Did You Already Pass an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?
If you recently came across a job opportunity where you expected a lot of applications to go in – then you should also have taken into account the fact that your application might have to pass an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Sometimes they are also (more euphemistically) called Talent Acquisition and Management Products (TAMP).
What is an Applicant Tracking System?
An Applicant Tracking System is a software that helps recruiters (companies, headhunters, even platforms like LinkedIn, etc.) to automatically compare incoming applications with the job profiles. Hence, if a company gets hundreds of applications to a job offering this is a very efficient way to sort out all the applications that are far away from really being considered for the position. The ATS works a bit like search engines and uses a keyword-based approach.
ATS can be purchased or are freely available as open-source programs, often in the form of a SaaS. So, they are not only a means for a big multinational – but you have to expect them also while applying for a job at a small or medium business.
After having sorted out all the applications that, according to the ATS, do not fit the job profile, the rest of the applications will be considered by a human being.
This leads us to the question…
How to beat an Applicant Tracking System?
1. Don’t forget the human that follows
Before you adapt your application, I believe the most important thing is to keep in mind that after successfully passing the ATS your application will be read by a human being. So, it does not make sense to only focus on the ATS and forget everything that comes afterwards.
2. Use their own weapons
The machine works with keywords from the job offer and tries to match the keywords from your application with those. For us, this means that we have to give the machine what it is looking for. We are here doing some kind of SEO – search engine optimization – as we know from website optimizations.
The machine tries to read out from your resume and your CV the necessary information. In order to do that it tries to base itself on existing headings in your papers. The most common structure Automatic Tracking Systems use are the following:
- Contact Information
- Work experience
I propose to work with exactly the same headings in your CV. Don’t make it complicated by devising any similar words. These words fit very well. Feel free to change the order, if you like. The order is not important for the ATS. So, really, stick to the KISS-approach and keep it simple.
4. Layout, KISS again
Also for the layout: Don’t do fancy things, even if you are into creative design or similar jobs. Automatic Tracking Systems sometimes get confused if there are strange design elements on the papers. This could lead to wrong scannings, wrong interpretations, wrong attributions – and the kicking-out of your application.
5. Acronyms, Abbreviations & Co.
Be very careful with this kind of words. Acronyms, abbreviations, etc. are not the same everywhere. Job titles differ wildly and might entail confusion, too. Try to use what you see from the job offer or what you know from the company. Stick as much as possible to their words but don’t over-adapt on the other hand.
6. Hard skills count more than soft skills
Ok, it’s not fair, but experience shows that recruiters and their machines search less for soft skills. Try therefore to focus on hard skills like “Financial Services Auditor” or “Marketing Campaign”.
7. Proofread (you always should!)
As with any application, proofreading is important. Ok, here I am a bit picky. If I go through an application and there are some spelling mistakes, it just shudders me with disgust. So important is his/her application that he/she was not even able to do some proper spell checking? I mean, one single mistake I normally forgive, that can really happen. More are not trustworthy.
However, we are speaking about the machine: With spelling mistakes, we are facing the problem that the ATS could be misled by any wrongly written words and again your application could fall out of the process.
With these tips from PhD Career Guide you should be able to beat the Applicant Tracking Systems. If you are interested in some automated help (“Beat them with their own weapons!), I have a proposition. I have found a great system that works like an ATS itself – like pre-checking your application. It is the CVScan.
CVScan works like this: First, paste the text of your CV, Resume, Cover Letter, or LinkedIn profile in the left box on the site. Then, paste the text of the job description in the right box, select an industry and press the button SCAN.
It will then show you missing skills in red. If you have experience with these, review them in the job description and add them, if suitable, to your CV. Your match rate should come to 80% or better. This leads to a high probability of your application being passed on to humans.
Get 10% off with THIS LINK TO CVSCAN and the Code CVSCAN10