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Understanding Applicant Tracking Systems

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What are Applicant Tracking Systems?

In 2019, it’s crucial to have an understanding of applicant tracking systems. Did you ever wonder why, after submitting dozens (sometimes hundreds) of job applications, you never hear anything back? The answer is, most likely, an applicant tracking system.  An applicant tracking system (ATS) is just what it sounds like. Picture a complicated piece of software, sorting and determining which applicants move on in the hire process and which ones don’t. With the increasing supply for jobs, companies need to streamline their hiring process. Before your resume lands on the desk of a corporate recruiter, it often goes through the ATS.

It’s no mystery to any job seeker that applying online is becoming the new norm. Job seekers who submit their resume and job application through an online form are interacting with an ATS. Basically, ATS helps them achieve this goal while making your goal of getting a job more difficult. It sucks right? Also, you are less and less likely to not encounter them. They are becoming increasingly more popular: 98% of Fortune 500 companies and a growing number of small and mid-sized businesses filter resumes through an applicant tracking system before someone takes a look, assuming they ever do!

Why Do Companies Use Applicant Tracking Systems?

Admittedly, it’s easier to apply for jobs these days! I still remember printing off fifty or so resumes and delivering them by hand to business after business. Although this was laborious, it gave me a chance to show off my wonderful personality! However, the relative ease of submitting an online job application has created a challenge for hiring companies. Online job postings can elicit hundreds of applications, many of which are from unqualified job seekers hoping for the best. Instead of sorting through a stack of paper resumes or crowded inbox, recruiters and hiring managers use ATS to keep themselves organized and efficient.

This solution is especially critical for larger companies that are hiring for multiple positions and departments. Among other features, ATS offer Customer-relationship management (CRM)-style tools to help streamline hiring pipelines, communication with applicants, distribution of job postings, and proof of government compliance. All in all, they are quite useful and save the company’s recruiting department a lot of headache.

Why Are Applicant Tracking Systems a Problem for Job Seekers?

understanding applicant tracking systems Corporate recruiters utilize ATS to extract useful information from an applicant’s resume to build a virtual profile that is ranked, filtered, and available for search. Essentially, applicants profiles end up in a data bank for further consideration, or the ATS culls them out. This narrows the applicant pool and identifies the top candidates. This works great for the companies but not so well for applicants who lack an ATS ready resume.

Unfortunately for job seekers, most ATS lack sophistication and cannot always search and filter candidates reliably. Often, applicants with great qualifications fall through the cracks because their resume has formatting issues or lacks the correct keywords. This is a necessary tradeoff for many hiring professionals with limited time and resources. In order to get noticed, job seekers must optimize their resume for ATS.

There are dozens of ATS currently in use by companies big and small. A few of the more popular ATS include:

  1. Taleo (Starbucks, Boeing, Nintendo)
  2. iCIMS (Southwest Airlines, Uber, Amazon)
  3. Greenhouse (AirBnb, Pinterest, WeWork)
  4. Jobvite (Zillow, Spotify, Logitech)
  5. Brassring (Disney, GE, Lockheed Martin)
  6. Lever (Indiegogo, Lyft, Shopify)

Some large companies develop their own proprietary applicant tracking systems, such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook. This adds to the importance of having a customized and professional resume which is carefully tailored to the job you’re interested in and meets basic formatting requirements of ATS.

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