Beating the System – the “Applicant Tracking System,” that is…

by Jamie Grant, C’98 GEd’99

Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATSs, are very popular among employers for the many ways such systems can ease the process of sifting through applications for candidates that are the best match.   If you’ve applied for a job in the last 3-5 years, you’ve most likely submitted information through an ATS, provided to your employer-of-choice by a software vendor like Taleo, Kenexa-Brassring, iCIMS or Peopleclick.  While recruiters and hiring managers still do certainly read through resumes and applications –and look at LinkedIn pages – you should be aware that you may need to “beat the system” to get a human being’s eyes on your online submission.

How do they work, you ask?  Google and watch one of the many videos available to see these programs in action from a recruiter’s perspective.  The main thing to understand?  These systems and the job descriptions within them (which I like to call “employer wish lists”) are designed to function by *keywords* – keywords which should ALSO be reflected in your resume to get you the highest possible match-score and the greatest chance of being seen by a person.   A talented career advisor can quickly go through your resume and job description with you and point out the keywords you have – and those you’re missing – in an effort to help you get as close as possible to a perfect match.  You can also use tools like to quickly analyze your resume content and the job description.   Our friends at Jobscan also recently wrote a post about optimizing resumes for ATS that you might find helpful!

You’ve worked so hard to get where you are – now, make sure you can sail through the last few hurdles to get your resume seen by the professionals who wrote you their wish lists – and that make the interview offers!


Author: Jamie Grant

Jamie Grant is Associate Director of Career Services for the School of Engineering and Applied Science.