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Understanding online application processes

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are being used by a lot of organizations to screen resumes to increase recruiting efficiencies. Taleo is one of the largest ATS systems. This blog will cover some tips for applying to jobs that use an ATS system. How do you know the employer is using an ATS system? Typically if you look at the URL, the ATS system will be included.

As we know, data analytics is becoming a big player in many industries. ATS systems were initially used to help insert resumes into the employer’s database, have basic functions of screening, and follow the applicant through the hiring process. System are now more advanced. Systems can be programmed for just about anything including but not limited to: scanning for keywords, years of experiences, job title similarities, past employers, educational background, skills, projects, qualifications, and the list goes on and on. Companies have a hiring strategy that they use to create the ATS programs. For example, if a company only recruits from certain schools, they may filter out other applicants that do not meet those requirements.

You’re probably wondering…how do you know what ATS is looking for? Typically, you will not be able to figure out all the filters unless an insider provides that information. One item that you do know is the position description. The position description will help you tailor your resume and help identify keywords.

Search Engine Optimization

Think about how a recruiter would search for their applicant. For search engines such as LinkedIn, you may search for a job by title, location, or skills. A mechanical engineer may be advertised as a design engineer. Although the job may be similar, does design engineer show up in your profile? Search engine optimization (SEO) is when a company or website tailors their website content for search engines to notice them and rank them higher. Keyword matching is an important part of SEO which is similar to that of an ATS. ATS systems often use Boolean Logic too.

In some SEOs for ATS your job title matters. When you meet with a career advisor, most of the time the word “transferable skills” will come up. This can be true with titles (assuming your job titles are accurate). Your title may have been “Mechanical Student Associate.” However, when comparing the title to other companies, you notice that they may call the “Mechanical Student Associate” a “Mechanical Engineering Intern”. Can you see the difference?

Keep It Simple

Most ATSs are sophisticated. However, many recommend keeping it simple.

Consider using Microsoft Word to format your resume, but do not create your resume using Microsoft Word templates. Usually ATS systems will offer information around acceptable formats when you upload your application (if the company prefers your resume to be uploaded as a PDF or in Microsoft Word).

Use standard title headings. Most applications have section such as “Education” or “Work Experience”, but we typically do not see ATS systems that have creative headings such as “What I’ve Done” or “Where I’ve Studied”.
Keywords are important, but do not focus on “keyword stuffing”. Many ATS systems will flag your resume and send it to the pile where you probably do not want to end up.

It is important to remember, you are writing a resume initially to pass the ATS “test”, but you also need your resume friendly for a human reader.

For more information about tailoring your resume for an ATS system, tune in to next week’s blog.

“One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation.”
-Arthur Ashe

About the author

Lauren Verhoff

Lauren Verhoff is a Graduate Administrative Associate with Engineering Career Services.