Applicant Tracking Systems

Companies that previously got dozens of applicants when they put an opening in the newspaper now receive thousands of resumes from online job boards. Hiring managers can’t possibly sort through that many applications, so most major companies now use applicant tracking systems to do the heavy lifting for them. By optimizing your resume to fit the system parameters, you can move to the top of the list and set yourself up for success.

How do applicant tracking systems work?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is essentially a software program that companies use to organize and rank candidates. The ATS software looks for keywords in your resume and online profiles that a company’s recruiter has indicated would qualify someone as a good candidate. The difference between an ATS and a human hiring manager lies in what each is looking for when reviewing resumes. While humans are more likely to look for disqualifying information to weed out a percentage of candidates, an ATS looks for certain keywords that demonstrate value. That means that the key to beating an ATS is to make sure your resume checks all the boxes the software is looking for.

How do I take advantage of an ATS?

The best way to get applicant tracking systems to work in your favor is to optimize your resume and application to feature important keywords. Be sure to include keywords and phrases that you see in the job description as these are likely at the top of the recruiter’s list, and therefore the ATS program. You should also conduct background research on the company to find out more about their work culture, mission, vision, and values. Understanding the company as a whole can give you a better idea of what the ATS and recruiter are looking for. It’s impossible to know exactly what the software will be searching for, but by mirroring your resume to the job post and doing your own research, you can greatly increase your likelihood of getting past the ATS and into an interview.

Beyond the resume

If you want the best chance at securing your dream job, optimization shouldn’t end with your resume. While ATS’s are focused primarily on your resume and other application materials, many companies also use programs that scan social media channels for potential candidates. By including keywords in your Twitter bio, for example, you can increase your chances of getting noticed by an ATS, or at the very least, reinforce a hiring manager’s decision to bring you in for an interview.

Below you will find more information and resources on applicant tracking systems:

Eight things to know about applicant tracking systems

Secrets of applicant tracking systems

How to beat the ATS and secure an interview

How social media factors into applicant tracking systems