Applicant Tracking System. What it is and How to Make it Love Your Resume

highly-targeted-automotive-marketingAn applicant tracking system is essentially an electronic resume-screening program that businesses use to filter out unsuitable resumes, thereby reducing the number of resumes the humans must eventually read.  ATS’s are used by all large corporations (like Tim Horton’s and Walmart), most big companies (like Stuart Olsen), all Government agencies, all School Boards, City Departments, some Towns and Municipalities, City Police, RCMP, Banks, and on and on.  Even smaller companies with large employee turnaround, like many small construction companies, use an ATS, and you might be surprised by which companies in your community use them.

Applicant Tracking Systems save companies tens of thousands of dollars a year in recruitment/acquisition costs and even smaller companies recognize the long-term value of these systems. ATSs do far more than just weed out undesirables — they manage the entire recruitment process from resume-screening to managing the paperwork on a new hire. So, it is not surprising to learn that perhaps your neighborhood mechanic shop uses an applicant tracking system.

Even when you walk into a store, restaurant, or whatever type of business it may be, and physically hand your resume to someone, often times they take your resume to the HR department or manager’s office where it is then fed into a scanner that uploads it to that business’s ATS.  So while you may have been told, “Thank you, I’ll make sure the manager gets it…”,  there’s every chance what they meant by “manager” was actually “ATS”.

Some companies, particularly those who do get a lot of walk-ins, use an ATS to ensure their hiring practices are fair. While applicant tracking systems are highly customized to suit the specific requirements of each business, they also are neutral.  An ATS doesn’t know you may be the receptionist’s cousin or the foreman’s nephew so if you do get selected for an interview, no one could claim it was because you got preferential consideration and cause all kinds of nightmares for the business.

So how do you get an ATS to love your resume?

The best way is to ensure you are qualified for the position you are applying for.  No sense applying for a job you have no, or few, qualifications for.  People argue with me all the time saying there is nothing wrong with dropping off a generic resume because you never know when you might be in the right place at the right time. I don’t argue back because that’s true.  There are no hard and fast rules about how to apply for a job and there are as many ways to do it as there are jobs to be had.  But if you are committed to a serious job search with the intent of getting a job fast, do yourself a favour and find some job postings that can help you customize and target your resume.

Applicant Tracking Systems score your resume based on how well the information in it matches the job requirements. Those free government-funded employment centres call that “skills matching”, but there is much more to an ATS-friendly resume than simply listing a bunch of bulleted lines mirroring the skills and qualifications described in the job posting.

While ATSs scan your resume for the keywords and keyphrases used in the job posting, they also recognize when those keywords and phrases have merely been regurgitated into a resume.  A resume that matches too closely (that is, a 95 percent or higher match) may actually be flagged by the ATS and ultimately disqualified. You’ll have to put some work into incorporating the job posting information into your resume organically, using as many of the keywords and phrases as you truthfully can but being sure not to overuse them.

At the top of this post I mentioned that an ATS is used to filter out unsuitable resumes. But what if you are well-suited to the job you’ve applied for and still didn’t get a call for an interview?  In that case, it may be you had enough keywords and phrases in your resume to get past the ATS, but not enough, or not the right information to impress a human. Ultimately, it is a human being who decides who to call for an interview, so while you are tasked with making sure your resume is ATS-friendly, you must also ensure it will appeal to a human being. If you have the skills, qualifications, and (in most cases) experience, but you aren’t getting interviews, I urge you to try to realize that resume-writing these days is almost an art. A lot of people think they can do it themselves but, unless they have done a lot of research and a lot of practicing, they really don’t know what makes a great resume that will get past an ATS, and, impress a human reader.

Alright all you job-seekers, there it is for today. Remember, since I am an expert resume-writer I can develop your resume and cover letter for you, so don’t stress! Believe me, there is no shame in getting a professional to write such an important document for you. And, as always, I want your feedback and comments so I can make this blog really useful and helpful to all job-seekers.

Thanks for your time today!



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