Unraveling the Mysteries of Applicant Tracking Systems

When I explain to job seekers that they need to have 2 resumes (one for physical presentation, and one for online applications) I usually get a blank stare or a long pause. When I ask if they have ever heard of, or understand, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), I usually get an almost apologetic “uh, well, no…” as if they think they should have heard of such a creature.

The fact is, I would no more expect the average job seeker to know about ATS than my accountant would expect me to know about the latest tax ruling. Especially for those only recently looking for new employment, there would have been no reason for you to have heard about these systems.

In short, ATS are software systems used by the vast majority of employers to screen applicants’ resumes. Sadly, the consequence is that upwards of 70% of all resumes received for a particular position are rejected by the systems, and therefore are never even considered. Even more sadly, these systems are flawed in their ability to evaluate important criteria, and quite regularly reject perfectly suitable applicants.

Therefore, it is essential that you not only have a great resume on paper, but also a resume that is designed to navigate “The System.” There are many odd little tricks for designing the ATS friendly version. The following article by Meridith Levinson published in CIO does a nice job of explaining how ATS works and how to work around it: http://www.cio.com/article/


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