How to Know Whether an ATS is Reviewing Your Resume
Dear Career Coach
: I found your article on applicant tracking systems very interesting. I was wondering, how would I know if an organization is using such a system? Do you think solo practices are using these systems?
Dear Job Seeker: A couple of clues may indicate that an employer is using an applicant tracking system (ATS). First, I would assume that any of the larger healthcare organizations are using some sort of ATS to manage employment applications. These larger organizations receive so many applications for all their openings that they have automated their application processes out of necessity. The increased number of applicants, coupled with cutbacks in HR staff due to the recession, has only increased the need for more efficiency.
If you are applying online and during your application process you find yourself answering a series of questions, this is also a strong indication that you are interfacing with an applicant tracking system. Many of these questions mirror information in your resume. This speeds up the sorting of the information that is contained in your resume and enables the organization to easily search, locate or eliminate specific categories based on the job requirements. At the end of the process, you may still be asked to upload or cut and paste your resume, but all preliminary searches are likely to be done based on the information you entered during the question-and-answer phase. Take particular care to make sure you are answering these questions with the "nonhuman" reviewer in mind. Be complete in your dates, avoid gaps and use those keywords!
Sorting resumes doesn't require a fancy system or expensive software. Smaller or even solo practices that don't have the budget for an automated computer ATS might still be doing some basic information searches. A reasonably tech-savvy manager can use the basic search function that is standard on any computer to find the resumes that match the job qualifications.
Bottom line, if you are submitting an application or a resume in an electronic format, you have nothing to lose by assuming you resume will be subjected to some sort of digital search. Resumes formatted for computers are still compatible with human reviewers, but the reverse is not always true.
Thanks for the question!