What Applicant Tracking Systems Need from Candidates

Hiring and recruiting have undergone nothing short of a revolution over the last 15 years. Thanks to the cloud, it is no longer necessary to spend all day driving around town putting in applications. It is no longer necessary to print paper resumes or fill out job applications with a ballpoint pen. Everything is done more efficiently online.

BenefitMall, a Dallas company that provides payroll and HR solutions to companies around the country, explains that the modern applicant tracking system powers recruiting and hiring in the digital era. Moreover, they say applicant tracking systems demand a different way to apply for jobs.

Job candidates need to understand the different world applicant tracking has created. Those candidates who fully understand and master it are more likely to be successful in their searches. Those who still approach recruiting and hiring with decades-old principles they learned from their parents and grandparents will have a harder time.

For the purposes of illustration, below are descriptions of three things applicant tracking systems need from candidates in the digital age.

1. Adherence to Instructions

The human brain has a unique ability to understand intent. In other words, it was possible to inadvertently or purposely not follow application instructions when paper applications were the norm. Human HR personnel could understand intent and work around it. Computer systems cannot. They can only analyze the data they are presented with.

This implies that computerized applicant tracking systems need adherence to instructions. If the system instructs a candidate to limit uploads to a specific format – say PDF or DOCX for example – candidates must follow those instructions. Uploading documents in another format will make it impossible for the system to do what it needs to do.

2. Specific Keywords

Applicant tracking systems use keyword analysis to sort qualified from unqualified applicants. As such, they need applicants to use the right keywords as they fill out applications. Applicants can figure out what keywords to use by paying close attention to job descriptions and requirements.

If a sales manager position requires Salesforce experience for example, the qualified candidate would list his or her experience using the same term. He or she would mention Salesforce, not CRM software.

The other side of this coin applies to the employer’s job postings. Hiring managers now have to be very specific about what they want. Those specifications need to be spelled out in job descriptions and requirements using exact keywords.

3. Document Simplicity

Last but not least is document simplicity. Candidates need to understand that when they are uploading resumes, CVs and other documents, computer software will be scanning those documents in the same way a Google spider scans web pages. Applicant tracking systems do not need fancy graphics, color, bullet points, etc. They need raw data.

Its best to keep documents simple. Candidates should use the standard one-inch margin with all text aligned to the left side of the page. Moreover, there is no need to worry about fancy formatting like headings and bold or italicized text. Those things that used to make documents stand out to human hiring managers do not impress computerized systems.

A New Way of Thinking

A lot has changed about hiring and recruiting over the last 15 years. From the perspective of job candidates, the modern environment requires a new way of thinking. It requires thinking in terms of computer software, automation, and artificial intelligence.

Today, candidates are applying with computer systems rather than human beings. Humans eventually get involved in the process, but candidates first have to get past applicant tracking. For good or bad, that is the way it is.