From the blog

How to Beat the Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

 

What happens when you apply through online job boards? How does an ATS affect you as a job seeker? Have you applied for countless jobs online but did not get shortlisted for any of those? Is ATS all Greek to you? Then you should read this article.

 


 

What is ATS

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System. ATS is an automated system to filter qualified applicants according to the requirements of the employer. This system aids recruiters in finding suitable candidates based on keywords and phrases in the job description. It offers automatic rankings of the candidates based on keyword matches.  Those with low scores do not qualify for the next level.

 

 

Moreover, recruiters use this software to stay organised & speed up the human resources, recruitment and, hiring process by transforming manually processed tasks into an automated process.

ATS provides various features for the recruiter. They are:

•             Job posting

•             Email marketing

•             Resume importing

•             Resume Parsing

•             Candidate tracking

•             Resume Storage

•             Keyword Search

•             Filters

•             Sends applicants automated messages (applications received, rejection letters)

•             Gives online tests for candidates

•             Schedules interviews

Therefore, recruiters find ATS a time saving, cost-effective solution and, a prompt way to present qualified candidates to the clients.

 


 

Benefits of ATS for the Job Seeker

Not only does the ATS save the time of the recruiter but it also saves the job seeker’s time by providing facilities to upload their contact details, work history, educational qualifications etc. directly from their LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. profiles when they are applying through the employer’s website. Moreover, some ATSs provide the facility to check the status of their applications online.

 

 

 


 

Drawbacks of ATS

ATS is not always beneficial to the recruiter. ATS works according to the keywords, and it does not read all fonts and formatting. Therefore, the recruiter can miss a potential candidate only because he or she has not used ATS-friendly formats, keywords and phrases as mentioned in the job description.

 

 

 


 

Research on ATS

1.            According to research conducted by Jobscan, 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS.

 

2.            Research conducted by Capterra found that,

•             75% of recruiters & talent managers use some form of recruiting or applicant

tracking software

•             94% respond that software has enhanced their recruitment process

•             Only 5% of HR experts who use software reflect that it has an adverse outcome

on their organisation.

 

3.            According to the Glassdoor for employers’ statistics, on average, all corporate job openings attract 250 resumes but only 4 to 6 of these candidates are called for an interview, and only 1 of those is offered a job.

However, companies with less than fifty workers are much less likely to use ATS.

 


 

What Happens When You Apply Through Online Job Boards?

 

Did you know that you interact with an ATS whenever you submit a resume through an online form? The obstacle you face in your job search process is not only the recruiter but also the ATS.

 

As soon as you click the apply button your resume gets scanned through an ATS by the keywords and phrases. If your resume matches the job description of the job you are applying for, then your resume passes to the recruiter. Otherwise, it is stored in the database for future positions which are accessible to employers. Some job boards provide employers with the chance to search suitable candidates from their database using different search & filtering methods.

 

Applying for a job now is easy as one mouse click, but most of the recruiters say that 50% of candidates do not meet at least the basic requirements for the job. Job board sites such as Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, Bayt, Glassdoor, Naukri, etc. let job seekers apply for a job using a saved resume.

 

Have you experienced knockout questions with small checkboxes or short answers when you are applying online? If any of the questions were answered unsatisfactorily, the resume is rejected by the ATS. It is a straightforward way to reduce the number of applications received for a particular position.

 

I know how you feel now, sounds as if it is unfair at your end as job seekers. But that is how the world has changed, technology has developed, and business has transformed. You need to beat the robot, but how? Let me explain it to you.


 

25 Tips to Optimise Your Resume to Beat the ATS

 

You need to pass the initial screening by the ATS before your resume passes to a human being. Therefore, you need to consider both parties when writing a resume.

 

Following tips will help you to initially pass through the ATS and to attract the attention of the recruiter.

 

1. Tailor your resume to each job you apply. Please refer my articles on “tailoring your resume to a specific job” and “steps to writing a resume”.


2. Avoid Headers and Footers in your resume. ATS does not read details in the headers and footers.


3. Do not include your Contact Information in the header or paste your contact details like a picture in the header.

 

If you include your contact information in the header, the ATS will mark your contact information as missing.


4. Job title plays a major role when dealing with an ATS. Make sure that the professional title of your resume and the title of the job you are applying for are the same. Recruiters sometimes filter by job title from their database.

 

For Example:

If the recruiter wants to find out Charted Accountants from New York, they will use the same search term in their database. ATS has a Boolean search feature and filters.  


5. Include keywords and Phrases as highlighted in the job advertisement.

Some ATSs will rank candidates higher if a keyword is stated more than once but do not repeat the same word, vary your choice of words.

 

Do not stuff keywords in your resume, naturally, use keywords.

 

Some ATS brands have the feature to track synonyms and plural versions of a keyword, but I recommend to use the same terms as the job advertisement because some recruiters are still using old versions of ATS brands.

