In Supply Chain, Applicant Tracking Systems MAY Filter out Best Qualified Candidates – WHY?

March 24, 2014

Representation through a very specialised Recruiter often gets better Consideration from Hiring Managers.

We just read this great article from Forbes about how to get your resume scanned and accessed properly by automated Resume Tracking Systems. It’s a thorn in everyone’s side, this technology thing, in talent acquisition. So here’s some of our own insights about this topic which we no doubt think our Strategic Sourcing, Planning, Logistics and Supply Chain professional and Executive network will have interest in.

Many employers, especially those large, desirable companies (you know who we mean – the hot companies everyone wants to take a crack at sometime in their careers) that have to deal with very high volumes of candidates reaching out to them, depend on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to filter resumes for open roles as well as to manage all other unsolicited interest from candidates interested in working for them.

In theory, these systems, which use algorithms to filter out resumes that don’t have ‘those appropriate keywords’ in them, make it much more efficient for first responder Talent Acquisition Specialists and their hiring manager clients, who just don’t have the time to eyeball every candidate’s credentials and wade through the tons of resumes that hit their desks.  

But the Forbes article correctly identifies how computer systems often filter the best people out  because they’re trained to read a very particular rigid format and that’s where the slippery slope starts. In essence what this means is that many really great highly qualified candidates in Supply Chain for example (where demand for talent is always very high) just don’t make the cut because they don’t fit the algorithms and they get lost in the computerized shuffle. The statistic they quote in the Forbes article puts the figure at 75%. Seventy-five percent of qualified candidates are rejected by ATS programs because they can’t be read! WOW…That means the company will still see a decent amount of qualified applicants after the ATS screening, but three-quarters of the best talent for their roles isn’t even being considered. That’s really quite saddening.

The article does offer some helpful tips for how candidates applying to roles with large, ATS-dependent companies should tailor their resumes to avoid ending up being part of this unfortunate statistic. Here’s a small summary of the formatting tips they provide: 

  • Use .txt or .doc as a file format instead of .PDF. Humans love .PDF files because they don’t have formatting issues across different word processors, but ATS’s often confuse PDFs for images and reject them outright. That’s interesting.
  • Use only text, not graphics.
  • Don’t type a resume into an application text box.  Always upload a file instead.
  • Use many keywords dedicated to your profession, and keywords that appear in the job description.  If there is certain phraseology that comes up in the job, try carefully to weave it into your resume so that the ATS will see a match and flag it for further investigation.
  • But, don’t just stuff your resume full of keywords without putting them in context and making it flow in the larger context of your resume.

And there’s more in the full article. While the tips they offer are directed at applications that will be evaluated first by an ATS (which is a different beast than a human-read application), some of these tips are helpful in any resume and certainly worth applying.

We certainly recognize that ATS systems are necessary for internal HR departments who don’t have time to go through massive amounts of resumes. And even though we’d love it if every company and candidate used recruiters, it’s inevitable that people will make connections directly for certain roles. So we’re happy to pass information along, just as Forbes has done, about how to make sure your application to an ATS doesn’t get spat out and sent to the garbage heap.

But ultimately, it’s worth mentioning this: it’s invaluable to have a pair of human eyes as the first line of evaluation if you want to be considered for a position. Humans who are evaluating resumes often aren’t able to dedicate very much time to reading them, but at least they aren’t going to throw out your resume because you’ve strayed from nuts and bolts in your layout or used the wrong file format.

This article was a great read and I encourage you to take what it says to heart. Electronic screening is here to stay. It’s a reality that we might as well make ourselves as adaptive as we can to get the result we want.

Over and out


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