Understand Applicant Tracking Systems & Ace Job Applications


August 03, 2021

In the past, our biggest obstacle in the job hunting process was getting past the HR or the recruiter’s desk. Nowadays, UK companies are relying on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to scan through the resume pool before a pair of human eyes takes a look at them. 


What is ATS?

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) is a type of software used by companies or HR firms to sort, scan, and rank the job applications they receive for their open positions. Initially, it was created for larger multinational companies that were dealing with several hundred, if not thousand, job applications per posting. According to Jobscan, 99% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS to assist with the hiring process. This includes companies like Starbucks, Nike, Airbnb and Squarespace. Nowadays, smaller firms and businesses are relying on ATS for the pure convenience and cost efficiency it offers. 


Each system is different but the main goal of ATS is to filter and organize applicants according to the scope and requirement of the position. When you submit an application, the ATS automatically extracts information from your CV to build a digital applicant profile, allowing recruiters to quickly dismiss applications that are underqualified and identify top-ranking candidates. 


Why is ATS used and which UK employers are using ATS?

The process of hiring and training a new employee costs employers money and therefore they want to organize the process as effectively as possible. ATS offers the ability to select candidates with the optimal skills and experience for the job, making it easier for the hiring team to complete the rest of the hiring process and streamline the application process.


There are some drawbacks, however. For example, if you are a job seeker and you do not use the appropriate keywords or filter terms in your resume, then your application might be dismissed or red-flagged. This has caused some concern that some highly qualified candidates are eliminated from the applicant pool due to formatting issues or lack of the correct search keywords. Therefore it is important to always follow correct formatting, use fonts and keywords in your resume to reduce your chances of having your application rejected by the ATS.


How do you determine if your CV and application will be filtered through an ATS? The rule of thumb from recruiters is that if you are not directly emailing a CV to an employer, and instead must upload it with your application, then you are most likely dealing with an ATS. As such, it’s helpful to err on the side of caution and submit an application that is already tailored for the ATS process. 


How to prepare your resume for ATS

Seeing as how ATS is becoming increasingly popular in the UK, it’s important to prepare your application as best as possible to beat the software and have your resume stand out. It may sound all doom and gloom but there are ways to beat the ATS. 


Be sure to keep the following in mind when preparing your CV and cover letter.


1. Keep it simple. Do not provide a fancy or stylized resume as the AI in ATS cannot read it. Instead, opt to upload a plain text word or pdf with traditional fonts and formatting

2. Use bullet points. Long sentences and paragraphs will do you no favours

3. Include keywords. Whatever words the job description uses, be sure to include them in your CV so the ATS tracks it. Action verbs are your friends here. 

4. Make sure the title matches. If the role is looking for someone who was an editorial assistant, be sure to write editorial assistant instead of assistant to the editor. 

5. Use standard resume section headings like “Education” and “Work Experience”

6. Do not include graphics, pictures or other stylized additions

7. If the ATS offers you the chance to upload and manually type your resume, do both, to avoid having your application looked

8. Run your CV through an ATS test like this one. A quick scan through before formally submitting can help you out. 


Although not entirely refined and maybe somewhat unfair, ATS is here to stay. Increase your chances of success by understanding ATS and preparing an application that is tailored to the company, role and ATS.


Written by Lubna


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