Applicant Tracking Systems – A Good Idea?

Account manager modern resume close-up. Tilt view and shallow dept of field.

It seems a crying shame that an average 72% of CVs submitted for vacancies are never actually read by a person. In a world where everyone is desperate to speed things up, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) have come into the light as a popular option to cut out the CV reading process and end up with only relevant ones at the end. But is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Missing Out

ATS works by matching contents of a CV by criteria outlined in the job description. This sounds great in theory, but the reality means that any applications that don’t contain keywords that are being searched for just get discarded. Sure, totally unsuitable or erroneous application will get erased too. Great candidates with the right qualifications and experience can also easily be overlooked just for not using the same keywords that’ve been outlined. This stringent approach means that it’s too easy to miss out on top talent that has slipped through the net. Candidates write their CVs with the view that another person will be reading it not to optimise it through automated screening software.

Less Flexibility

There is a danger that using ATS encourages recruiters to pigeon-hole the vacancy to a specific type of CV. On face value this might sound like a great idea, but not if you can’t fill the vacancy with the remaining pool of candidates. If criteria and requirements of the role change – which often happens – the screening process can get a bit messy if done automatically. ATS systems don’t pick up on candidates with transferable skills in similar but non-identical roles. They also don’t pick up on the almost perfect candidates. This can be combatted by using lucid ATS screening, but then this begs the question of whether it’s worth doing at all if flexibility around hiring is desired.

More Specific

Due to the reliance on keywords, ATS works best for common roles that have similar titles across different industries and sectors. This helps find candidates with the relevant experience in relevant roles and pull them out for your perusal. However, for less common roles, or roles that have lots of different job titles, it can be harder to know what to search and screen for.

ATS can therefore have its uses and its downsides. Overall, it seems that de-humanising the recruitment process makes it more difficult for candidates to reach the later stages. It also raises the debate as to whether something such as a CV can be quantified by a score or number or whether it should be measured on other factors such as how well it is written and how the candidate’s personality comes across through it.