What is an ATS system?
ATS is an acronym for "Applicant Tracking Software". This is software used by organisations, both large and small around the world, to help streamline the process of recruiting new employees.
To try and illustrate how it works, I'll run through an example of how an employer would utilise an ATS system to recruit for a vacant position.
Firstly, the employer would identify the need to recruit a new employee to fill a specific role. This role would have a role description and a set of desired skill sets and experience for a potential candidate to possess.
This description and list of desired skill sets would then be passed on to a recruiter, so that they can then develop an advertisement for the vacant position, outlining the prerequisites that the employer is looking for in potential applicants.
This information is then loaded into the organisation's ATS system, and from there, the job advertisement will be uploaded to the chosen recruitment platform, such as Seek or Indeed for example.
From here the ATS takes over the bulk of the initial screening process. Based on the information entered by the recruiter, the system goes about filtering applicants, to ensure only the most suitable make it through to the hands on screening stage. This saves recruiters and employers a lot of manpower and time, by not having to sift through any candidates that would be deemed unsuitable for the role.
So how does the ATS filter out applicants? Well this is where the quality and format of your resume comes into play.
You see the ATS is just a software program. It relies solely on the initial information that was input by the recruiter, to determine if your application is up to snuff. It does this by primarily matching keywords from the advertised role description and your resume.
So if the role is looking for someone with experience in "Microsoft Excel", and your resume says that you're "proficient in all Microsoft Office applications", you might think that you're a shoe in. But as far as the ATS is concerned, nowhere in your resume does it say that you have any experience in Excel. Human beings know that Excel is part of the Office group of applications. But if the job role description specifically said "Excel" and your resume doesn't, it will flag that prerequisite as missing and potentially eliminate your application from the process altogether.
However, the answer isn't to just copy and paste the advertised job description into your resume. Even if that did fool the ATS, you will eventually end up having your information reviewed by a human being. Who will be quick to notice the ploy.
Your resume needs to be honest and forthright. But you also need to ensure that it's written in a way that accurately addresses required keywords, so that you aren't shooting yourself in the foot with semantics.
The format of your resume also matters when it comes to ATS. To search your resume for the desired keywords, the software needs to performing a process called parsing. This basically involves the ATS scanning your resume and then storing the information contained within your resume in its programming, so that it can be searched at will by both the software and recruiters.
The issue with this is that most ATS systems can only see plain text on a page. It doesn't recognise pictures, or words contained within text boxes, graphs or charts. A picture on a page isn't going to harm the parsing process, but if you're relying on pictures, text boxes, or graphics to display vital information that isn't otherwise contained in plain text, then the software won't see it.
A good way to test your resume's compatibility with parsing software, is to simply highlight your entire document, then copy and paste this into a blank Notepad window on your computer. If any vital information is missing when you paste it into Notepad (which is a simple plain text application) then chances are that it may not be getting picked up by the ATS. And again, your application will be kicked to the kerb.
Another great tool that is currently available, is Jobscan. Jobscan is a site that allows you to copy and paste the content from your resume onto their page, followed by copying and pasting the text from the job description, for the position that you're applying to. The software (which works using their own ATS algorithm) then provides a score, based on how well the resume is formatted and how well the key skills and experience (keywords) match those from the job description. The service is currently free for up to 5 scans a month (2 before you are prompted to sign up). But their are also paid plans which allow you to perform more if needed.
Not all ATS systems are the same. For example, some are able to handle PDFs, where others will only handle Word documents. They're also constantly being developed and updated. This can make it hard for people to know how to approach an ATS application with confidence.
But that's where we can help. All of our resumes are formatted to ensure compatibility with ATS systems. Including our Attention Grabbing Resumes. For those wanting to ensure maximum targeting and compatibility, we have our range of ATS Compatible Resumes that are a no frills, all business option. And for those wanting to be prepared for any opportunity we have our Complete ATS & Attention Grabbing Resume & Cover Letter Package. With this package you can be confident that you'll be prepared to take advantage of any career opportunity that comes your way.
If you'd like more information on any of our services, or to learn more on how we can help you to overcome any ATS hurdles, please contact us directly and we'd be happy to help.