Are you not hearing anything from some of your recent applications to job openings? Perhaps they aren’t even reaching the hiring manager. With the modernization of recruitment, a lot of companies will use an Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to go through either small or large volumes of job applications. But what exactly is this? Keep reading to find out what is an ATS, and what is the best approach, as a candidate.

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

An ATS is a software application that aids the recruitment department in analysing candidates. The system scans a CV and takes out relevant information that the candidate meets, based on the job specification. Some ATS software are free and open source. An ATS can be very similar to customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

Who uses ATSs?

An ATS can be used at small-business levels to multinationals, depending on the needs of the organization. According to Jobscan, almost 99% of Fortune 500 companies utilize ATS software. As previously stated, there are various freely available ATS, so some smaller businesses will use the software quite often. Large businesses like Starbucks, Nike, and U.S. Bank using established player Taleo, for example. Also start-ups like Airbnb, Venmo, and Squarespace using Greenhouse.

Why do employers use ATSs?

Employers hire for multiple positions at any given time and receive hundreds of CVs therefore. As applying for a job online is now simpler than ever, many of these applicants are unqualified and sometimes apply for the sake of it.

The ATS software keeps all applications in one place, making this easier for hiring managers. Like we mentioned before, an ATS will take out the information needs based on what the job spec is looking for. So it can save the hiring manager time in contrast to manually going through each CV and checking each candidate has the required and desirable requirements.

Who are the key brands in the ATS space?


Via Jobscan

And how do Applicant Tracking Systems operate?

Viewing Applications

Like previously mentioned, an ATS stores all applications together. It’s therefore easier for hiring managers to flick through applications see each CV’s highlights – previous roles, outcomes and experiences. So it’s very important to make sure your key highlights are visible.

Automatic Rankings

Usually, ATS platforms will rank applications based on how accurately they fit the job description. For example, Taleo calls this feature “Req Rank”.

Keyword Searches

As stated previously, it is very common for hiring managers to filter through CVs using key skills, highlights, and roles.

For example, out of 250 job applicants for a Business Analyst position, the first filter the hiring manager will usually apply is “Business Analyst”. This will showcase those who’ve met the first requirement, any other applications won’t be highlighted.

The hiring manager can add multiple key terms to their search. In our example above, they might look up “Project Management”, “Numerical Skills” or “Advanced IT Knowledge”.

Depending on the role you’re applying for, predicting what the key terms the hiring manager is looking at will best help your standout amongst other applications. The best method in finding out which skills and keywords to include is by analysing the job description.

Do I need to update my CV for ATSs?

As you already know, when you upload your resume into an ATS the recruiter won’t necessarily view the file. Instead, they will search for key terms. This causes big problems for job seekers and candidates. Some ATS parsing algorithms can be outdated and unintelligent, causing your CV information to get distorted or lost. This means vital details and highlights might not be imported. In order to create an ATS-friendly resume that is readable by these outdated systems, keep section headings simple, format for your work history and dates consistently, use very few images or tables, and save the document as a .docx or .pdf file format. Whether you’re a recent grad or looking for a role in tech, it’s a good idea to update your CV and tailor it to ATS software.

General Tips and Advice

  • Carefully tailor your CV to the job description every single time you apply.
  • Optimize for ATS search and ranking algorithms by matching your resume keywords to the job description
  • Use both the long-form and acronym version of keywords (e.g. “Master of Business Administration (MBA)” or “Search Engine Optimization (SEO)”) for maximum searchability
  • Use a chronological or hybrid resume format (avoid the functional resume format)
  • Don’t use tables or columns as they often cause major parsing errors
  • Use a traditional resume font like Helvetica, Garamond, or Georgia
  • Don’t use headers or footers as the information might get lost or cause a parsing error
  • Use standard resume section headings like “Work Experience” rather than being cute or clever (“Where I’ve Been”)
  • Save your file as a .docx if possible

To conclude, an Applicant Tracking System scans through recent applications to a job post to highlight appropriate information in regard to a job specification. From small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to huge multinational corporations utilize some sort of applicant tracking system. Your CV will be scanned and possibly ranked among other applications. It is possible that hiring managers won’t fully look at your application, instead search for key terms and requirements. So, calculating what key terms might be included in the ATS search will help boost your CV. Since some applicant tracking systems use outdated algorithms, updating your CV to suit ATS Software will also guarantee your application reaches the hiring manager quickly. Keeping all this in mind will make sure you optimize your CV for ATS Software!

Written by Emma Sheridan

Ingenio Learning have recently hosted a webinar all about ATS Software. Our CEO Rob Magee even gave real-life examples of CVs going through an applicant tracking system. Fill out the form below, to receive a recording of this session:

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