Monday, December 12, 2011

Applicant Tracking System, What's That?

When you apply for a position online, how does your resume get from you to the hiring manager? The process may be a bit more complex than you think. According to Jean Cummings with Career Hub, “The resume you submit to most large companies and many small-to-mid-sized ones get mined for data that then populates fields on a form that the HR employee or recruiter sees (not your resume). Your resume may in fact only be seen at the time of an interview.” Your resume is most definitely a valuable tool in the hiring process, but your resume will likely be scanned first. A leading employer in the Bluegrass, the University of Kentucky, is just one of the many companies that use ATS in the hiring process. 

For companies that use applicant tracking systems (ATS), that system is the first stop for your resume once you submit the document as part of the application process. Before your resume makes it to the hiring manager, it must successfully pass through the tracking system.  According to University of Kentucky System Administrator, Daniel Hacker, “With the system UK uses, which is the leading provider of ATS in higher education in the US, the applicant may attach a resume when applying for positions. Though the resume may be attached in a variety of formats, it is ultimately converted into a PDF file so that our hiring departments may easily view the document. Although many companies use only keywords to review applicant materials, UK forwards all submitted materials to hiring officials when the applicant is referred to the hiring department. During the conversion, however, errors do occur.” Daniel shared a few pointers to help job seekers increase their chances for success. 

        According to Hacker and Cummings, here are a few tips for getting your resume past the ATS system:   

           1.) It is critical to include keywords! Cummings notes, “Don’t assume that it is enough to include common keywords for your position and industry.” Be sure to incorporate “unique-to-the-job-posting” words or phrases in the job listing. These are terms that get noticed by the ATS. Avoid acronyms and abbreviations; sometimes they don’t get processed correctly by ATS.
        2.) Avoid including tables, graphs, and graphics in your resume. The content often gets jumbled before making it to the hiring manager. 

3.       3.) Use tab stops when needed rather than the space bar. After your resume is converted to a PDF, spacing is often misaligned when the space bar is used.

4.       4.) Put your contact information at the top of your resume, but not in your resume header section. Depending on the employer’s software, they may not be able to view the content in your header. Your contact information is critical in the job search, and you want to be sure that it is not invisible to the reader.

The next time you apply for a position, keep in mind the popularity of ATS with employers. You may be the best candidate for a position, but if your resume doesn’t get through to the hiring manager, you will miss your opportunity.

Posted by Kelly Allgeier