Are Applicant Tracking Systems Helping or Hurting?

Today, I spent some time thinking about the many different HR topics I could share with you all. After some careful consideration, I felt that a post about applicant tracking systems (ATS) may be a useful subject for both recruiters and job seekers. As we navigate through the technology age, more companies are using online application systems for their job posting and candidate selection processes. This can be a very useful tool when it comes to finding a candidate/job fit. However, many recruiters and job seekers are not using it to their advantage. Thus, making the applicant tracking systems hurt rather than help.

ATSs are used to help weed out resumes and applications that are not qualified based on the job description criteria. This can help the recruiters tremendously by cutting down the time they need to spend sorting out these resumes. However, if your resume is not formatted in a way that is favorable to the system, you may be losing out on opportunity.

First, I would like to go over information and suggestions for the job seekers:
in order to properly restructure your resume in a way to benefit you, you need to know what type of information these systems pull from it. Keywords are one of the most important things you can focus on when reformatting your resume to your advantage. ATSs look for specific keywords unique to the job description and then rank your resume against those metrics. So, in order to be ranked in the top percentile, you may want to consider trying the following:

• Use keywords and phrases that are similar to the content in the job description.
• Send your resume in format that ATS can read, such as a .doc or rich text (ATSs have a hard time reading PDF format).
• Get rid of things that ATS can’t process, such as tables, graphs, or pictures.
• Don’t get too creative with your section headings. If you have “Professional Overview” for your job experience but the system is looking for “Work Experience”, your work history may be overlooked.
• Your employer and title should be presented before your dates of employment.

Those little tips could help you get your resume noticed by the recruiter which is the first step to proving that you are a fit for the job. After that, it is up to you to stand out in the interview process. Feel free to look at some of my previous posts for tips and suggestions on how to do so.

Now, onto the next part: it’s not only up to the candidate to find ways to best utilize the applicant tracking system. It’s also up to you, recruiters. I’ve done recruiting before in different roles and have used ATSs like Taleo and Field Glass. One issue that I noticed on our end (and really irked me) was the lack of documentation in the systems. I know there is only a specific amount of information that we can place in those systems for legal reasons, however, there are things you can do to create a useful and detailed history. Some suggestions of good applicant tracking from a recruiter standpoint are:

• Update statuses through the hiring process (i.e. referred to hiring manager, interview set, offer, etc.).
• Make notations of information gathered in each step. (i.e. Candidate interviewed well and has brought in an interesting portfolio that is attached to hard copy of resume).
• Document the outcome (i.e. candidate has great potential but was passed due to lack of education. Currently finishing school and is interested in applying again once he/she meets the requirement).

I feel that having this documentation could help recruiters make better decisions. If a recruiter saw that an applicant had the status of “Not Hired” in the system they may wonder things such as: what was wrong with the candidate that they weren’t hired; did the candidate interview poorly; did the candidate fail pre-employment checks; and so on. These thoughts could potentially make them pass on a perfectly good candidate. This candidate could have been well suited for the company but the recruiter would never know because the documentation wasn’t there, nor would they know which recruiter to ask if they were trying to get more clarification.

Applicant tracking systems can be great tools. They can help impressive candidates get noticed by recruiters and they can help recruiters find qualified candidates sooner. In order to make that situation happen, we must use it for its intended purpose to the best of our abilities. Hopefully, some of these suggestions will make your experiences with ATSs more successful.

_________________________________________________________________________

I’d love to hear more suggestions on how you made applicant tracking systems work for you. Send me a comment or tweet @ashlaurenperez

Some great articles to read on the subject:

5 Insider Secrets to Beating Applicant Tracking Systems
LinkedIn Q&A

Companies Mentioned:

Taleo
Field Glass

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Are Applicant Tracking Systems Helping or Hurting?

  1. JD Schwind

    Great advice for job seekers and those who offer resume assistance to candidates. I have extensive experience using Taleo and Field Glass and found these exact details to be constraints when the resume is parsed. Thnx Ashley

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