What is ATS?

  • ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) is a software application extensively used by recruiters and HR professionals to screen and organize candidate profiles during the hiring cycle.
  • From a job seeker’s perspective, an ATS is a tool that screens candidate resumes for specific keywords, experience, background, or training when they apply for a job posting. This, along with candidate contact information, resume, and cover letter, is uploaded to a database. HR personnel then use this candidate file to screen candidates, contact them, schedule interviews, and eventually hire them.

Why is an ATS used?

  • The software application helps companies/employers scan and track job applications and available requisitions, thus organizing the recruiting process.
  • ATS is highly efficient in streamlining the process and saving time, money, and resources.
  • ATS can help make the hiring more compliant
  • ATS helps in making the communication more efficient within the teams and with the candidates.

What is ATS tracking?

  • An employer can set numerous filters based on their requirements and assign weight to different filters and keywords. They can use several screening criteria to filter out candidates by assigning ratings or scores to each candidate’s resume based on the filters.
  • Some examples of filters that employers can set are:
    • Key words
    • Educational background
    • Skills, qualifications, degree
    • Length of employment experience
    • Geographical location
    • Past job titles
    • Relevant job posting titles
    • Professional designations
    • Industry-specific buzzwords and jargon
    • Work authorization
    • A series of knockout questions
    • Social media presence

How to find out if an ATS is used?

  • If an application is available on a website or with an easy apply button, it is likely that an ATS is used.
  • If, while applying, the applicant is redirected to a different webpage, it is probably an ATS. You can also check the web address, for example, Workday, Bamboo HR, ADP, etc.
  • Check for vendor branding information. For example, advertisements like “powered by XYZ.”
  • If, while making an online application, applicants have to answer a series of questions, an ATS is screening applications with knock-out questions.
  • Unless the candidate hands in the application to a specific person via email or paper, ATS engagement is possible.
  • ATS are readily available and sometimes are free of cost. Major, mid-size, and large organizations are using it.

What is the solution?

  • 50% of keywords from the job posting should be included in the resume; use critical keywords more than once. However, overuse of keywords should be avoided, and they should only be used in a relevant context.
  • Keep a simple format – include bullet points, avoid graphics, tables, borders, lines etc.
  • Resume sections should have headers – Education, Experience, etc. and other common headers.
  • Do not use an embedded header for your contact information.
  • Add sections directly related to the job posting and as relevant as possible.
  • Use a known format – .docx, .doc, .pdf – if there is a format specified, use that.
  • Consider answering all the questions in an online application.
  • Make sure your LinkedIn profile is aligned with industry keywords.
  • Add employment dates – month and year.
  • Proofread the resume several times – avoid typos, missing words, etc.
  • Spell out the acronyms and abbreviations at least once. For example, CDP (Career Development Practitioner), use whatever is in the job posting.
  • Use a generic font style – avoid design and fancy fonts. Calibri and Times New Roman are generally recommended. Avoid adding keywords in white font to increase the ATS readability. Modern ATS can scan through this.
  • Label your files clearly – FirstName.LastName.docx etc.
  • Keep in mind that the resume will reach an HR person or manager once it passes through ATS, and this is who will ultimately make the hiring decisions.
  • Make sure to follow all the instructions in the application package.
  • Test out your resume from a free online ATS tool. Example: