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Understanding ATS: The Gateway to Successful Job Applications

“75% of qualified candidates are rejected by ATS because the systems can’t read the resume correctly.”  Source: www.hqhire.com   

In the modern job market, the competition for employment opportunities is fierce. As a result, many companies rely on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to streamline their hiring processes. ATS software plays a pivotal role in managing and processing job applications efficiently. In this blog post, we will dive into what an ATS is and how it processes job applications, shedding light on this essential tool for both job seekers and employers.

What is an ATS?

An Applicant Tracking System, commonly referred to as ATS, is a software application that simplifies the recruitment and hiring process for organizations. ATS serves as a digital gatekeeper between job seekers and employers, ensuring that the hiring process is more efficient, organized, and fair.

Key Functions of ATS

  • Resume Parsing: ATS systems are designed to extract and parse relevant information from resumes and cover letters submitted by job applicants. This process allows the software to categorize and store data such as names, contact information, work experience, education, skills, and more.
  • Job Posting and Distribution: Employers can create job postings within the ATS and distribute them across various job boards, social media platforms, and their company website. This broad reach helps attract a diverse pool of candidates.
  • Candidate Database: ATS systems maintain a database of all job applicants, storing their information for future reference. Employers can search and filter candidates based on specific criteria, simplifying the process of finding suitable candidates for new job openings.
  • Screening and Ranking: ATS software enables employers to set specific criteria and qualifications for each job opening. When applications are received, the system can automatically screen and rank candidates based on how closely they match the job requirements.
  • Communication: ATS facilitates communication between employers and candidates through automated email notifications and status updates. It ensures that applicants are informed about their application status throughout the hiring process.

Creating an AT-compliant Resume

In an article by Robert Henderson, CPRW, Resume Expert in www.jobscan.com, he provides 6 tips to create an ATS-compliance resume:

  1. “Find the job title and put it in your resume headline.

    Examples include: 

    “Results-Oriented Business Analyst with 7 Years of Experience”

    “Finance Manager with 10 Years of Experience in the Banking Industry”

    “Human Resources Professional with 5 Years of Experience in Recruitment and Employee Relations”

  2. Find relevant skills and add them to your resume [if you have them].

  3. Use keywords properly so the ATS can read them.

    For example, a job description might ask for “leadership experience.” Try to include the exact keyword phrase “leadership experience” on your resume. Don’t simply list your leadership roles. 
  4. Choose an ATS-friendly resume format.
  5. Make your resume easy to scan.

    Resume formatting tips:
    – Use simple, clear language to make it easy for both ATS and humans to easily comprehend your data.
    – Use a commonly used font like Garamond, Calibri, Times New Roman, Arial, or Helvetica to appear professional.
    – For font size, use a 11-12 pt. for regular text, and 14-16 pt. for section titles.
    – The margins should be about 1 inch on all sides of your resume to avoid overcrowding.
    – Dates should be formatted in one of two ways: MM/YYYY or “March 2022”. Do not use the year only.
    – Feel free to use bold, italics, underlining, and of course, bullets (but stick to the standard bullet circle or square)
    – Use a Word document or PDF so the ATS can easily scan it.
    – Always proofread your resume carefully – a single error can result in rejection.
  6. Things to AVOID when formatting your resume:

    Do NOT use headers and footers. These can make it difficult for the ATS to parse your information correctly.
    – Do NOT use special graphics, images, or symbols. Again, the ATS might get confused; keep it simple.
    – When it comes to section headings, don’t get too creative or fancy. Use traditional headings like “Work Experience” or “Education”, which won’t confuse the ATS.”   (Source: https://bit.ly/3TXi2pd)  

How ATS Processes Job Applications

Now that we’ve explored the core functions of an ATS, let’s delve into how it processes job applications step by step:

  1. Application Submission: Job seekers submit their applications, typically in the form of resumes and cover letters, through the company’s career portal or an external job board. Some ATS systems also support video and audio submissions.
  2. Resume Parsing: Once the application is received, the ATS parses the resume and cover letter to extract relevant information, creating a digital profile for the candidate in the system.
  3. Keyword Matching: The ATS scans the application documents for specific keywords and phrases that match the job description. The closer the match, the higher the applicant’s initial ranking.
  4. Screening and Evaluation: Based on the predefined criteria, the ATS ranks candidates and identifies the most qualified individuals. Recruiters and hiring managers can then review these top candidates, often within the ATS dashboard itself.
  5. Communication: ATS systems automate email notifications to keep candidates informed about their application status, from initial receipt to interview invitations or rejection notices.
  6. Interview Scheduling: Many ATS platforms offer interview scheduling tools that allow recruiters to set up interviews with selected candidates directly through the system.
  7. Tracking and Reporting: Employers can track the entire hiring process within the ATS, generating reports and analytics to assess the efficiency of their recruitment efforts and make data-driven decisions for future hires.

Applicant Tracking Systems have revolutionized the way companies handle job applications and streamline the hiring process. They not only save time and effort for employers but also enhance the overall experience for job seekers by ensuring fair and efficient processing of applications. Understanding how an ATS works can empower both job seekers and employers to navigate the competitive job market successfully.

Additional Resources:

  1. How to Create an ATS-Friendly Resume in 2024
    Written November 14, 2023 by Robert Henderson, CPRW, Resume Expert
    Article Link: https://bit.ly/3TXi2pd

  2. How Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) Work in 2023 | Tips for ATS-friendly Resumes
    Presented by Marie Zimenoff, CEO of Career Thought Leaders
    YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ig_m1PI5pGk