What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?
What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?

Exposing Myths Surrounding Applicant Tracking Systems

As a LinkedIn Top Voice in recruiting and career coaching, I am constantly engaging with the latest trends and technologies that impact the job market and the hiring process. 

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are a topic often mentioned and surrounded by confusion. 

In this blog post, I want to clear up some myths about ATS, explain its actual role in the recruitment process, and provide insights on how it can benefit both recruiters and candidates.

Understanding the ATS

What is an ATS?

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System. 

In simple terms, it’s a software application designed to help recruiters and hiring managers organize and manage the hiring process. 

It tracks where applicants are in the hiring pipeline. 

Some well-known ATS examples include Workday, SuccessFactors, Greenhouse, iCims, BambooHR, Bullhorn, Jobvite, and Taleo.

Debunking ATS Myths

There’s a prevalent myth that an ATS actively:

– rejects
– screens
– scans resumes for specific keywords
= resulting in automatic rejection of candidates. 

This is a major misconception, often perpetuated by individuals who are not intimately familiar with the recruiting, HR, or talent acquisition fields. 

Perhaps… career coaches or resume writers with no recruiting experience!

What an ATS Does Not Do:

– Keyword Scanning: An ATS does not reject a resume because it lacks certain keywords. It is not programmed to scan resumes for job description keywords and grade them accordingly.
– Automated Rejection: It is not a ‘resume rejecting robot.’ While an ATS can be set up with certain minimum requirements, these are specified by recruiters, not the system itself.

The Truth About ATS

What Tracking an Applicant Really Means:

An ATS serves several functions, including:
Notification: It notifies recruiters when you complete an application.
Document Handling: Sends the recruiter your resume, cover letter, and other application materials.
Job Application Status: Tracks what job you applied for and your status in the application process (e.g., review, interview, offer).
Interview Notes: A repository for interview notes.
Candidate Information: Shows responses to questionnaires and personal information about candidates (identity, legal authorization to work, etc)

Think of an ATS like a digital filing cabinet, or a CRM.

The Real Decision-Makers

It’s crucial to understand that the ATS is a tool used by recruiters, not an autonomous decision-maker. 

Recruiters, like myself, are the ones who review and scan your resume. We decide whether you move to the next stage or get rejected. 

The ATS simply helps us manage and organize this information.

How the ATS Helps

For Recruiters:
Organization: The ATS helps in keeping track of all candidates and their respective stages in the hiring process.
Accountability: It assists in ensuring recruiters are communicating with candidates appropriately and maintaining professional timelines.
Efficiency: Enhances the ability to find the most qualified candidates.

For Candidates:

Transparency: Provides clear communication about your application status.
Fairness: Ensures that your application is reviewed and considered based on its merit.

Navigating the ATS as a Candidate

Understanding how an ATS works can be beneficial for job seekers. Here are a few tips:

Tailor Your Application: While the ATS is not keyword-centric, tailoring your resume to the job description can help clarify your suitability for the role.
Meet Basic Requirements: Ensure you meet the basic qualifications specified in the job listing.
Stay Organized: Keep track of your applications and follow up appropriately. Use a tool like Huntr.co to help.


In conclusion, the ATS is not something to be feared or misunderstood. It’s a valuable tool that aids both recruiters and candidates in making the hiring process more efficient and effective. As a job seeker, understanding the ATS and how to effectively engage with it can be a significant advantage in your job search.

Remember, as recruiters, we are your allies in the job search process. The ATS is just one of the tools we use to ensure we connect the right candidates with the right opportunities. Happy job hunting!

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