Get Your Job Application Selected By Beating ATS Bots

Joydeep Das

Joydeep Das

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: May 19, 2021

Recruitment of the right workforce in an organization is pivotal to its success. However,  hiring managers, recruiters, and HR teams find it extremely difficult to go through thousands of applications, scan them manually and shortlist them. 

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The problem of finding the right candidate gets even bigger as the size and scale of the organization increases. With different locations, departments, and designations, it is only normal for HR personnel to miss out on a few good applications.

This is why several companies have started using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Such systems are able to digitally scan thousands of applications and resumes in a matter of seconds, helping organizations greatly in the recruitment and onboarding process. 

ATS beating the bots

Today, 75% of recruitment professionals and teams use applicant tracking systems due to their ease of use, cost-effectiveness, and quick deplorability. In fact, 94% of hiring professionals and recruiters opine that ATS has positively impacted their hiring process. Thus ATS solutions are a blessing for hirers. But what about job seekers? Sadly, for most applicants, ATS systems are more of a challenge than a blessing. Let’s go through a few statistics to understand why.

  • 75% of deserving applicants are rejected by ATS for silly reasons like incorrect resume formatting.
  • 60% of candidates quit online ATS applications due to their complexity and length.
  • 80% of job aspirants found online job applications to be stressful.

Limitations of ATS

The above statistics clearly point out the fact that applicant tracking systems still have miles to go in terms of user-friendliness, accuracy, and usability. These applications use ‘bots’ or algorithms that filter candidates, which basically look for certain keywords in candidates’ applications to qualify them.

In the absence of the right format, verbiage, or keywords,  many deserving applicants are unable to reach the interview stage. Thus, if you are an applicant, you may never get to hear from a company simply because their in-house ATS system could not detect your suitability even though you might have the right skills and experience needed for a job. 

ATS software, or at least the majority of them, can reject even the most worthy applications for a role simply because they do not meet set criteria or format. If you are such a candidate, it is natural to feel disappointed and discouraged, while in reality, your application never even reached the ‘shortlisted’ stack to be seen by employers. 

Technology might take a decade to level up to its human counterparts when it comes to hiring. Thus it is up to YOU – the applicant, to figure out how to get your resumes past the bots and into the hands of the right personnel. Doing this requires an understanding of how such algorithms work and the common mistakes that are to be avoided. So let’s find out a few tactics to outsmart poorly-envisioned ATS algorithms and improve your chances of being shortlisted.

Tactics To Get Past ATS Smoothly

Applicant tracking systems typically require users to fill up online forms, uploading documents, or both. To ensure that your application gets past the ATS, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Keywords Used

    In most cases, the ATS algorithm is on the lookout for a particular word or phrase. For instance, a company looking for a programmer may have its ATS looking for words like ”developer” or ”software programmer”. Depending upon the role, the ATS might also look for words like “Fresher” or “Experienced” in your application headline. Hence it is a wise idea to make a list of all important keywords in your industry and use them in your application.

    For examples of keywords’ usage, you can check out LinkedIn profiles for similar roles and find out how they have used it. However, it is also important not to stuff your application headline with keywords unnecessarily since too many of them can cause your application to get flagged. Moreover, even if the application goes past the ATS, a keyword-stuffed application is difficult even for human eyes to boost recruiting process.

  2. Job Description

    In most cases, the person who has written the job description is the one who has programmed the ATS. Thus the applicant tracking software is designed to look for the very same words in applications. Therefore, using similar verbiage in your application can improve your odds of being shortlisted.

  3. Phrases and Acronyms

    Innovative ATS may not be able to understand certain phrases or acronyms that are outside its knowledgebase. For instance, the system might recognize the phrase ‘Master of Business Administration and not ‘Masters in Business Administration’ or MBA. Thus, it is better not to use acronyms. If you really want to use the acronym, it is better to write the full form first and add the acronym in brackets.

  4. Length & Simplicity

    An applicant tracking system does not bother about the length of your resume. However, they do have a limitation on the maximum space or pages used. It is best to upload a simple resume of medium length that is easy for a computer to scan. Most such systems cannot read charts, tables, or graphics. Thus it is best to avoid using them in your application. Also, it is prudent not to use your creativity in headings since the use of too creative, high-sounding, or flowery language used might not even be understood by machines. If you intend to highlight a word or phrase for your recruiter without bothering the ATS, you can choose to bold or underline it.

  5. Use PDFs if possible:

    Word files, when opened by different word processing software or different versions, can considerably alter the formatting of a file. PDFs, on the other hand, are far more reliable when it comes to maintaining a set format of headers, footers, and graphics. Even if the system is unable to read the text inside a graphical image, the graphics themselves won’t interfere with the resume parsing process.

Applicant tracking systems aren’t a job seekers arch-nemesis. A deeper understanding of how they function can improve your odds of going past them. A bit of research, customization, strategic phasing, and keyword placement is all you need to get your application noticed. With the above strategies, you are sure to create better applications that can impress both the man and machines and hopefully get that interview call you have been waiting for in no time.

Joydeep Das
The newest addition to SoftwareSuggest's writing armada, Joydeep Das has extensive experience with both technical and non-technical content. However, marketing and promotional topics have remained his true love since over a decade.

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