Are Applicant Tracking Systems Sabotaging My Job Search?

Ask a Recruiter - Jobseeker Q&A

Ask a Recruiter

Q: I submitted my resume to a job and got a rejection email 5 minutes later. It seems like employers are using the ATS to automatically reject candidates, missing out on qualified applicants who just don’t follow some unwritten rule. What’s the benefit for employers to do this?  

A: The ATS (Applicant Tracking System) is the software that employers use to track job openings and applicants. In the modern job search, it’s safe to assume that any recruiting agency and any larger employer is using an ATS to keep track of their open positions and hiring pipelines. Beyond that, it can be difficult to know what exactly an ATS is doing or how exactly they’re working.  

There are countless ATS vendors out there and, as their salespeople will tell you, they all have different features and capabilities. Whichever the system, an ATS is essentially just a database from which employers can search for and vet candidates — they are not actively playing the role of decision-maker. Many ATSs feature some type of algorithmic rating or ranking of candidates, but it’s up to the individual to interpret that information and make a choice on what to do with it.

So, while it may seem unlikely, the reality is that a recruiter was probably at their desk when the application came in; they got a notification from the ATS, checked out your resume, and determined it wasn’t a match to what the hiring manager was looking for.  

If you’re feeling frustrated by this process and the lack of feedback inherent to it, we encourage a fresh approach: lean into growing your network instead.  

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