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Today a large part of the job search is done using technology, from social media to job applications, keywords and presentation are going to have a huge impact on how often you are noticed by employers. When you apply for a job, the first system you will encounter is the Applicant Tracking System or ATS. The Applicant Tracking System acts like the gatekeeper to the employer. It begins with you filling out your application, filling out the questions and tests required and uploading your resume. Applications come in various forms, some simple and some very complex depending on the employers needs.


So what do you need to do to understand how ATS works, and get your resume to show up for the employer?

How ATS works

Applicant Tracking Systems work based on keywords, acquisition numbers, and search functions. ATS is designed to make it easier for the recruiter to sort through upwards of 900 or more resumes to find the right candidate to contact. It’s designed to make the recruitment process easier and less time consuming. With some tracking systems if you don’t fill out the questions properly or don’t pass the online screening you resume might not even show up! This is why it is so important to ensure you take the time to process your application properly and with detail. An Applicant Tracking System will also keep your application on file, there is less risk of your resume going missing! ATS systems have different functions such as keyword search, star rating systems, and they can be used to record information from applications or interviews you had in the past. Think of ATS as a Google search, you will only put in the words or phrases that will provide you with the results you want.

How can I make ATS work for me?

Keywords – Using the language of the employer is the first thing you must take into consideration. This doesn’t mean you should copy and paste their phrases. It means you should make use of the words they use more frequently in their job posting and website. For example, if they make use of the skill RFP or Request for Proposal make sure you have this in your application if you have worked with that before. Also many companies like to use words like Leadership or Innovation, if this is how they describe things, ensure that you work those aspects into your resume! Recruiters are usually going to search using the position title they are hiring for. They will often also search with similar industry titles, software required to preform the job or duties essential to the position.
Another thing to remember is that ATS systems use methods to determine if the keyword context is relevant to what is being searched for by the recruiter. Therefore, ensure that if you are editing your resume you are putting the information in the right context.

Understand how Boolean Search works – The Boolean Method is how recruiters will search to find the best candidates. The Boolean search is a method that entails using AND, OR, NOT, (), +, – and “”. This will pull up the candidates with a combination of qualities that the recruiter is looking for, rather than simply looking up one term at a time. If you have more of the qualities that the employer is looking for, and have the information on your resume then you have a much better chance of turning up in the search results. Recruiters will often use a combination of the Boolean search and single term searches while recruiting!

Application Completion – Ensure that all aspects of your application are complete. Ensure all information is filled out using proper punctuation and spelling, this is one of the first things employers will see. Also check your email after you submit the application, at times there could be additional steps to complete such as aptitude or personality assessments. If you miss this step your application might not make it into the pile!
When you are applying for jobs online to help identify if your resume will be going into an email inbox or an ATS system check for the following;
ATS – will usually be on the website, require a login, and require you to fill out several pieces of information.
Email – If your resume is going to an inbox it will come in the form of a simple email address or a contact form on the website where you can add an attachment.
The biggest thing to remember when applying to jobs online is to ensure that every single application you send out is customized to the employer and has relevant statements of the work you have completed that matches what they are looking for!
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