Saturday, October 13, 2012

Is Your Résumé Lost in the Abyss of ATS [Applicant Tracking Software]?

 By Mary Salvino

Companies use Applicant Tracking Software [ATS] to keep track of the hordes of résumés they receive on a daily basis.  Where once these unsolicited documents may have headed straight to a filing cabinet, or perhaps even straight to the trash, résumés that are submitted electronically allow employers to keep résumés handy and searchable in an active file.

How ATS Work:
  • Company receives the document
  • Document is scanned (dated, coded and placed in the appropriate file – administration, financial, technical, etc.) by computer software
  • Document is retrieved if and when the hiring manager submits a search request to the database operator using a keyword search to find resumes that match the desired criteria

Advantages for the Job Seeker:
  • Computers are impartial
  • Your résumés will never be misplaced
  • Computers will keep the document on file
  • Résumés can be accessed by any department in the organization

Disadvantages for the Job Seeker:
  • Computers will only ‘find’ résumés that meet the manually inputted search criteria [key words]
  • If you submit more than one résumé, as you might if there is more than one opportunity for which you are qualified, most ATS will only search the résumé with the most recent date stamp

What to Expect When Filling Out On-line Application Forms:
  • Completing the forms can be extremely time-consuming, complex and frustrating
  • The majority of ATS will not ‘allow’ job candidates to leave boxes empty – Fields [Boxes] left empty usually result in applicant/application rejection
  • Some ATS restrict the number of characters allowed to be entered in a field [Box]
  • Typically the job description and list of skills required is exhaustive
  • The job will rarely state what the job pays but the system usually requires that you complete a salary history
  • The job may require that you state and support via documentation your Grade Point Average [GPA]
  • The companies that utilize ATS also favour a policy of, “Don’t call us; we’ll call you.”
  • Overly formatted résumés and résumés embedded with pictures, headers/footers, tables, graphics and logos can be incompatible with most ATS software - If you are on an ATS that gives you the option to either upload or cut and paste into a text box, it is always better to upload the document
  • ATS identify from where or whom your résumé has been submitted – N.B. If given the opportunity, always chose to have your documents submitted to a company via a human and follow-up with an on-line application only after being directed to do so. Employee referrals are one example of applicant sourcing that most employers rank very highly.  If an ATS has ranked Candidate A as being 80 percent qualified for a given job requisition and has a source note that indicates [flag] that the candidate as also being an employee referral, it will raise that candidate’s ranking.
  • Older ATS do not recognize the difference between a candidate who has taken a course in a particular subject area and those candidates who are currently working with or in the subject area or industry
  • Spelling and grammar matters! – If, for example, a keyword is spelled incorrectly, the ATS will not find it and ‘allow’ the application to continue on to the next filter.

At the end of the day, employers are only interested in three things:
  1. The 'successes' you have achieved over the last five years
  2. Your qualifications and training
  3. How you will save or earn money for the organization

Copyright © 2012, Career Matters. All Rights Reserved. Permission to Reprint: This article may be reprinted, provided it appears in its entirety with the following attribution: Copyright © 2012, Career Matters. Reprinted by permission of the author, Mary Salvino. “Career Matters” is a blog authored by Mary Salvino, Senior Consultant for SMART Career that is dedicated to those who are seeking advice on managing their career and future job opportunities. We welcome readers to share their experiences, post their comments or ask questions about career related matters. This blog is also dedicated to those who stand a little taller each time they picked themselves up after failing and those who gained the wisdom and humility from those experiences to help others do the same. For any questions or comments that are better addressed privately, please feel free to e-mail Mary directly at