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Some Thoughts About ATS

One of the seismic changes in today’s job search world is the advent of the ATS – automated tracking system. Before you submit your online resume (or actual application), there are a few things that you might want to keep in mind.

To begin, watch that first step, it’s a killer. The first applicant screening is a pass/fail where most applicants are eliminated. Some experts estimated that as many as 75 percent of job applicants are being shut out by an ATS.

Why? Because if your resume doesn’t fit the job description keywords, your application is dead in its tracks. And some of these screenings can be very precise. For example, if the job description specifies proficiency in “Microsoft Excel” and your application says “Microsoft Office,” despite the fact that Excel is part of Office, the system is looking for an exact match and you’re out!

Clever formatting won’t help your cause either. Formatting may still matter in the in-person, hard-copy world, but online it doesn’t matter. You might as well skip the graphics and other niceties because the ATS won’t see them.

Many ATS will tell you what formats it will accept. However, one recruiter cautions to not assume that a particular system will accept a pdf. As many as two-thirds of the working systems may not read pdf’s unless they specifically say so. The most widely accepted format is still Microsoft Word. However, a pdf is perfectly acceptable as an attachment.

One thing in the applicant’s favor is that the employer’s ATS can tell you something about that company. If the company has a mobile application app, that employer’s site is probably up to date and reliably functional. On the other hand, if they don’t have a mobile ATS, that system is probably not current and is subject to technological flaws.

One other consideration: you’re probably going to become frustrated if the submission process is too cumbersome. But, keep this in mind, by the time you’ve become impatient, that 30-year old competing applicant has abandoned the process by then, thinning the herd in your favor.

We’ll leave you with a reminder from a recruiter who is an ATS expert: she says that online systems can only collect data. Word of mouth is still the most powerful job search tool you have and… of course, people still hire people.


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