What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) & How Does it Affect Me?


In a world where technology is incorporated in everything that we do, it is no surprise that recruiters and hiring managers use technology and it's systems to carry out their jobs. Today, 99% of Fortune 500 companies, as well as, a growing number of small and mid-sized businesses use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to collect and sort through thousands of resumes. Learn how ATS work, what they do with your resume, and how to beat ATS to ensure that your resume gets seen by the human decisions makers who schedule job interviews.


Photo from Grace Madlinger


Have you ever considered how goes on behind the scenes when finding and hiring new employees? Creating a job description, posting on job boards, keeping track of every application, screening resumes, phone calls and emails with candidates, scheduling interviews, making offers - the list goes on. All of this can add up quickly, especially if the company has a manual hiring process. That's why so many companies - 99% of Fortune 500 companies - are turning to applicant tracking systems (ATS) to manage their hiring process.

What is an applicant tracking system?

An applicant tracking system is a collection of digital tools on a single platform that aids in the recruiting process. ATS make is possible for recruiters to manage every step of the recruiting process all in one single place from the convenience of the screen of their desktop or mobile phone.

An ATS also serves as a repository for applicant data and automates communications with potential candidates. It homes all of the candidate information and can confirm a candidate's application has been received, keep them up to date on when their application's status changes, or prompt them to confirm an interview time.

Applicant tracking systems have been credited with translating to better efficiency, productivity, and quality of hires. Roughly 83% of recruiters claim that utilizing an ATS has helped them hire faster, and 78% say it's increased the quality of the candidates they hire.

All of this may sounds great, but what exactly does it mean for a candidate?

Resume Formatting Matters in Applicant Tracking Systems

When completing your application with a company, most will ask you to upload your resume into an applicant tracking system. Doing so, doesn't guarantee the recruiter will necessarily view the file. An ATS will parse your resume into a digital profile to make things uniform and searchable. However, ATS parsing algorithms may cause your resume information to be distorted or lost, meaning vital details might not be imported.

Creating an ATS-friendly resume that is parsable is the best way to ensure that your information gets pulled into your profile.

How to Beat Application Tracking Systems

There is no universal solution to beating an application tracking system. Getting past an ATS and landing a job interview requires a well-written resume that is mindful of ATS algorithms and is tailored to the job description.

Here is a short list of things you can do to better your odds of getting through an ATS:

  • Include keywords in your resume that match the job description

  • Use a chronological resume format

  • Don't include tables or columns as they often cause major parsing errors

  • Use traditional resume fonts like Times New Roman, Helvetica, Garamond, or Georgia

  • Don't use headers or foots as they may get lost

  • Use standard resume section headers like "Work Experience" rather than trying to be clever like "Where I've Been"

  • Save your file as a .docx or .pdf is possible

Beating an ATS isn't impossible but will require a good amount of attention to detail. Workforce Ready, LLC guarantees to create resumes that beat ATS to ensure that all of your information is parsable. Contract a Workforce Ready career counselor to develop your ATS-optimized resume that will get past the bots and get you face to face with an actual person!


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