THE Northern Echo has teamed up with CV and interview expert Graeme Jordan to talk about learning these important life skills. This week, Graeme debunks myths around Applicant Tracking Systems.

With the pace at which AI is being integrated into daily life, it would be easy to think that it’s already affecting recruitment processes.

It’s not unusual for me to be asked by a new client if I can help them to ‘get past’ the ATS (Applicant Tracking System). But, this never turns out to be their real problem.

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The ATS is a software application used by some (mostly large) employers and recruitment agencies to help them manage the recruitment process. The belief is that these systems are being used to scan CVs for keywords to control which applicants have their CVs seen by a human. The rest get rejected, never to be read by a real person.

So, it follows that the job of an applicant is to fill your CV with ‘ATS-friendly’ keywords.

But, it’s a myth. It’s also an unhelpful myth because it persuades people to focus on the wrong things.

Whilst it’s comforting to think that you are just too complex and exceptional for the silly robot to understand, it’s likely that other people did a better job of communicating how they could meet the employer’s needs.

What is the real purpose of an ATS?

An ATS system is like a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system but for applicants and candidates. It is essentially a database with additional features.

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These include publishing job adverts, standardising the application process, collecting online applications, and automating emails to request information, issue tests, and tell you where you are in the process.

So, the recruiters are more likely to find you, regardless of which professional platform or job board you inhabit. And, they are more likely to keep in touch with you.

ATS systems do have a scoring system that can pick out keywords in an application, but there are two crucial things to note about this. Firstly, the notion that you have to score highly on this to be seen by a human is at the very least exaggerated. I’ve never met a recruiter who admits to doing this.

Those I know are proud of their ability to assess and build relationships with candidates. And, given the scarcity of suitable candidates for many roles, it would be foolish not to at least look at every application.

Secondly, even if screening was to be done by a software programme, they would, if they were sensible, do this based on the Person Specification.

Because the Person Specification is known to you when you apply, you simply have to focus your writing on that.

So, what should applicants do? Well, sensible actions include not using tables or images for important information on your CV, so that it can be more easily read.

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But, beyond that, trying to ‘optimise’ a CV ‘for the ATS’ is in my view an unnecessary and detrimental activity.

There are no technical tricks that you need to get selected for a job.

Just tell the employer why you are suitable for the job, based on what they have asked for, with an appropriate amount of detail and examples. This way, whatever system the employer uses, you should be able to be shortlisted on merit alone.