Column: “Do robots evaluate your application?”

Given the speed at which AI is being integrated into daily life, it would be easy to assume that it is already impacting hiring processes.

It’s not uncommon for a new client to ask me if I can help them overcome the ATS (applicant tracking system). But that never turns out to be their real problem.

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The ATS is a software application used by some (mostly large) employers and recruitment agencies to help them manage the recruitment process. It is believed that these systems are used to search resumes for keywords to control which applicants get their resumes seen by a human. The rest is rejected and may never be read by a real person.

It follows that a candidate’s job is to fill your resume with “ATS-friendly” keywords.

But it’s a myth. It’s also an unhelpful myth because it leads people to focus on the wrong things.

While it’s reassuring that you’re simply too complex and extraordinary for the goofy robot to understand, it’s likely that other humans have done a better job of communicating how to meet the employer’s needs.

What is the actual purpose of an ATS?

An ATS system is like a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, but for applicants and candidates. It is essentially a database with additional functionality.

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This includes posting job advertisements, standardizing the application process, collecting online applications, and automating emails to request information, run tests, and let you know where you are in the process.

This makes it more likely that recruiters will find you, regardless of which professional platform or job board you are active on. And they are more likely to stay in touch with you.

While ATS systems have a scoring system that can be used to pick out keywords in an application, there are two important things to keep in mind. Firstly, the idea that you have to score high here to be seen by a human is, to say the least, exaggerated. I’ve never met a recruiter who admits this.

Those I know pride themselves on their ability to assess candidates and build relationships with them. And given the shortage of suitable candidates for many positions, it would be foolish not to at least look at every application.

Second, even if the verification were to be done by a software program, if they were sensible they would do so based on the person specification.

Since you know the person specification when you apply, you just have to focus on it when writing.

So what should applicants do? One sensible measure is not to present important information in your CV with tables or images so that it is easier to read.

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But beyond that, trying to “optimize” a resume “for the ATS” is, in my opinion, an unnecessary and harmful activity.

No technical tricks are required to get selected for a job.

Simply tell the employer why you are suitable for the job based on the employer’s requirements, with appropriate details and examples. This way, no matter what system the employer uses, you should be shortlisted based on your performance alone. Column: “Do robots evaluate your application?”

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