 

For Example:

If a Job role requires experience in “Performance Management”, but in your resume, you have mentioned this experience as “Performance Appraisal”, it will not pass the initial screening. Therefore, it is better to change this term in your current resume to “Performance Management”.


6. Take advantage of the Core Competencies section to highlight your skills. Remember to add all relevant skills that you have figured out from the job description. Please include only the competencies you genuinely possess.

 

Be creative to fill-up missing skills from Transferable Skills (abilities and knowledge acquired through personal experience such as schooling, jobs, classes, hobbies, sports etc.).

 

Be alert with the frequency of skills found in the job description and add skills that appear most often.

 

Do not miss to include the crucial Hard skills (skills learned through training) that you possess. Give the priority in your resume to hard skills than Soft Skills (according to the online Oxford dictionary soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people).


7. Do not ever lie or exaggerate. You can lie to the system by invisible white fonts but remember new ATSs nowadays highlight the keywords in yellow. Recruiters know all the tricks job seekers are using.


8. Look at the employer’s website to be familiar with the key terms they are using. When you are familiar with the keywords that the employer is looking for, you can tailor your resume according to that. For more details, please refer my article on resume tailoring.


9. Focus on your achievements and use results-based language and avoid using task-based language. Write your accomplishments in measurable terms rather than listing out duties you carried out.


10. Use the following date format for your work experience section. Remember to check years of work experience required.

MM/YY – 02/19

MM/YYYY – 02/2019

MONTH/YYYY – FEB 2019 or February 2019.


11. Do not use graphics. Keep it simple. A creative resume might be attractive, but it may get blocked out from the ATS.


12. Make sure your resume is free of grammar mistakes & misspelling.


13. Apply for jobs that align with your experience level.


14. Use common fonts and fonts that have enough white space. ATS will not recognise uncommon fonts and convert your resume to blank boxes.

 

Do not use more than two fonts.

 

Some candidates try to put more information on the resume by using small font size, this will make the resume overcrowded and difficult to read. The ideal font size is between 10-12.

 

According to resume and career experts, the following fonts are appropriate for a resume: Calibri, Cambria, Garamond, Didot, Georgia, Helvetica, Arial, Book Antiqua and, Trebuchet MS.


15. Keep clear breaks between sections that make the resume easy to read.


16. The file type is vital because ATS does not read some file types. Most of the experts in ATS recommend .docx or .pdf files for your resume.


17. Avoid the use of too many bullets points.


18. Avoid the use of abbreviations.


19. Use standard resume headings because ATS will often parse your resume into sections. Please refer to my previous article on Steps to wring a resume.


20. Follow instructions. Upload the relevant documents as instructed in the correct document type (PDF, Word doc. Etc.)


21. Align your text to the left and set 1-inch margins on all sides.


22. Avoid the use of complex symbols for bullet points in your resume.


23. The perfect length of a resume is one page. However, for seasoned professionals, two pages are acceptable.


24. A perfect resume should include links to LinkedIn URL along with Personal Websites or Blogs or online portfolio.


25. It is fine to Bold section headings but do not overuse emphasis. Use only Bold or Italic for emphasis but do not underline words.

 

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40 Comments

  1. Hi Dudulie,

    I agree with you that it can be frustrating when you are not picked for a job you actually tried your best applying for. This is exactly what I like about articles like this one. It brings awareness of stuff I wouldn’t have found otherwise

    I enjoyed reading the article above as a job seeker, it really explains everything in detail, the article is very interesting and effective. Thank you and good luck for the upcoming articles

  2. Wow! I learned so much from this. I have never heard of ats before, thankfully now I know. This is so helpful when trying to apply for jobs. I am going to read through your post one more time and I will probably come back to it again. So helpful. Thank you so much for this. 

  3. Thank you for this informative information on Application Tracking System (ATS). This is the first that I have heard of it actually. Does ATS sell our information to the 3rd party? It is kinda scary because I have applied jobs online several times in my life. Thank you for those 25 tips, I will keep them in mind and will share this to my friends.

    Cheers!

  4. Wow, this is a real eye-opener. I had no idea that filling out a job application online could be such a complicated process. The last time I did anything like this was maybe 10 years ago. Was ATS already a thing, at that time? If it was, it might explain why I didn’t get a job from any of my online applications. Now that I run my own business, this hasn’t been an issue for me. But it could become one, if what I’m doing becomes too much and I end up having to hire someone. I probably would resort to using job boards and it’s nice to know how this process works. Somehow, I never thought it was that complicated. Thanks for sharing this valuable information!Mark

  5. This is exactly true, when i was working as an ibtern for recruiting the short listing process were so intense .and i personally experienced how the qualified candidates list the opportunity when they have not did the correct completion while appliying on line.brandibg tbe self through a trachibg system is hard but the reality is high demand and the ratio for available positions.thank you for sharing this..i am sure this is a great points which moat if us never thinks while filling up online application .

  6. I’ve got to be honest with you here – I don’t think I’m a fan of this so-called Applicant Tracking System at all! 

    The problem at the end of the day is that this is a program – a piece of software, therefore it is prone to glitches (they all are!). I wonder how many people have been kicked out of the process for no reason, and lost the opportunity to a job?

  7. i love the way you outlined the features of ATS. This is an incredible blog post and its a must for every job seeking applicants. So many job seekers has lost their dream job as a result of flawless resume. I also have thesame experience but i must tell you your article is an eye opener .

    I read every little bit of the article in order to know how it ends. this is insightful and i must commend your effort.

  8. Hi Dudulie Silva,

    I have not heard about Application Tracking System and so much information before. Thanks for writing this excellent post with all feature about that application. I have learned many things which I can share with my team. I believe it will be very useful for HR activity and saves time for their recruitment process. I am going to share it with others also.

  9. Hey,

    Thanks for providing this informative information on Applicant Tracking System . I know , ATS is a type of software used by recruiters and employers during the hiring process to collect , sort , scan and rank the job applications they receive for their open positions . I also like this tips and everybody should follow this information .

  10. Thanks for this great opportunity to let me know that  employer is using ATS for jobs  so that filter the best resume .I didn’t know when doing job application you need keywords for your resume consided . I am say so because I have sent so many online application but none seems to be considered that means my keywords is very poor or available at all . Now I will have to change tact and be using that ( ATS ) applicant tracking system can be able to see my resume.

  11. Hi,

    I have read the whole review about this information.This is really a necessary information about how to beat the applicant tracking system.I have been successful in reading your article. Your information will helped me when I apply for a job by online.This information is very helpful helpful for us.I will share this article with my brothers and my friends.Thanks for sharing this informative information with us.

  12. Wow, this information is so helpful. I didn’t know that my resume has to go through the ATS system and it only receives some of the fonts (I always use Times New Roman in my resume). That is why I never received responses from recruiters) when I applied online, but I think a lot of scammers get my contact information from my resume I uploaded on some pages you mentioned like Indeed and Glassdoor.  I don’t know  if they are smarter and have any other features in their software that read all of the fonts and store my info because I have never received calls or emails from real job recruiters, I keep receiving a lot of scam calls everyday. I will have to save your tips. I missed some of them in my resume. Thank you for sharing this information.

  13. Hi; thanks for so much information on how to beat the ATS when applying for a job. I never heard of ATS before. I realised now why so many qualified job seekers are turned down.

    Seeing that there will always be an upgrade in the system, so as in some job seekers qualification; Do you believe that a new resume by an applicant will help in landing a job? Or the ATS will use data from the first resume at all times?

    DorcasW

  14. I agree with you when you say that ATS is not always foolproof, as they could miss a potential great applicant, simply because they filled in one of the fields differently.

    I am sure people will find these tips handy when filling out their next application. I learned that just by not filling out important details in headers and footers helps. Just one question, how do you know what the systems are looking for, are they all the same, or do they differ from each other?

  15. Wow! This is insane! I have never heard of ATF before I always apply of online jobs and even though I have all the qualifications I never get shortlisted I just assumed the employer is strict I had no idea I was been dropped by a program. Thanks for this informative article, I will make sure to take ATF into consideration on my next Job application 

  16. Hi Silva, to be frank, this is my first time of hearing about automated system that filter qualified applicants according to the employer’s requirement. It must be a great asset to these online recruiters, as it will definitely make their job easier and less tasking in selecting best qualified candidates. It is amazing at the larger amount of companies that make use of ATS. 

    I have submitted one application or the other online, but never knew the process such application went through. Thanks for teaching me about ATS and also the tips that will help in attracting attention of the recruiter.

  17. The applicants tracking system, is it used in every online application job or is there particular kind of jobs where applicants tracking system is used. Well, in my opinion, I don’t think this is the best to be used on applicants as this could make them loose job opportunities because it is an automated system and may favour very few.

  18. This is a super well-written article with lots of great ideas.  I haven’t had to write my resume in a while, because I’ve keep getting promoted within my company, but I do hire people often and sometimes you know right away you want to hire someone when the resume is well-written.  In the same token, I’ve wondered sometimes if I’ve missed a very good candidate that didn’t take the time to write a good resume or customize it to your needs, and keywords is an awesome idea for that.

  19. It is amazing to me just how far we have come in the world of technologies. What ever happened to the human face to face element when applying for a job? Yes the ATS does have a few drawbacks in my opinion, I have been turned dowwn for many a job because of Artificial Intelligence. Thank you for your post on this most people myself included are just know realizing about ATS and how it effects our resumes and job chances. 

