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What is ATS? How to Write a Resume that Gets Past the Bots.

Gone are the days when you apply for a job– either online or offline – and you’re rest assured of, at least, getting a fair ‘hearing’ as your resume will be reviewed personally by Human Resource personnel but in recent times, the fear of your application not standing much of a chance because the infamous six-second resume review test known popularly as an Applicant Tracking System has made many applicants give up before they even apply.

Therefore, the question is, what do you need to know about Applicant Tracking System and what can you do to optimize your resume and beat these robots? Well, here is a good and simple guideline to get you started.

Definition of Applicant Tracking System

An Applicant Tracking System is a software or technology often made use by recruiters and employers during the hiring process. Its main work is to collate, arrange, scan and rank the job applications received for the open positions.

Applicant Tracking System was initially founded to help large companies and corporations with the arduous task of streaming thousands of applications they receive but as it stands, this tool is being made use of by both big and small companies now. In fact, over 98% of Fortune 500 companies make use of an Applicant Tracking System, according to research.

How Applicant Tracking System Works

When you submit your resume and application letter online, it doesn’t go straight to a hiring professional, rather, it’s first being processed by an ATS and upon fulfilling its criteria, recommends you to be hired. It may search for keywords or use AI from algorithms which runs an in-depth analysis of the job applicant.

There are different ATS models, each with its features, flaws and strengths. Some are Taleo, Jobvite, CATS, Greenhouse, SmartRecruiters among others. In essence, if you are applying for a job through any online website, there is a greater possibility of you going through an ATS.

Depending on the features of the ATS chosen, some ATS can store resumes in a database even after the job applied for has been filled.

This way, recruiters can search and sort through their database easily if a future need arises instead of putting out a call and having to sort through another batch of applications.

Also, most ATS can automatically match your resume to the job description and see if your application is suitable to be considered in the first place or not; so it scores the resume based on the job description.

This way, the recruiter can focus on candidates that the ATS has matched to the job description. The goal of an ATS is to speed up the Human Resource Personnel’s work of reviewing job applications and resumes by helping to sort and rank applicants.

Most have features that can send automated responses, send interview reminders out and also alert people on its database of recent job opportunities.

The ATS market is competitive as there are over a hundred ATS developed over time. In essence, ATS is considered an essential tool for a recruitment management system.

Therefore, any technology that deals with recruitment falls under the umbrella term – ATS. An ATS is also useful in tasks such as writing job ads, making job offers, keeping in touch with prospects and liaising with job boards in order to streamline job postings. In essence, they keep track of every activity that takes place as far as job opportunities are concerned.

Some ATS are user friendly and has features such as chatbots which can be used to relate with applicants and render assistance in the completion of the application, where necessary.

Other features include; keeping applicants engaged, updating them on their status as regards to the job applied for and notifying them if any additional information is required.

There is no one-way to which ATS filters and sort candidates as their level of intelligence varies, however, a typical ATS will send the applicant a series of questions – in response to a resume – to learn more about the applicant.

Another factor that, most times, plays into recent ATS is the ability of such ATS to analyze a company’s past hiring decisions, using information retrieved on measures or characteristics of top-performing employees to set a guideline or quota for the recent hiring process.

In essence, the goal of these newly developed ATS technologies is to lessen or eliminate bias present in the recruiting and hiring process. Job sites are not left out of those fast subscribing to ATS usage as they want to be known for more than dishing out job opportunities.

Now, most of them boast of being able to rank applications on how well they meet the qualifications required in the job advertisement.

How to Write a Resume that Passes the Bots.

From the detailed explanation given above, we can agree that it is essential to have an ATS-friendly resume when applying for jobs online. To do this, there are key factors to consider;

  1. Job Application

Ensure that you apply for only the jobs that you are qualified for. Don’t apply for a job that’s not relevant to your qualifications as it will be sorted out by the ATS. This doesn’t mean that you should make your job application linear, especially if you are looking to try out a new career path but ensure that you have top/core skill set needed for the job. Also, try and avoid applying to multiple openings or positions in the same company unless they are similar; while you may feel that you have all the necessary skill sets to satisfy both positions, the hiring manager of such company might interpret it as uncertainty on your part of your capabilities and skills, therefore, you might not stand a chance of being called for an interview. Apply to the position you know you are most suitable for but you can apply to many job opportunities in different companies.

  1. Keyword Searches

A way common to recruiters for filtering resumes using an ATS is by inputting keywords to search for, targeting specific skills and titles. For example, if a recruiter is hiring for a ‘Customer Relationship Officer’ position, the first step will be a search for ‘customer relationship’, this way, applicants that have worked in exact or similar positions before will be isolated and focused on. Sometimes, such searches can include two or more keywords. In light of this, when preparing your resume, ensure that you include contents that will match with such keywords and the only way to figure out how to do this is to analyze the job description and tailor one’s resume towards that. In essence, ensure that your resume is tailored well to a specific job description every time you apply.

  1. Dealing with Parsing Algorithms

When an applicant uploads his resume into an ATS, it parses it into a digital profile along with others to make things uniformed and easy to access. This, however, doesn’t favour applicants as these parsing algorithms are outdated and unintelligent in many ATS, especially, the early and popular ones. It causes an applicant’s resume to get distorted and important information is most times not updated to the tracking system, for instance, imagine your top skills not getting mentioned. The way to work around this is to ensure that section headings are kept as simple as possible and also, the use of consistent formatting for work history and dates is encouraged, do not make use of logos, tables, text boxes, images, graphics or other visuals, headers & footers and columns and lastly, ensure to use a .docx or .pdf file format.

  1. Combination Resume Format

Use a chronological/hybrid or a combination resume format instead of the functional one. this is recommended because without a clear work history to draw from, the software wouldn’t know where to start in sorting different sections of texts.

  1. Font

Stick to traditional resume fonts such as Times New Roman, Aerial, Calibri, Georgia, etc.

  1. Headers and Footers

Avoid using headers or footers as the information contained may get lost or cause a parsing error.

It is important to note that; even though optimizing keywords is good, you don’t want to overstuff your resume so it doesn’t look artificial and far from what it really should look like. In essence, don’t put anything that you cannot defend during your interview, instead, focus on making your resume the best form built on your possessed skills. Also, before submitting your resume, you can make use of apps that help you scan to see if your resume is ATS-friendly or not. You can also access such on some websites online.

The need for features that discouraged and filtered out unqualified applicants during the great recession gave rise to distended application processes and haphazard filters found in ATS today, moreover, ATS has come to stay as it is an essential tool for many companies.

On the other hand, some new ATS has being developed for the current age and is being embraced by some companies.

Therefore, the earlier we agree that ATS is here to stay, the better as we’ll then work towards having an ATS-optimized resume which will ensure that we get past the bots and face to face with a person in the flesh.

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