How to “Beat” an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

How to “Beat” an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) was originally published on Idealist Careers.

Ah yes … the applicant tracking system. Beating the robot is quite the feat (and not always possible), but there are certainly a few tips I can throw your way.

About that pesky applicant tracking system

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is used by HR departments and hiring managers in order to automate the initial parts of a hiring process and provides an easy transparent system candidate tracking along the way.

While this can be a great tool for a hiring manager (trust me, I use one too!), they can cause some anxiety for job applicants, leaving many to wonder if their application will ever be reviewed by actual human eyes.

While you can’t really “beat” an ATS, there are definitely a few things you can do to help ensure you don’t get passed over during the automated parts of the hiring process:

  • It’s not all or nothing, even with an ATS. Even if you don’t meet 100% of the job’s requirements, most likely, the ATS has not been “programmed” to take you out of the running for that alone.
  • Don’t forget to proofread your materials. One thing that may result in your materials being removed from the proverbial pile is a big fat typo (or multiple typos). So be sure to check, recheck, and check again before you hit submit!
  • Be clear and concise. When your materials are being run through an ATS, it’s important that your biggest accomplishments and most relevant experience are clearly detailed in your resume and cover letter. If your format or word choice isn’t reader friendly, imagine how confusing it can be to an ATS.
  • Use keywords (sparingly). While it’s important to include relevant, sector-related keywords and jargon, you absolutely don’t want to overdo it. It very quickly becomes pretty obvious when an applicant is keyword stuffing, so even if you make it past the initial ATS screen, your application may not get too far beyond that.
  • Speak their language. In addition to using relevant keywords (especially those picked up from the actual job description), you’ll also want to be sure to use the same grammar and spelling as the organization to which you’re applying. If they refer to themselves as a “nonprofit,” don’t write how much you want to work at their “non-profit.”
By Alexis Perrotta - Idealist Careers
Idealist Careers
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