PDFs are best at keeping the format intact, Docx format is the most accurately analyzed by ATS. If you submit your resume in the wrong format, the information could get distorted and your resume could get scrambled, corrupted, or parts of it could be deleted completely. That is why you, have to be careful about what format you are submitting. Unless stated that a PDF format is acceptable.
Keep you resume/ CV formats clear and simple. The Applicant Tracking System formatting will read from left to right, and top to bottom. Just like in a recruiter-friendly CV/ resume, your name and contact information should all be at the top, and your work history should start with your most recent or current position. There should be no surprises on where the info is supposed to be. out of the three resume formats, Chronological or hybrid/combination resume formats seem to work best with the ATS algorithm.
Avoid using header and footer sections on your CV/ Resume. Since any info that you put there could end up getting lost in the ATS. Do not use unconventional fonts or overly complicated templates, as the system probably won’t recognize them. To scan your resume for relevant keywords, most ATS will convert the document to a text-only file. Hence as a job applicant when you create you resume/ CV you should avoid:
- Images (in US/UK your resume/ CV should never include your photo)
- Text boxes
- Visuals (graphics or graphs)
- Hyperlinks on important words
- Uncommon section heading
Some features that are acceptable and can be used on ATS compliant resume
ATS testing tools for your Resume CV
Listed below are ways you can check and see if you resume is compatible with the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)
- Convert your resume to a plain-text file
Copy and paste the information from your resume into a plaintext document. Analyze and see whether the plain text version has any missing content, has fonts saved the wrong way, or looks disordered—not looking like the original you copied from. This means that your resume requires editing and is not ATS friendly.
- ATS Scan Tools
Resume Worded– Provides a free ATS scan that tests your resume against specific job description.
Jobscan– Uses ATS like algorithms to calculate your match rate based on skills,education, etc.
TopResume– Request a free resume review and you will receive feedback on your resume content, as well as its ATS compatibility.
The most important points to remember from this post is that the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is here to stay, create an ATS friendly resume/ CV and use the tools provided above to scan your CV/ resume. Good luck!
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