Did you know that when you submit a job application online, it’s probably read and filtered by a robot before a human ever sees it? No, this isn’t Star Wars, folks—just the 21st century job market. And that “robot” is something called an applicant tracking system (ATS).
There’s no way around it, but there are a few things you can do to help your application pass through the system to get to the next stage (human interaction)! Here’s everything you need to know about ATS so you can beat the bots and get a real, live person to look at your resumé.
What Is an Applicant Tracking System?
An applicant tracking system is a type of software that helps filter and sort online job applications so recruiters can find the people who are the best fit for their company. Since most companies get hundreds—if not thousands—of applications, an ATS is a time-saving tool for HR because it can filter out spam and applicants who aren’t a good match, store resumés for future job openings, check references, and do other things that help with the hiring process. (Basically, it separates the sheep from the goats.)
But the downside is that sometimes a perfectly good application can slip through the cracks because it doesn’t meet all the criteria the ATS is looking for. Luckily, there’s a way to help prevent that!
How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?
Every ATS is different, but when you submit an application online through an ATS, you’ll usually be asked to answer some “knockout questions.” These can be short answer, yes/no or other simple questions that are used to screen candidates and quickly filter out the ones that are a definite no. Think of these as deal breakers you might ask about on a first date. For example, if the company really needs someone who’ll work weekends, but there’s no way you can or want to, then you’re just not a good fit for the job, and the ATS will reject your application.
If knockout questions aren’t part of the company’s ATS—or if your answers are compatible with what they’re looking for—your resumé, cover letter, background info and contact info are uploaded into the system and can then be used to keep narrowing down the candidate pool and help recruiters continue the search.
How to Beat an Applicant Tracking System
Even if your application does get uploaded into the database, there are still some things that can stop your resumé from making it to an actual recruiter. Here are 3 tips to help your resumé beat the ATS!
1. Use the keywords from the job description.
In this situation, keywords are the hard and soft skills that the recruiters are looking for in a candidate. For example, a job description might list experience with Excel or fluent in Spanish as requirements. Those are keywords you want to make sure you include on your resumé because recruiters usually search for candidates based on those exact terms. If you can work them into your resumé more than once in a way that feels natural, go for it. And be honest! The company will find out pretty quickly if you don’t have all the qualifications you said you did.
One more pro tip: If the keyword you want to use can be abbreviated, use both the spelled-out version and the abbreviated version. For instance, if you’re talking about your college degree, say Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) instead of just BFA.
2. Edit your resumé to fit the job you’re applying for.
Because you’ll be tailoring your resumé based on the keywords, you definitely won’t want to keep submitting the same document over and over to multiple companies. Not only will it be harder to beat the ATS because you might not have the exact right keywords from the job description, but any recruiter who sees your resumé will be able to tell if it’s just a generic one that you send to everyone. And that sends the message that you don’t really care about working for their specific company.
3. Don’t apply for too many roles in the same company.
Along the same lines as that last point, don’t apply for 20 different roles within the same company. It’s okay to apply for multiple roles if the positions are similar, but don’t apply to be a marketer, copy editor, customer service representative and developer at the same organization (even if you have the skill set for all of the above, which is seriously impressive). It just looks like you’re not sure what you want to do, and it will definitely raise some flags.
If you’d like to read the whole article from Ken Coleman, you can click here!