Nov 20
ATS Explained: The ins and outs of the Applicant Tracking System software
Rick M

“You see, ATS,” my friend explained to me one day, “is a robot that reads applications and rejects bad ones automatically!”

“Uh huh,” I replied.

“It can scan your education history and cross-check it with today’s academic standards to see if you stack up to the job! If you attach a photo of yourself, the robot can scan your retinas and check for mental illness!”

There is a lot of misinformation regarding ATS out there. It’s often so poorly understood by applicants that their resumes never had a chance of making it in front of a real, live hiring manager.

And that’s the point, isn’t it?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a filtering device that allows recruiters and hiring managers to analyze digitally-submitted applications and eliminate lower quality candidates with the click of a button. Employers use the power of ATS to sift through the applications and see which ones have potential based on various filters, some listed below:

  • Keyword usage
  • Punctuation
  • Grammar
  • Format
  • Graphics (if any)
  • Page length

It’s a relatively simple and innocuous process that has sent countless applicants’ resumes into swirling oblivion.

But never fear! is here to help you better understand this software which, incidentally, rejects up to 72% of applications submitted. It’s the most terrifying acronym in the job hunting jungle: A-T-S.

No special fonts

Stick with reliable classics like Times New Roman (the standard), Tahoma, Trebuchet, Arial, Georgia, or Impact (for headlines).

If you’d like to use more than one font, try Calibri, Cambria, Candara, Consolas, Constantia, and Corbel—in pairs or small groups. These typefaces were created with computer screen legibility in mind.

Use keywords & key phrases from the job posting

Don’t mirror the language exactly, but perform a diligent scan of the job posting and pick out key words and phrases that you think are core to the position. Then talk about them in your application. If you’re applying to be a restaurant manager, the words “hospitality” and “food service” are likely in the posting—and should be in your resume, too.

That said…

Forget trying to game the system

Keyword stuffing is a dumb idea. Don't bother!

Don’t lose hope

If you send an application to your dream company and don’t hear back immediately, don’t give up!

ATS software stores submissions and organizes them in its database. Then when the company looks to fill a position, the hiring manager can search the database by keyword, looking for qualified candidates.

Your application might not have made the cut for this job, but you may very well be a fit for another one down the road.

Remember: every application you send should be unique and custom-crafted based on the job posting and any research you may perform. This is a lot of work but in today’s job market, it’s expected.

The results of quality, in this case, far outweigh the results of quantity. If you want an ATS-optimized resume and cover letter that targets hiring managers and recruiters directly, go with a career services pro. 

Published in November 2016 by

Order Now