Let’s Play the ATS Software Game

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System, which is exactly what it sounds like – software that filters and analyses the job applications.

As a jobseeker, you’ll benefit by learning how to play the ATS game. I can help.

It’s understandable why people who hire want to use the ATS systems. Like any electronic management tool, they simplify the process, letting a computer tackle the job of narrowing the pool of applicants.

But what if you are in that pool? And you want to make the cut, get that interview? Once you understand how ATS works, chances are much better that your resume will score points instead of getting tossed in the recycle bin.

Here’s Why Companies Love the System

Instead of sorting through what could be hundreds of applications for one particular position, a recruiter or hiring manager working with an ATS has access to a search system like the one that exists online with Google or Bing or Yahoo. He can type in what he wants and a list of ideal candidates pops up.

It’s all based on résumés. (What else is new?)

Different software companies have developed different tracking systems but they all offer the same benefits for employers. They:

  • Automatically screen out applicants who lack the required skills, education or experience for the job.
  • Make it easy for companies to comply with federal employment laws that forbid discrimination based on age, gender, and ethnicity.
  • Streamline the process of reporting to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by collecting data from candidates who apply for work.
  • Let everyone within the company who is hooked into the system share applicant résumés and notes, making internal communications smoother.
  • Understanding the Tracking System

    If a résumé isn’t structured in a way that fits the applicant tracking system, it can enter a black hole. That means that even if you are a perfect fit for the job, if your résumé isn’t structured to talk nice to the ATS, the recruiter or hiring manager won’t even know about you. You’ll be just a benchwarmer.

    One advantage for jobseekers applying through an applicant tracking system is that some systems automatically notify a candidate whose résumé doesn’t fit the job. When you submit a résumé manually for a position that’s in demand, employers generally don’t have time to send you a reject notification.

    But when you get an ATS-automated notification that your application has been rejected, you can look for other approaches to be considered for the job, like using your network contacts. You can also tweak the résumé, or simply move on to other opportunities. There will be other teams happy to have you join them.

    An ATS will pull out certain information from your résumé and place it in specific fields within the its database. These fields include contact info, work experience, education, and skills. Then the system analyzes the extracted info to see if it matches the criteria that the position demands.

    It will look for the number of years you register with any particular job category. It will read how long you’ve worked with a certain skill. Then, it assigns your résumé a score, ranking you compared to other applicants.

    The way the ATS manages this ranking is by searching keywords. It will look to see if certain keywords appear and the number of times they appear.

    It will look for how keywords fit into your work history or your education, or how recently you used a certain skill. If you were on the track team in high school, it won’t rate you as high as competing in the latest triathlon.

    It will check to determine the relevance of keywords in context. In other words, does the keyword or phrase appear with other keywords you would expect?

    The higher your résumé ranks, the more likely it will end up being reviewed by a human reader. You’ve made it through the goalie!

    ATS — It’s Not a Deal Breaker!

    Applicant tracking systems see some keywords and phrases as more valuable than others. A system can let a hiring manager fine tune his search by assigning greater significance to certain terms or qualifications.

    He can also apply filters to narrow his search. A geographic filter might screen out candidates unwilling to relocate. An education filter might boot candidates without certain certificates. He can also specify keywords as either “desired” or “required.”  All these factors affect how a résumé scores.

    Brad Pitt could have used an ATS in the baseball movie Moneyball to help him calculate those important on-base and slugging percentages, and then zero in on his best drafts.

    Companies that create applicant tracking systems continue to refine their processes and algorithms. Their systems are becoming less expensive as more providers enter the market.

    There are no clear statistics about the number of companies using applicant tracking systems, but it’s clear that those numbers will continue to grow as the software’s cost comes down. The systems are currently being used primarily in midsize and larger companies. Almost all Fortune 500 companies use ATS software.

    Any time new technology is introduced to the hiring process, it’s a little threatening for jobseekers. Don’t let the new ATS technology scare you. There are a number of excellent ways we can find all the right keywords that are going to help you rank high. I will help you structure your résumé so it makes its way through the system to win the game and land you that interview.

    Photo: www.good-infos.com

    Author: Mir Garvy

    I’ve written resumes for 2,000+ job seekers just like you—and helped my clients land jobs with companies like Amazon, SAS, Google, Duke University, Travelocity, Cisco Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, Expedia, and IBM.