What Are Applicant Tracking Systems?

An essential guide to better understanding what applicant tracking systems are.

Ian Woodard
Ian Woodard
Updated 3 min read
applicant tracking system

A common misconception when it comes to applying for jobs is who reads your resume. People often assume that a recruiter is the one who reads over your resume once you send it in. In actuality, it is becoming more and more common for the first person to read your resume not to be a person at all, but a computer.

What Applicant Tracking Systems Are

An applicant tracking system, or ATS for short, comprises a suite of software tools that automate parts of the recruitment process. You can think of them as virtual assistants for recruiters that help them with various tasks such as collecting, filtering, and tracking applications.

Chances are, if you have applied to a job online, you have most likely interacted with an ATS.

The Reason Companies Use Applicant Tracking Systems

Companies opt to use ATS because it saves them time and money. Companies often receive hundreds if not thousands of applications per job posting to review. ATS offers a solution that helps lower the number of applications recruiters need to review by filtering out applications that don't meet certain criteria. ATS allows the companies to drop the initial say 500 applications down to maybe 50 candidates who are the best fit for the job.

Popular Applicant Tracking Systems

While there are far too many ATS out there to name them all, here are a few of the most popular and widely used:

Common Misconceptions About Applicant Tracking Systems

The most important thing to remember about applicant tracking systems is that they are not perfect. For example, they often struggle to understand complex resume designs such as two-column resumes. Some even have trouble understanding simpler designs. Because of this, making sure your resume is optimized for ATS can significantly improve your chances of landing interviews. While this guide does not go over the process of optimizing your resume for ATS, I do plan on writing a separate blog post on that topic soon.

Another thing worth noting is that applicant tracking systems are not inherently bad. When used correctly, they can offer significant benefits to companies, such as improving the overall efficiency of their hiring process. With that being said, there are cases where ATS can do more harm than good such as overlooking quality candidates because of difficulties reading their resumes.

Closing Remarks

Love them or hate them, applicant tracking systems seem to be here to stay. While they are far from perfect, they have and continue to help companies large and small hire quality candidates. Because of their increasing presence, it is more important than ever to consider who or what may be reading your resume after you apply for a job.

It is often best to play it safe and keep your resume design simple and easy to understand for both humans and computers alike. If you plan to make a new resume, check out our free resume builder, where you can make an ATS-friendly resume in minutes. If you made it through this whole thing, we appreciate you taking the time to read some of our work and hope you found it helpful!