4 Reasons Candidates Shouldn’t Fear the Applicant Tracking System

Why You Shouldn't Be Afraid of ATS

While Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) were once predominantly used by large companies, their prominence has grown in recent years. It was estimated that 35% of small organizations also now rely on these systems. As these numbers continue to expand, the number of common misconceptions around ATS continue to grow as well. Hence, many candidates are becoming more concerned about being out of the applicant pool due to ATS rejection.

There are a lot of misunderstandings about how ATS work. Some think that ATS can automatically reject applications. Others believe that ATS can make the decision on who to call for an interview. In most cases, ATS are held responsible for unfavorable job application outcomes. As a result, many candidates feel defenseless against a system that is largely misunderstood. So, to provide you with some clarity, we will discuss why you shouldn’t be afraid of ATS in this article.

1) ATS do not automatically reject resumes

There is a common misconception that ATS can automatically reject your application. In most cases, this is simply not true. To be precise, the only cases where an ATS reject an application are the following:

  • If you don’t meet the employer’s requirements for knock-out questions, such as Right to Work.
  • If the ATS is not able to parse your application, for example- due to an incompatible file type.

Having said that, ATS are not always smart enough to process all document formats and structures. When it comes to resume writing, it makes sense to stick to best practices to ensure your application is processed smoothly. This will give you the peace of mind that nothing gets lost in translation.

Lastly, while ATS don’t reject applications, some ATS score them. Since employers may use these match rates to make informed decisions, we suggest keeping this in mind. Luckily, ATS score resumes using criteria set by human decision-makers, so if you submit a high-quality, relevant document, you can kill two birds with one stone.

2) ATS are always controlled by human recruiters

In most cases, recruiters set up ATS with predefined criteria to help filter candidates during the initial stages of the recruitment process. Then, they decide whether to move forward with you or other candidates based on these requirements. If you didn’t get picked for an interview, it’s not because of ATS, but because human decision-makers selected someone else.

There are various factors that can impact the outcome of your application. Below are some of the possible reasons why recruiters may make the decision not to move forward with your application.

  • Your skills and experience don’t align with what the company is looking for.
  • Your credentials are a good fit, but there are stronger candidates.
  • You missed providing all the information requested.
  • There has been a change in the company’s needs.
  • There are unaddressed red flags on your application such as short job tenures and long gaps between jobs.

3) You can optimize your application for ATS

As long as your resume is optimized, your application will be processed for consideration. Sounds like rocket science? Don’t fear. There are simple tricks you can do to optimize your resume for both ATS and manual screening. Below are some key points to consider.

  • Use a Word format when submitting your application.
  • Stick with sleek, minimalist template designs.
  • Avoid using tables, columns, and images.
  • Utilize ATS-friendly fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, Cambria, and Helvetica.
  • Add relevant keywords mentioned in the job description.

If ATS resume optimization sounds intimidating to you, there are tools you can use to make the process easier for you. Some examples include Jobscan, SkillSyncer, and RezRunner. These tools have the capability to analyze your resume against a vacancy and recommend enhancements through formatting and word changes. While their features and functions vary, you typically need to upload your resume and copy-paste the job listings description into the platform. Then, a scan result will be generated that includes keyword analysis, match score, and common ATS resume checks. You can use the scan results as the basis for optimizing your resume for ATS.

4) There are alternative approaches to job search

If you’re the candidate who only relies on job platforms for your job search, then you’re missing opportunities. There are other approaches you can implement to boost your chances of getting a favorable outcome. Some examples include referrals, recruitment agencies, and job fairs.

Most companies find referral hires to be five times more effective than other means of hiring due to better job satisfaction and retention rate. For this reason, decision-makers are more likely to favor candidates who applied through referrals. As a matter of fact, statistics showed that a referred candidate has a 50% chance of getting an interview. This conveys that a credible recommendation from a human is an optimum way to get noticed and outshine the competition.

Having the right networking strategy is fundamental to getting job referrals and accessing new career opportunities. However, this does not mean that the more connections you have, the better.  What actually matters more is the type of people you connect with. Here are some tips for networking with the right people to build a strong referral network.

  • Connect with professionals working for your target employers. Some examples include recruiters, peers, and hiring managers.
  • Join groups that are relevant to your target job and industry, and engage with the members.
  • Attend professional events organized by alumni associations, social clubs and committees, and target organizations.


Most of the concerns about ATS are rooted in a lack of understanding about how they really work. ATS are tools used by recruiters and hiring managers for efficiency. These are not programmed to make a decision on their own. Rather, ATS help create a streamlined approach to finding the right candidate for the job. As long as you apply best practices in writing your resume, you will be okay.