How Applicant Tracking Software Kills Individualism

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Everyone is the same and only our generic skill sets and years parked at office desks can separate us.

That’s what most applicant tracking software would have us believe. If that doesn’t sound fair to you, we’d agree.

There’s a reason most of us comb our hair and put on makeup. There’s a reason we buy clothes and listen to music that reflect our tastes. We each have our own style and carry a level of pride in how we present ourselves.

We know the importance individualism. We’d even say that few of us want to merely blend in with the masses.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what many applicant tracking software systems are doing today. They simply deny applicants the chance to be themselves, and squash every bit of individualism the moment resumes are submitted.

Your work won’t matter

You see, all of the time applicants spent writing and formatting their resumes doesn’t matter. All the time devoted to carefully selecting fonts and colors doesn’t mean anything. All those little things done to best represent their brands don’t even get passed the main gate of most applicant tracking software.

All the work applicants did to separate themselves from the pile of other resumes instantly vanishes. The ATS completely strips the formatting from their resume because its in-browser resume viewer can’t handle the format to display. Now, instead of getting a chance at the position via an impressive glance, people get buried in a Downloads folder somewhere until someone has time to dig it up for review.

Here you are, on the doorstep of your dream job, and you’ve been stripped down to nothing more than a collection of 1’s and 0’s. Binary data.

You, and all you are, is represented only by:

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  • Level of education;
  • Years of experience;
  • Previous titles held

Aren’t we more than just titles and degrees?

Not all applicant tracking software is created equal

Some ATS’s even go to great lengths to protect each applicant’s unique personality and story. One ATS in particular has developed and implemented an in-App resume viewer. This allows the applicant to upload their resume directly into the system. That means no shenanigans or missed information because some lazy software didn’t pick up the valuable data.

This way, a hiring manager finds a resume in the way the applicant intended – personality and talents included.

Most hiring managers and recruiters will tell you, they’re looking for that special candidate. They want that perfect fit. They want that job seeker who will stand out and make a difference.

So ask yourself, is your applicant tracking software denying you that special someone?

This article originally appeared on The Resumator Blog.


5 Comments on “How Applicant Tracking Software Kills Individualism

  1. I tend to agree with you a lot here, Don. I worked for a company that had an ATS as part of their hiring services, and though it was a powerful tool to easily weed out clearly not qualified people for a job (people who have 1-2 years experience for a 8-10 yrs of experience required position), it had quite a few down sides.

    For creative-type positions, it was not a good tool at all. It’s actually awful for that. lol Those positions are really focused on “fit” and creativeness and individuality, which ATS does not allow. You can’t stand out as a candidate. And business owners misses out on great talent.

    But for more operational jobs — like in manufacturing, it’s actually a good tool. If you need a machine operator, and need someone with 4-5 years experience, it’s a great tool. What you’re looking for in a candidate is much more clear-cut and dry, which is what ATS delivers.

    Though, curious — what do you think about all that?

    1. I’m generally skeptical of “years of experience” requirements, because it really doesn’t tell you much. The quality of the experience, how much/quickly responsibility progresses, and what skills are gained during that experience are hard to pin down when you have an ATS reviewing. Dramatic differences, sure… but, for instance, I can see plenty of places where the requirement wants 5 years of experience, but the best candidate ends up being the one with only 2 or 3. That’s plenty of time to gain a solid familiarity with a role, and I can easily see 2 years at one job competing with 5 years at another.

      Same will skill years; 2 years of quickly progressing Excel is way better than 5 years spent making simple spreadsheets. I think that if employers got away from using years of experience at all, it would improve hiring in general, and help people how to best use ATS’ in particular.

      1. Great points. I think that filtering people out just by years of experience is not the best way to go — make sure you’re flexible and consider a variety of other factors when filtering through candidates, not just one.

  2. I don’t think it’s necessarily all the fault of the ATS. A lot of recruiters could try picking up the phone a bit more often, for example. That has a habit of uncovering candidate individuality.

    Apologies if that sounds a bit too radical.

  3. Yes lets get back to basics, pick up the phone and call the candidate. Resumes dont often give us the full picture of the candidate. All these systems we have now days in recruitment are great, however at the end of the day recruitment is all about people and relationships and you cant have a “relationship” with a “system”

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