23 October 2017
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Applicant Tracking Systems and how to beat them

Ever wondered why you aren’t getting invited to job interviews. It could well be down to a ATS (Application Tracking System). This automated software acts as a robot gatekeeper and is being used by an increasing number of recruiters to receive, store and search job applications. 


The rise of the ATS
Technology has made it easier for employers to publicise their vacancies to a mass audience via their own website or third party job boards. It has also become a lot easier for people to apply for jobs, all it takes is just a few clicks. These two factors combined has meant that companies can get a huge response to each advert they place, making it tough for them to sift through all the noise and find the right candidate. 


What is an ATS
It is a piece of software that receives, processes, stores and searches submitted CVs, resumes and Cover Letters. Its detractors say that it is a glorified database used by lazy recruiters who do not want to spend the time reviewing applications. However, others say it’s more than that, and praise it as a complicated piece of software that streamlines candidate management from sourcing right through to submittal. All of this before a real person even sees any paperwork. For its supporters it’s an ideal way of sorting through thousands of CVs, to determine which one best fits a particular vacancy. It can be used to;

  • post jobs
  • receive applications
  • screen CVs
  • store CVs
  • search CVs
  • invite candidates for interviews
  • generate reports


The importance of an ATS
The whole process of reviewing and evaluating CVs is evolving fast, its therefore vital that you understand exactly how these systems work and how best to optimize your CV, Resume and Cover Letter for them. 
Application Tracking Systems use algorithms to read documents and make a split-second decision on whether to accept or reject an applicant. For a job seeker, the first step to getting a job interview is to make it past this stage. 

Another point to remember is that in the past it was mostly big companies that used Application Tracking Systems. however, in today’s era a growing number of smaller companies are also beginning to use them.  


How they work
Essentially your CV contains the keywords, skills and qualifications that a prospective employer may be interested in. An ATS will basically search your CV for keywords that the employer is looking for. It will downgrade or reject your CV according to the results, the more it finds the more ticks you get, the less it finds the less ticks you get. CVs with the highest matches (scores) relevant to the searched for keywords and phrases combined with other factors such as your years of experience will be marked for further review. All of this is different to a Hiring Manager who has to read your CV and who is more likely to reject you on the grounds of spelling errors or lack of relevant skills. 


How to beat an ATS
Your can do a number of things to optimise you CV and get it highly ranked by them. Here are some tips;

Customise your CV to the job you are applying for
This is an excellent way to stand out from those who send the same CV to every job. Find the skill sets required and be sure to include them in your CV. 


Read the job advert – find the keywords
Job adverts are an excellent source for finding those competencies that the employer wants. Read them carefully, make a list, and then mirror these in your CV.   


Avoid keyword stuffing
A word of caution, don’t go over the top with your keywords. Having too many can get you struck off. 


Don’t confuse the ATS
Avoid using fancy tables or fonts in your CV, as some Applicant Tracking Systems may not be able to understand or ‘read’ these and reject your application. 

Spelling errors
If you misspell a keyword or skill then the ATS software can’t read it and will ignore it.  


Fonts
Stick to commonly used conservative fonts like Times New Roman and Calibri. Avoid unusual or fancy ones that the ATS may not be able to read. 
 

Headings and section titles
Use standard headings like ‘Work Experience’ or ‘Education’. The ATS can understand these. Avoid titles like ‘About Me’, these can confuse it.
 

Layout
Try to use a flowing chronological format where everything flows in sequence.  


Format
Its best to use a simple text based document like MS Word rather than say a PDF. This is because some older systems may not be able to read PDFs. 


Benefits of an ATS for employers
Recruiters like it because it is an automated processes that reduces paperwork, cuts costs and saves time by stopping HR staff from having to manually go through paper applications. It is a system that streamlines the hiring process by allowing users to quickly capture information, and store, view and edit records within minutes. In a high-volume recruitment environment it can help Hiring Managers to be more organised and allows them to automatically generate interview requests to potential candidates by e-mail. 

Aside from the above it also helps to source and keep the details of talented candidates for potential future openings. This enables the company to build a valuable talent pool even when they are not currently recruiting.

 

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