3 things you need to know about Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and how to beat them.

Applicant Tracking Systems


Have you ever heard of Applicant Tracking Systems, otherwise known as automated recruitment scanning software?

Well, if you thought today’s recruitment process was as simple as getting your CV seen by a recruiter then think again. A growing number of businesses and entities are now using Applicant Tracking Systems to filter your CV before it is even looked at by a human being.

Applicant Tracking Systems ATS

1. So what exactly is an Applicant Tracking System?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application used by businesses and hiring managers to manage and simplify the recruitment process. These systems are used by approximately 40% of employers to process job applications and CV’s, and screen candidates for vacancies; thus separating the stronger candidates from the weaker ones. They are sometimes referred to as talent management systems or automated recruitment scanning software.

2. Why are they used?

Just imagine, top employers have several vacant positions at any given time and are often inundated with hundreds of applications per post. With online applications being easier than ever, many underqualified candidates simply chance their luck.
Applicant Tracking Systems simplify this process and digitally organise all applications in one place. This allows for increased efficiency and saves recruiter time by automatically surfacing and highlighting top candidates. However, whilst they can help recruiters narrow the applicant pool, some top candidates may slip through the cracks simply due to a lack of keywords or complicated CV format.

3. So how do they work?

Firstly, these systems accumulate and store CVs in one place for easy access. Some systems are used by recruiters who may decide to view an application at any given moment.
Others are used to automatically rank a CV and compare keywords with the job description. Recruiters will then review shortlisted candidates, only those automatically identified as a good match.
These systems may also be used for basic keyword searches. In this case, recruiters will filter CVs by searching for key skills and job titles. For example, if a company is hiring for a Marketing Associate, this is the term that will be used as a starting point, so if you are a Marketing Consultant, you won’t make the cut. Pretty unfair, right?

Recruitment Software

So how do I beat Applicant Tracking Systems and make sure that I am shortlisted for a position?

Many Applicant Tracking Systems will parse your CV based on algorithms with the sole intention of making everything uniform and easily accessible. However, a lot of outdated algorithms mean that your CV file simply ends up distorted, and therefore, disregarded.
Whilst we can’t promise that your CV will be successful in every single case, most Applicant Tracking Systems are generally quite universal. As long as you stick to the following guidelines, you are likely to achieve an improved result.

  • It is extremely important to have a well-written, keyword optimised CV which is tailored specifically to each position.
  • It is good practice to scan the job description and ensure that all qualifications and essential required skills are included.
  • Much like Search Engine Optimisation, you should increase searchability by including keywords from the job description – but don’t overdo it!
  • Ensure that the format of your CV is simple yet effective. An overly complicated CV with columns, text boxes, and graphics will not be accurately parsed by an Applicant Tracking System. It is important to note that Word file is more easily parsed and PDF files are also generally okay. Unfortunately, as modern and creative as they are, fancy info-graphic Photoshop documents are not likely to see you shortlisted.

Given that Applicant Tracking Systems are here to stay, it is important to make sure that your CV is keyword optimised and ready to be parsed. What are your thoughts on ATS? We welcome your comments.