  20. This is certainly one of the most informative posts I have ever read about job applications. I didn’t know that there was anything like the ATS. But don’t you think that this is a sinister plot to twat the efforts of potentially qualified candidates without giving them a chance to prove themselves?Anyway I am past the age of job searching, though I have a few people in my circle who are still job-hunting. I will share your article with them. I am sure they will find so many tips to rewrite their resumes and eventually land their dream jobs. Thanks for the good work.

  21. although I don’t have any degrees, and I have never tried to apply for a job online I do really think that ATS does really help the community a lot, besides, recruiters find ATS a time saving, cost-effective solution and, a prompt way to present qualified candidates to the clients. In short, I do recommend ATS for job seeker this will save their time alot 

  22. I had no idea, about the ATS system, when I started to read your article, it is so informative with all the details you’re providing is fantastic! I’m glad to have learned something new today. ATS system seems to be so complicated I understand that the job market has changed dramatically It seems for many people, the ATS may be a real obstacle to finding a job today. You really have to focus on having your resume at best and learn how to use the right keywords while the job search experience is seldom easy, it looks even harder to me today.
    I heard from a student telling its easier to get a job tight out high school because employers don’t want to pay for the experience.
    Thank you so much for sharing this educational article, I will have to share this with my children.
    Jacqueline

  23. I had no idea, about the ATS system, when I started to read your article, it is so informative with all the details you’re providing is fantastic! I’m glad to have learned something new today. ATS system seems to be so complicated I understand that the job market has changed dramatically It seems for many people, the ATS may be a real obstacle to finding a job today. You really have to focus on having your resume at best and learn how to use the right keywords while the job search experience is seldom easy, it looks even harder to me today.I heard from a student telling its easier to get a job tight out high school because employers don’t want to pay for the experience.Thank you so much for sharing this educational article, I will have to share this with my children.Jacqueline

  24. Lemme ask this, Do all online business employers use ATS to get the best potential employer. This ATS is really black and white it is obviously not all that perfect it might filter wrong employees and end up giving pathway to an employee that isn’t really all that fit or qualified for the work post. This is a really helpful post I just saved the post for future reference cause am sure I will need little things count “use of abbreviations. Date,  miss formatting” and much more that you’ve mentioned are things potential employer should be looking out for if they want to get the job. I think this post is incisive, precise and really helpful to all job seekers you’ve made a great deal with this write up nice article

  25. The frustration of not getting picked for even an interview after writing a very good résumé is overwhelming. Causes me to even question my abilities. Really happy I stumbled on this, I never knew there was an automated system that handles résumés of applicants.

    Thanks for this information. Now I’m more equipped to beat the system. At this pace, soon humans would have no jobs and computers will do everything. I’m worried for humanity

  26. I never knew that ATS was a thing. This article has proven to be quite valuable I think. Before getting the job that I am in now, I had applied for well over what feels like fifty jobs and done everything correctly regarding follow up. What type of fonts do the trackers recognise, I am forever being creative and maybe this was my problem in the first place? 

  27. This was a very helpful article for me because I didn’t know that this Applicant Tracking System exists. This is a very good thing and if you learn how to create a right resume and send a proper application for a job, it can be very helpful. Your tips about how to use this to reach your goals and find a good job are very good. I am sure that with this extra knowledge anyone can create better applications.

  28. I have totally no idea that I was interacting with ATS when submitting resume online. In fact this is the first time I heard about ATS. It would have saved me lots of hassle if I had came across your article earlier. 

    And all the while I was wondering why I had such little luck for online job application. Thank you for revealing to us those tips to ‘beat the robot’.

  29. Although, it clearly can be unfair to some individuals I do find great value in the ATS. First of all, the time savings are just immense. At the end of the day, it is all about the time and how effectively you can use it. Thus, the help of narrowing down the low-qualification applicants and having more time to devote to the actual people who might be a great fit for the job is insanely beneficial for the business.

    I did find the tips for how to manage through the ATS really helpful. My hope is that many job-seekers find this! Hope this goes viral.

    Cheers, and have a Great One!

    Matiss

  30. Wow. Knowledge is truly powerful. I’ve never heard of Applicant Tracking System ATS until now. I somehow knew employers had a way of sieving applications but I had no idea it was this kinda automated system. You’re going to save a lot of job seekers out there with this article. Thanks alot. 

  31. oh how i hate the ATS! I lost my job back in 2018 and struggled to find a new one over year and even after applying to close to 150 i got only 3 interviews!

    I understand the benefits of automation but something like recruitment should not be down to an algorithm. recruiters need to call the candidate and speak to them to truly understand if they are a good candidate for the role.

    you cannot put a person and their years of experience in a 3 page pdf box! you just cant!  

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