Understanding Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)
Applicant tracking systems (ATS) is a term that has been propagating throughout the internet over the past few years when it comes to applying for jobs. Candidates often inquire about ATS and want to know if their resume will work correctly with the systems. Professional resume writing companies will tell you that they optimize their resumes for ATS, but what exactly is an ATS and why should you care?
What is an Applicant Tracking System?
An applicant tracking systems (ATS) is used by employers to manage job applications and store information that candidates input into the system. The ATS is a system that helps recruiters sort through the thousands of resumes to find the most qualified candidates for the specific positions.
Many of the ATS today include expansive features that not only sort through resumes but can send out automatic replies for denials, store candidate information, screen out candidates, schedule interviews, provide analytics on the candidates applying for the positions, offer video and digital interviewing capabilities, and even conduct background checks.
Why Companies Use ATS?
Just as companies use numerous software applications to manage their customers, ATS allows companies to keep track of potential employees. According to Jobscan, 98% of Fortune 500 companies utilize some form of an ATS. Ongig analyzed 3,705 employers and found that they used a total of 99 different ATS’s, with some using more than one.
The most notable ATS benefits for companies is that they improve candidate experience, save time/money, and enhance the recruiting strategies. ATS improves candidate experiences by making it easy to apply to multiple positions within the same company and many are mobile friendly. Businesses save time and money since they automate repetitive tasks and deliver organized data to hiring managers that allow for a smoother recruiting process.
Finally, ATS enhances an organization’s recruitment strategy by providing detailed analysis on recruitment activities that helps them identify areas for improvement.
How do ATS work?
Although there are countless ATS currently being used, they all share similarities. A candidate will initially respond to a job opening through a company’s website or job board and upload their resume. The information from their resume can usually be extracted to quickly fill in many of the sections required. LinkedIn and Monster also both have quick apply procedure that expedite the candidate process.
Once a resume is inputted into the ATS along with the other applicants, recruiters can perform a relevant keyword search for the specific job that includes the most important skills, qualifications, education, certifications, etc. Some ATS can be programmed to automatically conduct these searches. Also, some companies may include a disqualified question to quickly eliminate candidates who fail to meet the minimum requirements.
The ATS will typically score candidates based on including the most relevant keywords from the job description. The ATS can even search for all candidates within the system that may not have applied for the specific position but meet the primary requirements. Finally, after filtering the hundreds/thousands of resumes for the specific job, recruiters will view the highest scoring resumes.
How to Optimize Your Resume for ATS?
The easiest way to optimize your resume for ATS is to include the most relevant keywords (which are listed as “required” or often repeated in the description) that is applicable to the specific job description. The best way to do this is by including how you’ve utilized the relevant keywords in your experience.
For example, if “presentation” is a repeated keyword, you can include in your resume summary something like, “extensive history of organizing and executing large-scale presentations, both domestically and internationally” versus just listing the keyword. Avoid trying to include a list of all keywords in a hidden format just to score high in the ATS. If a recruiter sees this, they will quickly dismiss your resume and can even blacklist it in the company.
In addition to including the most important keywords, you want to ensure that your resume is formatted properly by not including tables, graphics, colors, fancy fonts, accented words, and incorrect headings. Your resume should use a standard Word document, simple formatting, and have 100% accurate spelling. The best resumes may not be the prettiest but will be very utilitarian and easy to read by both computers and humans.
Most companies today use some form of an ATS that may differ in their functionality and complexity. It is very important to have at least a basic understanding of ATS’s. Be certain to include the most relevant keywords from the job description in your resume.
Finally, ensure that your resume is correctly formatted and doesn’t include things that don’t function well with the ATS (graphics, tables, colors, etc.), which will nearly guarantee that your resume won’t score high and be seen by a person.
Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for service-members transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.