Blog Article

'Applicant Tracking Systems', and how to beat them

09 October 2019

Have you tirelessly been applying for job roles, without any luck? Then it is time to look inwards and adjust your CV, to look at the quick changes you can make to turn any ‘no’ into a ‘yes’.

The three-letter synonym that you may not know may be the solution to all of your recruiting woes- ATS.

This refers to the ‘Applicant tracking system’, which fundamentally manages the recruitment process for a large proportion of businesses worldwide. This piece of software sifts through your resume to extract the key pieces of data, to provide a clear, and concise view on your suitability for a given role.

This automation in the recruitment process can now effectively render three-quarters of CV’s as inadequate for the desired role before they even reach the desk of a recruiter.

The accessibility of job opportunities in the digital era has justified the integration of a system, which can successfully sifts away the metaphorical dead weight, and produce candidates who both meet and supersede expectations. This software is highly prevalent within modern recruiting, with 98% of FTSE 500 companies currently using ATS in application process according to Jobscan[1].

This system shall not change – only improve as time passes. Therefore, it is the prerogative for all candidates to look inwards, and make the relevant changes to their CV, to ensure that they do not get left behind.

You have gained your experience. You have done the time. You have done everything necessary to get to this point. This guide shall make sure that this does not go in vain; with 5 easy steps you can make to beat the system:

  • Keywords
  • Job titles
  • Qualifications & Skills
  • References
  • Formatting

The most effective, and easy step for optimising your CV starts with the inclusion of keywords. Ensure that you carefully research and select those terms that are relevant to both your field of interest, and most importantly, the role in question.

The job description is your key to the safe – recruiters are actively informing you of their desires, so make sure you align yourself with their desired candidate.

Additionally, make sure that you include both soft skills (proficiencies that can be applied to any job) and hard skills (specific to your industry/field) in your application.

Visit: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/resumes-cover-letters/hard-skills-vs-soft-skills?from=careeradvice-US, for more information.

The simplest advice within this step is to standardise your job role (title). These are the key words that carry the most weight in your CV after all.

ATS will effectively scan your resume to ensure that you are the best fit for the role in question, and this often relies on a host of factors pertaining to aspects such as: management experience or suitability for the role.

(With this said, please do not be put off by this! Lacking the experience within the desired role does not put you out of the running!)

Clear, standardised job titles are infinitely more effective than over-complicated roles that fail to give insight into your role. Simply put, if ATS does not understand your CV, it won’t be selected.

I would strongly advise you to spend the time thinking about your skillsets in relation the desired roles; tailoring your CV to the employer is good practice in any scenario, especially when detail-orientated software is involved.

Similar to the key words, the skills you have should align with the role in question. Make sure you include all of your proficiencies to give yourself the best chance at success; you might think certain things are not important for the role, but ATS may have a different opinion on the matter. So boast everything you have to offer the potential employer.

This is extremely similar to qualifications; you have worked hard to be in the position you are today. So again, I urge you to rack your brain, and spend a sufficient amount of time focusing on yourself, and how good you are.

But please, make sure that you use both the acronym, and the full-length term in relation to your qualifications.

For example: you may have completed a MSC (Masters of Science) degree, however, if not explained in full, this may be confused with an MSC (Magazine Safety Certificate) issued by the Ministry of Defence. While this is highly unlikely, it illustrates the need to be very specific in your resume, and dyer effects of people understanding complex acronyms.

When conducting research into how to write your CV, you may have come across a standardised format, which tells you to list your educational background, work history, and provide the employer with a short summary of yourself. However, you may have also been told to include your references.

Do not follow this advice. References within a CV can sometimes be mistaken for your ‘own’ details by the ATS, which causes tremendous confusion, and potential backlash- especially so, if your manager is contacted to attend an interview that you had applied for.

A simple section at the bottom of your CV indicating that your references are ‘available upon request’ is recommended.

While some candidates favour design over substance, there are some major pitfalls with following this route, especially so, if you do not format it correctly. ATS favours either Word Documents or .docx formats above all else when considering your application, so it is best practice to ensure that this is followed; either by changing it yourself, or using software specifically designed for converting document types[2].

Furthermore, whilst the font you use may look incredibly modern or sleek, you may be hurting your chances of employment. Similar to the above, ATS favours certain font types; namely, ‘Calibri’, ‘Cambria’ or ‘Times New Roman’. This small difference shouldn’t be the difference between an interview, or not, but sadly this is the case with ATS.

Lastly, there is a tendency for the software to not recognise tables or charts at this point in time; meaning vital information from your resume may not ‘make the grade’, and help you secure your dream job.

This guide has covered the quick tips you will need to help your chances of getting recruited, and hopefully provided you with some pivotal information to improve your CV. These small changes, if made together, can be hugely influential for your job prospects, and take a very small amount of time to administer.

While the business you applied for may not use ATS, it definitely does not hurt to format your resume in a manner that adheres to its principles to metaphorically ‘cover your back’.

Best of luck- it’s hunting season.

By: Nathan Manley



[1] https://www.jobscan.co/blog/fortune-500-use-applicant-tracking-systems/

[2] https://smallpdf.com/pdf-to-word

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