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How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?

How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?

Written By MK Career Solutions
Reading Time: 15 minutes

Whether you’re in charge of recruitment within an organisation or you are a job seeker looking for your big break, you will have probably heard of applicant tracking systems (ATS). However, as you are here, we are going to hazard a guess that you are not 100% sure how they work.

You are in the right place!

By the time you finish reading this post, you will know all the important ins and outs of applicant tracking systems and how you can use them to your advantage.

Let’s start from the top…

How Applicant Tracking Systems Work

Applicant tracking systems are a type of software that enables recruiters and employers to better manage job applications by filtering candidates in order of suitability.  An ATS makes it faster and easier for recruiters to assess job applicants, and with some roles attracting hundreds of candidates every day, they have become an invaluable tool for organisations across the UK.

An ATS works by scanning through each submitted CV and using keyword trackers to pick out the applicants that have the best skills and experience for the advertised job.

If, for example, a recruiter is looking to hire someone with customer service experience, they may use “customer service” as a keyword to discover the applicants that match their criteria. They may also search for specific qualifications, such as a degree. The good thing about applicant tracking systems is that their searches cover everything from education to work experience, with some even ranking applicants in order of suitability.

By inputting CVs into an ATS, an employer can set up focused searches. CVs can also be stored in an ATS for the future, meaning that past applicants have the chance to get shortlisted for new vacancies.

Yep, an ATS is a pretty awesome piece of kit!

Key Features of an Applicant Tracking System

Like anything, applicant tracking systems come in all sorts of varieties and options. Some, for example, will help you to delve into the market and pick out the best candidates while others will enable you to automate important processes such as arranging and scheduling interviews. While each ATS comes with its unique set of bells and whistles, most applicant tracking systems share the following key features that make them a powerful tool for employers:

Job Advertising

One of the most time-saving features of an ATS is being able to quickly post job descriptions to your website, job boards and social media channels.

With the pesky jobs out of the way, you have more time to focus on other things on your “To-Do” list!

Email Campaigns

Ever struggled to come up with red hot email content for your headhunting campaign? You’ll be pleased to hear that most ATS can help you structure, optimise and track personalised emails! On top of this, many applicant tracking systems will record your interactions with potential candidates so that you can continue to nurture your relationships with your applicants over time.

Importing CVs

While most candidates prefer to send digital copies of their CV, there will still be some who like taking the old-school route of sending a hard copy.  ATS software has flexible importing options and makes it easy to gather your applications into one place.

Parsing CVs

The CV parser feature is incredible for when your inbox becomes inundated with tons of applications. An ATS enables you to quickly parse hundreds of CVs by using pre-selected qualifiers. This process is a handy time-saver and ensures only the most suitable CVs make it to your desk for a manual read-through.

Tracking Applicants

Managing a large number of applicants can sometimes make it difficult to keep track of who you’ve contacted, who’s at what stage and even what incredible talent is close to slipping through the cracks! Applicant tracking systems allow you to keep organised and ensure you never miss an opportunity again! And of course, as we mentioned earlier, another great thing about this ATS software is that it keeps candidates in the system for future positions that may open up.

From a Candidate’s Perspective

With so many positive features, it’s easy to see why employers and recruiters opt to use applicant tracking systems to help them source the country’s best talent. By using ATS filters, employers can get straight to the most relevant CVs which speeds up the hiring process for themselves and their candidates.

But what about applicants?  Do automated applicant tracking systems stop recruiters from seeing certain CVs?

The short answer is no.

ATS software filters applicants in a way that makes it easier for recruiters to shortlist them. But don’t worry; it doesn’t (and isn’t designed to!) replace the human element of the recruitment process. Once the most suitable CVs are flagged up, employers and recruiters will still go through and read them to select the ones they think are best.  So, as long as you have written your CV in line with the position you’ve applied for, you don’t need to stress about an ATS filtering you out! You can, however, ensure you tailor your CV effectively by following these quick tips:

  • Thoroughly research the company, as well as the position you are applying for
  • Remember to include keywords that are relevant to the role
  • Specify your qualifications by their name
  • Keep your formatting simple
  • Use bullet points
  • Remember to include your address
  • Avoid using graphics, tables, or logos
  • Choose a professional font
  • Check, check and recheck spelling

The Takeaway

At their core, applicant tracking systems are designed to help recruiters and employers manage candidates from initial outreach through to a job offer. They can also help with posting job listings, headhunting, parsing applicants, interviewing, and making job offers.

While no piece of job applicant software can (or should!) replace the human approach,  applicant tracking systems have become an invaluable tool in the recruitment sector.

Like this post? We will be back soon with more top tips and advice, so keep checking our blog for regular updates!

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