You might have heard of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) or "Resume Robots" as they are sometimes called. These are commonly being used by larger companies to screen applications before they get to a human. Unfortunately, this makes the process easier for them but harder for you!
Your first hurdle is to get through the machines. However, the snag is that these machines can be easily confused. Read on to find out how keep them happy.
Here is what we know so far:
• Avoid columns, pictures, and tables in your CV
• Use plenty of clearly defined section headings in your CV. For example, education, work experience, software skills etc.
• Use key words copied from the job specification/description
• Upload your CV and other documents in a .doc format unless they state otherwise
You might have already created a beautiful, graphically designed CV with columns and inventive titles. A human would likely appreciate that but a machine would spit it out. Keep this CV on hand for when you are applying speculatively or if the company requests a creative CV.
How can you tell if my application will go through an ATS?
Unless you specifically ask the recruiter, it is difficult to be sure where your application is going. Even if you do ask, some companies will tell you that it is confidential information.
If you want to gather clues without asking the company directly. You can try hovering your mouse over the Apply button on the role you want. Look at the URL that pops up at the bottom of the screen. Sometimes there will be another unfamiliar name placed after the company title. For example, Taleo is a popular one. When I hovered over a JP Morgan URL it looked like this...
I trialled this tactic out on a few other job adverts. When I saw potential names of ATS software I Googled them. See below:
Barclays appears to also use Taleo
Virgin Media appears to use Ambertrack
Goldman Sachs appears to use iCIMS
What if I am still not sure?
Despite the ease of this little trick, keep in mind that not all companies have a clue in their URL, like Aldi and Santander. Please be wary and do not take this as a sign that there is no ATS. Some companies might use their own ATS software or have it hidden.
The Bottom Line: Since ATS and standardised application forms are on the rise, the key here is to not take risks this early in the process. Your aim is to get through that door so send them a simple CV and save the dazzle for the interview.