ATS or Applicant Tracking Systems are the recruitment industry’s preferred tool to ease candidate selection. ATS are highly effective in eliminating candidates who do not meet key criteria like keywords or document formatting. These guidelines are not public knowledge, but some resume/CV writers claim to be ‘experts’ at beating the ATS and landing that coveted interview. They told you to get a keyword-optimized CV to advance your career. They said it would completely revolutionize the job search for you. Sit back and relax.

The dream – Saves time and only costs a dime.

Reality – Done and dusted but you’ll soon learn, busted. 

The truth is that ATS CVs are nowhere near the Holy Grail of the job search most CV writers would want you to believe. Here’s the plain truth.

  1. Most candidates are hired outside of an ATS. 

A less-known fact of the hiring process is that ATS often come last, if at all. When a job requisition is made, companies start by looking at internal candidates. If a suitable hire is not made, they’ll ask their employees to refer people in. 70-80% of jobs are filled through networks. Even if jobs are made public on job boards concurrently, candidate referrals are prioritized for interviews because they are more likely to be a good fit. ATS applicants come into the process only if no one is sourced through referrals. The implication is this, you can have an incredibly optimized ATS CV, which every 2 in 3 candidates now have and never be seen by a human.

2. ATS Optimized CVs damage your brand 

Even if you pass through an ATS, a human will look at your CV before the interview. ATS CVs are a great disservice because they are repetitious, keyword-stuffed documents targeting bots. Most are distasteful to read and do not leave a good impression. You don’t want to damage your reputation by having the recruiting team ask themselves why you keep repeating yourself.

3. You may trick the ATS but Recruiters & HR aren’t dumb

Your ATS CV may be filled to capacity with the right keywords and you just make it into the interview shortlist. Now, meet the recruiter who also must review your CV and decide whether you really are a good fit. 

Recruiters are not easy to fool. You see, recruiters are a cross between psychologists and police detectives. They can sniff out CVs with a high match rate in the ATS, which are wearing a clever disguise yet are irrelevant to their search mandate. You may have courted and won over the ATS but not the recruiter. They are unmoved.

4. ATS’ are getting smarter too

With more and more candidates trying to game the system, ATS are evolving to be more intuitive e.g. flagging when a CV matches too perfectly with the pre-selected keywords. How perfect is too perfect? Only the system designers and developers know.

So, all those false dreams they sell about ATS CVs?

Ignore them. Winter is Always Coming where those are concerned anyway.