The MAGIC behind the ATS

The Magic Behind the ATS

The Applicant Tracking System… the ATS

Waaaayyy back when, before I became a career coach, I was a recruiter.  I started my recruiting during the times when you filled out a triple-ply application with a pen on a clipboard. Why, tres, you may ask? Oh, you know, compliance and redundancy, I suppose. We would send a bulk of them via an interoffice envelope that we would send to corporate via snail mail once a week. {for those of you that don’t know what an interoffice envelope is – you’re welcome}. Anyway, we would keep a copy on file in the office, and you got to keep the flimsy top copy for your records. One year, we got computers, and on my lunch break, I did “data entry” into a database called the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) – eventually eliminating the cumbersome file cabinets that lined the office walls. Since the stone age, I’ve used a plethora of ATS systems; Taleo, Bullhorn, Jobvite, Smart Search, and a few homegrown systems. I even sold Talent Rover and ATS software back to recruiting firms.

So with a little ATS cred, I want to break down the system from a recruiter lens and share what happens behind the technology. 

SURPRISE… it’s not artificial intelligence running the database; it’s a person. 

That’s right, it’s a person populating the database. There are a few different ways this happens.  

1. People apply to jobs making their resume is attached to that job.

2. Employees add resumes for referrals.

3. Recruiters add resumes we come across when we are sourcing and searching for the perfect candidate outside of the database.

Most ATSs are never scrubbed, refreshed, or dumped. Your information is in there forever, including resumes – old and new. Some databases will store up to 5 resumes, and some store them all. Most databases prefer .pdf or .doc as a rule.

Once you are in the ATS, a workflow starts. Listen up! 

Here are stages of the workflow, sometimes called status or positions.

Applicant – Review – Interview – Offer 

When you are attached to a role, you are considered an applicant and get ranked in order by date applied, not anything else. 

What about the keywords and being ranked higher??? 

Let me back up and explain that when a recruiter enters the job description in the ATS, they can set up eliminating criteria. How many years of this or that? Do you have this skill or that skill? Have you managed people or have a degree? Have you worked in eCommerce, B2B software, CPG, etc? So getting ranked higher has nothing to do with anything!!!

The ATS does not reject you. A recruiter does. Once a recruiter looks at the list of applicants, they decide to review the resume further or reject your application. 

I person does this, not the ATS.

The next step is for the recruiter to forward your resume to the hiring manager for further review.  You may have already been phone screened and not rejected based on the information discovered in that call. You are qualified to move forward. You could get rejected here, but if not, you are in the interview stage. So far, all of this is being done by humans, not the ATS.

At the interview stage, a few things could happen. You get rejected, or you get an offer. If you accept the offer, your record turns into the base of your employment record. If you decline the offer, you will remain in the ATS with all the workflow status information and, hopefully, notes about your interview journey. 

Another essential feature in ATS is the search feature. From this, we can search based on the job description criteria and see candidates that declined, got interviews, and even applied for other roles. We can leverage all the data from the candidate’s journey and revisit candidates that may have declined the offer at the time or were sourced and weren’t interested. We can bring back candidates that were previously interviewed and came in second place, or maybe we see the applicant for another role.

For all of these reasons, ATS can’t be making human decisions – people are making very human decisions. 

I hope this clears up a few things.

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