Job Searching Tips

Applicant Tracking Systems – Optimize Your Application!

By: Erin Davis
Dec 17, 2020 • 6 min read

Applicant Tracking Systems – How To Optimize Your Application

Applicant tracking systems are a key tool that employers use during the hiring process. Most job applications can now be completed and submitted on-time. With the help of technology, candidates can apply to an abundance of job postings faster than ever. However, this also creates more work for hiring managers and recruiters who must review each application. Sometimes, candidates will apply to multiple jobs at the same company, use one-click applies, or apply to all jobs they can find. This saturates the job market, and Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS, were created to combat this.

These managers and recruiters can’t possibly sort through all of the thousands of applications they receive for every job. Especially when candidates can apply to positions they are not qualified for, it can make reviewing applications lengthy and painful. As a result, ATS have become an increasingly popular tool. For this reason, job seekers need to be educated about applicant tracking systems and how they work. In this blog, we will explore ATS’s purpose and how you can best optimize your application materials to have your documents reviewed by the hiring manager themselves. 

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Applicant Tracking Systems Explained 

Applicant tracking systems help recruiters sort through the resumes and cover letters submitted in online job applications. The technology filters through unqualified candidates, incomplete applications, and other subpar documents that have been submitted. 

After scanning the resumes and cover letters, the Applicant Tracking System compares the documents to the job description. Many ATS tools are created differently, so it is difficult to determine exactly what each of them analyze specifically. However, they all serve the same general purpose! So as long as you optimize appropriately, you’ll be golden. 

Why Employers Use Applicant Tracking Systems 

Employers use ATS for various reasons. It saves them time, as it would take them much longer to physically read, review, and compare all of the applications and resumes they receive. Online applications have changed the way people apply to jobs. As a result, the number of applications has increased, too. You’ve probably heard the popular saying “time is money”- this is another reason employers use ATS! This technology saves the company money by doing the simple sorting automatically, leaving the hiring managers with a list of relevant and qualified people. 

Oftentimes, recruiters are in charge of hiring for multiple positions. For example, your local Panera likely has line cooks, cashiers, and managers! All of these positions must be filled by the hiring manager of the location. Seems like a lot of work? This is why ATS are so helpful. The technology will scan for the qualifications specified for each job, instead of having a recruiter switch back and forth between tasks and requirements. Overall, it makes the process much smoother for those in charge of hiring for these roles. The implementation of keywords and ATS technology has cut down on hiring and can guarantee candidates with specific qualifications.

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How to Optimize Your Application Materials

Beating these programs can be difficult, but there is a method for ensuring your resume and cover letter hits the systems properly. Many people are frustrated that no one is physically looking at their work or qualifications, as sometimes a simple mistake will disqualify you from the system entirely. The first step that is essential for passing the ATS is to implement keywords from the job posting. Go back and look at the required skills in the job posting. Focus on identifying both hard and soft skills. 

Make sure you incorporate these keywords into your resume and cover letter. These are words such as “cashier,” “customer service,” “handling money,” or any other action-oriented words that summarize your past experiences and those that the company is looking for. The system scans for these words and phrases, so make sure to incorporate them into your application materials! 

Be Aware Of Abbreviations

When optimizing your application materials, you should also be aware of abbreviations. You want to make sure that you state your qualifications clearly and fully so that the system can understand what you’ve written. For this reason, it is wise to try and avoid using abbreviations. If you must use an abbreviation, be sure also to use the full written long-form word.

For example, you should write: “search engine optimization (SEO)” to be sure that both are on the resume if the system is looking for one or the other form. This will help you be certain that all of your skills are being identified. Keep it simple and have confidence! 

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Format Your Resume Appropriately 

The formatting of your application materials is also essential. Make sure your resume and cover letter are always in docx or pdf format, as these work best with Applicant Tracking System technology. The format of your resume should also be straightforward, using the traditional headings for each section, such as “education,” “experience,” and “activities.” This is what the system can recognize, so it can properly break down your resume. If you need an outline to follow, check out our free application templates!

Also, you should be sure to use traditional fonts and formats. This way, the system can read your resume and scan it into the proper format to compare to others. Once your documents reach the hiring manager, they will be impressed with how clean and professional your materials look! 

Always Follow Up

If you apply for a position that you feel you strongly qualify for, follow up on your application. If it’s been a few weeks since you submitted your materials, give the hiring manager a call! Ask them about the status of your resume, or see if any additional information is needed. Even asking informational questions about the position can draw attention to your application and create a personal connection between you and the recruiter. Human interaction is always more important than automated systems, although it is important to meet both requirements to secure a position with the current market and industry.

If you follow these simple steps, you’ll be able to pass the Applicant Tracking System and have your materials reviewed by the hiring manager! It’s not as complicated as you might think. Just make sure your materials are clear, error-free, and well optimized. Remember to customize your documents to each individual job you for, too! Good luck with your job search!

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