Dear Job Seeker: How to Navigate the ATS

Features Recruiter.com

The job market is better today than it was just a few years ago, but finding a job that matches your skill set and your cultural needs is still no picnic. For you, it's about more than just filling a seat. You want to find a place where you can plant your flag, build the base of your future endeavors, and grow.

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As a result, there's a lot of pressure on every resume you send out and every interview you go on. Sometimes, however, the most difficult part of the job search is simply getting seen by the company. For that reason, we've compiled some great advice on how to deal with the dreaded applicant tracking system (ATS).

Navigating the ATS

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is the little sorting robot that matches your resume to the job openings to which you apply. It is essentially the first hurdle all candidates must overcome in the competition for the job. If the ATS doesn't think you match the job posting, it will reject you without a single human ever laying eyes on your resume.

Unfortunately, ATSs aren't perfect. Like nearly all robots, they are prone to making mistakes. You could be a perfect fit for the role, but if your resume is incorrectly formatted or simply missing a few keywords, you could get axed.

This is why you may want to call the company after applying to ensure that your resume was, in fact, received and not tossed out by the ATS.

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A few more tips to help you deal with the ATS include:

1. Use Language Straight From the Job Posting

This is not a foolproof method for ensuring you get through, but it gives you a better shot. Even the most basic SEO knowledge can help you here, since many ATSs rely on semantic or phrase searches. That means that an ATS may not realize that InDesign proficiency means you understand and can work with the Adobe suite. Don't paraphrase when it comes to qualifications – use the language the job post uses.

2. Have Your Stuff Together

Many ATSs are older, which means if you accidentally hit the back button or take too long filling out the application, you might get kicked off and lose all your progress. While companies should try to make the candidate experience as painless as possible, many organizations still rely on virtually duct-taped systems made of various platforms. Until that issue is fixed, it's up to you to keep all your important documents backed up and ready to go when your dream job opens up.

3. Do Your Research

In days past, we told candidates to look up the teams and hiring managers on LinkedIn and to check Facebook reviews, but today's candidates can access even more inside information. Glassdoor, FairyGodBoss, Comparably, Kununu, and other sites offer reviews of companies, teams, hiring managers, and even the interview experience itself. Get the inside scoop from people who have aced the interview and landed jobs at the company – and learn from the mistakes of those who haven't. You may also want to check on Quora for discussions of a given company's hiring process.

Aside from the above tips, much of the classic advice still applies. Ensure you receive a receipt of submission. No matter what your recruiter friend tells you, cover letters are still appreciated by the majority of recruiters. Hiring managers like receiving thank-you emails, not handwritten notes.

If you can get past the ATS, you'll have a much better chance of making your way to the job of your dreams!

A version of this article originally appeared on the Red Branch Media blog.

Maren Hogan is founder and CEO of Red Branch Media. You can read more of her work on Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, and her blog, Marenated.