Everything You Need to Know About Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

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Written by Seun Oyediran


Did you know that 98% of Fortune 500 companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to filter through the sea of applicants they have for any opening? And did you also know that as many as 70% of large companies rely on recruitment software? With these staggering statistics, it’s weird that job seekers do not understand how Applicant Tracking Systems work.

Perhaps, the reason why you’ve not landed your dream job is that you didn’t have an idea of how hiring managers screened your application. Don’t beat yourself up because all that is now in the past. Now, you’ll get to learn everything you need to know about Applicant Tracking Systems!

Why do large companies use ATS, and how will it affect your job application? Are there ways to use ATS to your advantage? In a minute, we’ll explore the essence of the Applicant Tracking System and how you can use it to your advantage.

What is an Applicant Tracking System?  

First off, what is an Applicant Tracking System? An Applicant Tracking System, or ATS for short, is a configured software that large companies use to organize and screen numerous applicants for a position. While small companies with a handful of applicants might not need ATS, it is an indispensable tool for the hiring managers of large companies. Without this software, being the hiring manager of a large company may be a subtle variant of hell on earth. 

An ATS software can collate and sort thousands of resumes in a short period. And when an interested job applicant submits a resume online, the resume is directly fed to the Applicant Tracking System. The resume goes through a quick screening process and will only be forwarded to the hiring manager for further screening if the ATS software clears it. Otherwise, the resume ends up in the trash with a host of other unlucky applicants. 

In today’s hiring world, you must learn to format your resume following the ATS algorithms, or you suffer the apparent consequences.

Why Are Hiring Managers Using ATS for Recruiting?  

Hiring managers have always understood that the single best predictor of a company’s future success is the quality of its employees. And that’s why there’s such a position as a hiring manager. Although this fact is widely understood, hiring managers didn’t know how to screen thousands of applications and choose “the right one.” Then came the ATS software to the rescue, sifting applications such that the chaff never made it to the table of hiring managers, business owners, and recruiters.

Here are some of the reasons why hiring managers use ATS for recruiting

  1. It helps them save time. Put yourself in the shoes of a hiring manager, and you’ll understand why they make some obvious choices. Imagine having to go through 1000 resumes submitted by seemingly qualified applicants manually. You’ll probably hate your job by the time you do this over and over for five years. But then came a software that can save you time by only letting you see the resumes of the 30 qualified candidates. What a time saver and stress eliminator!
  2. It is highly efficient. The ATS software is so efficient at what it does that 83% of hiring managers say it has helped them hire faster.
  3. It increases productivity. The ATS software helps hiring managers to become super productive.

Allows for better quality of hire. The ATS allows recruiters to hire high quality employees that can help move their companies forward.

Examples of the Major ATS Software in the Market  

There are so many valued examples of ATS software that different hiring managers can use. Knowing some of the commonly used ATS software is beneficial for you or anyone whose application will be subjected to ATS software. By getting familiar with the standard software, you’ll have the much-needed leverage and use the algorithm to your advantage.

Here are some examples of the commonest ATS in the market today.

  • Pinpoint Review
  • Jobvite
  • ClearCompany
  • TeamTailor
  • iCIMS Talent Cloud
  • SmartRecruiters 
  • Avature 
  • Workable 
  • Lever
  • BreezyHR

How Can You Beat the ATS? 

Applicants Tracking Systems can immediately disqualify over 75% of applicants the instant they submit their CV. But can you beat the ATS and survive this gruesome trashing stage? Yes, you can. But you’ll have to understand how the ATS algorithm flags resume and what it looks out for. So, how can you beat this system?

  • Use keywords customized for the job on your file name and throughout your resume
  • Standard section headings are a must
  • Adequately spell out acronyms to ensure the algorithm understands your text
  • Submit your files in the recommended format
  • Use the Arial font instead of the Times new roman
  • State your mailing address in full
  • Don’t be too fancy
  • Double Check your spelling and grammar
  • Consider deleting your previous applications
  • Leave both header and footer blank 
  • Use traditional terminologies
  • Mirror the job description properly
  • Always upload your CV and not copy and paste

Types of CV Templates to Avoid  

Apart from knowing the right thing to do when developing a suitable CV for a job title, there are also a number of things to avoid when choosing your CV template. If you don’t have an ATS-friendly resume, you might be in for some trouble. Here are some of the CV template features you must avoid. 

  • Avoid using too many acronyms and abbreviations: It is quite common for the ATS not to understand specific terminologies used on the CV. If possible always spell out the entire acronym / abbreviation.
  • Avoid tables, columns, and text boxes: The ATS cannot decipher or scan information inside tables, text boxes, or columns. Data in these formats will not make it to your profile.
  • Avoid Images: ATS cannot read images, so you can either choose to remove them entirely, or you hide them in the header section (ATS cannot see information in the header or footers section, so it leaves it untouched.
  • Never put vital information in headers and footers.
  • Avoid lines, borders, and symbols. For the same reasons, most ATS cannot read or scan these elements.
  • No special characters. Avoid special characters like the plague. They will make the word in which they appear undecipherable.
  • Incorrect spellings. It would be best if you proofread your resume to make sure all vital spellings are correct. Don’t rely too much on spell checkers – they can’t alert you of some mistakes.

You can always create an ATS friendly CV on the reventify web app.

What You Should Do After Submitting Your CV

Most times, people sit down to relax – or pray – after submitting their CV. These options may not be the best things to do yet. Rather than hoping for a miracle, there are tons of other things you could do. Next time you apply for a job and are tempted to start hoping for a miracle, try the following instead. 

  • Polish the social media profiles included in your CV. You want to make sure this profile looks and feels very professional.
  • Make some further research on the people that work at the company. Streamline your search to those who will be reviewing your materials.
  • Send messages to these critical contacts informing them about your applications.
  • Continuously network. 
  • Send follow-up emails.


So, here’s everything you need to know about the Applicant Tracking System! I wish you all the best in your next application. See you at the top!

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