Google now receives 3 million job applications every year. So how do they vet all of the resumes they receive?

In comes the application tracking system.

ATS software is not new in the industry. Recruiters at large companies have long been vetting candidates in their talent search with it. Now, with new solutions available to both small and medium sized businesses (services like Google Hire), it's important that applicants know about application tracking systems and how to beat them.

In this article we'll answer all of your questions, like:

  1. "What is an application tracking system?"
  2. "Who is using it?"
  3. And most importantly, "How do we beat it?"

1. What Is An Application Tracking System?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a software solution to recruitment and hiring. It works by electronically processing resumes into a format readable by a machine. The system then analyzes the processed resume and gives applicants scores based on how relevant the resume is.

There are three core software features in an application tracking system:

  1. Turns resumes into plain text
  2. Parses and organizes the plain text into an applicant database
  3. Functions as a search engine for recruiters

Simply put, an application tracking system is a search engine for recruiters. Once a resume is parsed into an applicant database, ATS ranks applicants in the talent pool. Recruiters can then search for and filter resumes using keywords related to the job opening. Think "Google search" for talent sourcing.

2. Which Companies Use Application Tracking Systems?

If you're looking to get hired at a FAANG company (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google), chances are that they are using application tracking systems as their onboarding solution. These companies are getting tens of thousands of resumes every month and need a way to find qualified candidates. Which is why recruiters at big tech companies are using artificial intelligence and software solutions to manage applicants.

Application tracking systems are not limited to just tech companies, however. As a matter of fact 40% of employers┬╣ (98% when it comes to Fortune 500 Companies) are using applicant tracking systems to find candidates. What's even more surprising is that 75% of resumes are never seen by a real person┬╣. If you've ever applied via an online application, then chances are the applicant assessments are done by an applicant tracking software.

Companies like Kronos Workforce and Greenhouse Talent Acquisition provide advanced recruiting and Human Resource services as a part of their software suite. Their customers include Hubspot, Airbnb, and Winthrop University Hospital.

As more and more companies use ATS as their go-to recruitment solution, it's more than clear that if you want to get hired, your resume needs to be ATS ready.

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3. How To Optimize Your Resume For Application Tracking Systems

At this point, you may be wondering if there's a way to beat the system. And lucky for you, there are. Here are some tips to give you a competitive advantage and get your resume noticed.

Be Wary Of Lavish Templates

In your search for the perfect resume template, you'll find many that are designed beautifully. While these templates may look good to humans, the ATS sees it as wasted content. This is because the ATS cannot process images. When the ATS converts your resume into plain-text the images may cause formatting errors - meaning missing information, or worse, a missed opportunity.

Avoid images, charts, and other graphics. While these may look nice to the human eye, resumes with embedded images become a garbled mess, or get completely omitted from your application, after it passes through the applicant tracking system.

Amanda Augustine picture
Amanda Augustine
, Resident Career Expert at Talent Inc.

To avoid situations like these, we recommend the K-I-S-S method (Keep It Simple Silly!). If possible, use an ATS approved template so you can increase your chances of having a resume seen by a real person. To get you started we've gone ahead and created an ATS approved template for you. You can get it for free here:

Font Matters

Computers don't quite read texts like we do. While we have no issues reading in Times New Roman, applicant tracking systems may have a hard time deciphering the extra ticks added to the letters. Instead, we recommend going with Garamond. If you'd like more formatting tips to get your resume past application tracking systems, you can check out our Guide to Formatting Your Resume, written by none other than our CEO and founder, Jake.

Use The Right Keywords

This part is very important, if not the most. When recruiters are searching for resumes, the ATS "search engine" will spit out the most relevant resumes first. This relevance is highly dependent on the keywords you use in your resume. Resumes that are missing certain job-related keywords and keyphrases are penalized. While resumes that contain these keywords are awarded with a higher rating.

If you're applying for a job you found on a job board, pay close attention to the type of words and keywords you see in the job description and add them to your resume. This is called keyword stuffing.

Remove Unnecessary Images

Many resume templates focus on design - and while these resumes certainly look great, they don't serve much purpose and end up taking a lot of space - space that could otherwise be spent for more valuable information that will get you hired.

Remember, our first objective is to pass the ATS. Then, we can really wow recruiters with your skills and experiences. (Read the 24 Resume Do's and Don'ts).

Key Takeaways

  1. An Application Tracking System is a recruitment tool that organizes the information on your resume into a database (applicant pool).
  2. 40% of employers use ATS (and 98% of Forunte 500 Companies).
  3. Your resume is ranked by keyword relevance.
  4. Avoid templates that use images, charts, and other graphics, as it interferes with readability.
  5. Using proper formatting and right keywords helps your resume read easier for the program and rank higher in the results.
Jacob Jacquet, CEO at Rezi
Written By
James Kim
Marketing Lead at Rezi
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