Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and Your Job Search

If you’re doing your best to ignore the whole subject of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), this is a heads-up for you. The trend of using ATS for most if not all applicants (and even at senior levels) has become so pervasive, it’s foolhardy to ignore the situation.

ATS a Growing Trend

As a resume writer who wants to give my clients the best possible support, I have viewed the advent of ATS as a growing nuisance. It makes life more difficult for my clients and for me. I used to think that at least senior-level managers and executives could bypass the ATS obstacle; but I attended a two-hour teleseminar recently that opened my eyes.

It’s probably true that in rare instances, such as where an executive is dealing directly with a company that wants him/her for a specific position, it might be possible to avoid the ATS screening—at least, through most of the process. However, there is now NO guarantee that even in those circumstances the resume won’t be put through an ATS eventually.

Nearly all large companies and corporations are now using some form of ATS. That doesn’t mean, though, that you’re home-free if you’re only submitting your resume to small companies. They might not be able to afford their own in-house ATS, but services are springing up that they can pay for on a case-by-case basis. Also, I believe at least one major online job board now makes its ATS available for single-job postings that employers pay to post.

ATS and Keywords: Hard-Skill or Soft-Skill

Hard-skill keywords are still vital, but they’re not the only factor in getting your resume past the ATS barrier. Soft-skill keywords could also come into play–and this is after resume writers like me have been telling clients to ignore those because “no one searches for them”!

If you’re submitting a resume in response to job postings, it’s hugely important to take a good look at the information in the postings. For example, “fast-paced customer service” could be one of the keyword phrases the ATS has been told to look for. Other possible items could include the name of the college or university where you earned your degree and your GPA (particularly if you’re not yet senior-level).

Although keywords are more critical than ever with an ATS, a good keyword match is only the beginning. Recruiters and hiring managers are seeking people who have done the job they’re trying to fill, and they’re looking for the best possible match. If your keyword-rich, ATS-friendly resume doesn’t get selected in a search, it might be because you’re not fully qualified or you’re not competitive enough with other candidates.

By the way, not all ATS are created equal, so no matter how hard you try, you’ll probably never reach a 100% match. However, you should still give it your best shot if you’re really interested in being considered for the position.

ATS and Your Job Search: A Tip

Whether or not you can completely circumvent the ATS route, you’re still likely to have a more productive job search if you don’t confine yourself to responding to posted openings. Take an active approach to uncovering opportunities that haven’t yet been widely publicized, and you could exponentially increase your chances of securing an interview–and, ultimately, a job offer.

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