Navigating the Applicant Tracking System

November 19, 2020

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software that employers use to find the most suitable candidate for a specific role. According to Jobscan, 95 per cent of Fortune 500 companies use an ATS to streamline their hiring process. ATS reviews resumes and qualifies candidates that match the job criteria. As a candidate, it is important for you to optimize your resume and learn how to navigate the ATS. 

Consider these these best practices to get your resume past the ATS and into the hands of hiring managers:  

1.    Apply the Right Format  

Most applications fail to make it through an ATS because of poor formatting. Newer tracking systems are capable of interpreting graphical elements, but some companies still use traditional ATS’s that have a tough time processing formats that include charts, graphics, or unique layouts. Apply a universally acceptable font throughout your resume, such as Arial, Times New Roman or Georgia. Replace charts and graphs with bullet points and common section headers such as “Work experience” or “Professional summary”.  

2.    Customize for Keywords  

ATS determines your fit for a position based on the keywords used in your resume. Customize your resume with relevant keywords from the job posting. Incorporate terms that best help to highlight your experience and skills. Align your resume with specific software, certifications and experience mentioned in the job listing.   

3.    Add a Skills section 

A separate skills section within your resume is another way of including relevant keywords that don’t necessarily fit well within the work experience section. Only mention skills that you possess, not because it appears in the job listing. Always remember that once your resume passes an ATS, it still needs to impress a hiring manager. Eliminate any unnecessary information and stick to what is true.  

4.    Avoid the “one-size fits all” approach 

Submit a tailored resume for each job. Job descriptions and requirements vary from one job to another so make sure to craft a compelling resume that is specific to the job and company you’re interested in. One of the easiest ways to pass through an ATS is to apply for roles that match your education history, work experience and skills.  

5.    Be Selective with Your Applications  

Applicant tracking systems store resumes in a database that hiring managers can access even after a job has been filled. Recruiters have access to your application history and the number of times you’ve applied for different roles. Make sure that the roles you apply for within one organization are suitable and match your expertise. Too many applications to a wide range of roles can signal to a recruiter that you lack specificity in your career objectives. 

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