Applicant Tracking System – ATS Scanners Explained with Tips

February 20, 2023

So, you’re searching for a new role. Unfortunately, you’re getting one rejection email after another – even for jobs you’re well qualified for!

What’s going on?

You speak to some friends. A few of them say something about ATS systems:

“You got rejected by the ATS system.”

“Your CV wasn’t ATS friendly. It didn’t make it through the ATS Scanner.”

Is your first thought… “What’s an ATS Scanner?”

Unless you’ve worked in Human Resources or Talent Acquisition, it’s unlikely you’ll have come across an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) before.

So, let’s take a quick look, get some answers, and learn how to BEAT them!


What Is An ATS?

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System.

As the name suggests, it’s used by HR teams to organise and track applicants.

An estimated 45% to 75% of companies in Singapore use ATS Solutions.

Primary Purpose of ATS

The primary purpose of an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is to streamline and automate the recruitment and hiring process for organizations. 

ATS software is designed to assist HR professionals and hiring managers in managing job applications and candidates efficiently. 

Here are the functions and purposes of an ATS:

  • Resume and Application Management
  • Job Posting and Distribution
  • Candidate Screening
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Interview Scheduling
  • Candidate Tracking
  • Reporting and Analytics
  • Compliance and Documentation
  • Candidate Experience
  • Integration

How Do Recruiters Use an ATS?

As recruiters, we rely heavily on ATS systems to help us organise applicants. In today’s job market, applicants come in from all sorts of channels (Job boards, email applications, referrals etc)

An ATS is a useful tool to collate all applicants into a centralised location. This ensures we give every candidate a fair look and that no CV gets lots in the chaos.

This is especially true in today’s global market. Job boards have made it so easy for applicants to apply with just 1-click. It’s resulted in a huge increase in the number of applications we see.

Getting through them all is a lot of work, and some HR departments simply don’t have the manpower.

ATS Solutions allow them to quickly filter and remove unsuitable candidates, and focus purely on the ones who are likely to be the best fit!

How do ATS Scanners work?

An ATS System’s primary purpose is to organise applicants.

When you add an applicant’s CV to the ATS, it scans the CV and pulls out a few key bits of data:

  • Name
  • Email Address
  • Contact Number
  • Current Job Title
  • Current Employer

To ensure the ATS correctly pulls this data from your application, it’s important to use a resume template that is ATS-friendly.

If you need help, we have a collection of our CV Templates you can download for free.

What About CV Keywords?

Often times, as recruiters, we have far too many applicants for open positions. It’s very time-consuming to go through every CV to see if they’re a good fit.

As such, there are a large number of recruiters who’ll do a search across the entire CV database for certain keywords.

For example, if I’m hiring for a IT Programmer, I’ll search for CVs which only mention the programming language we need. (eg. Python or C++)

If I’m hiring for a Accountant, I might search for the name of the account software we use (eg. Xero or SAP)

If an applicant didn’t include these keywords in their CV, it’s likely that I’ll miss their profile and not shortlist them (even though they might have been suitable)

As a jobseeker crafting your CV, do your best to include all the relevant technical keywords in your CV.

This can include programming languages (Python, Java) , softwares you use (SAP, Tableau, AutoCAD) and certifications (Six Sigma, PMP).

Do ATS Scores Matter?

These days, with computers getting smarter, some ATS systems are assigning “scores” to a CV. The higher the score, the more likely the applicant is suitable for the open role.

These systems though, are in their infancy. Their ATS scores are often very unreliable.

Even top tech companies like Amazon, Google and Meta haven’t gotten these scoring systems to work well. Their recruiters still rely on manually checking through every CV.

There are also ATS Scanners which mimic the systems used by big companies. (eg. Jobscan). As a jobseeker, you can head over to those websites, upload your CV with the target job ad, and “see” your score.

It’s all smoke and mirrors. My advice is never to trust those scoring systems. They’re built for consumers, not recruiters.

At our firm, we never recommend using such scanners to “score” your CV.

Keyword Examples For Resume Scanners

To increase your chances of passing through these systems, you should include relevant keywords in your resume. 

Here are some keyword examples tailored to different scenarios:

For Fresh Graduates:

  • Degree or major (e.g., “Bachelor of Science in Computer Science”)
  • Internship
  • GPA (if it’s impressive)
  • Academic honors or awards
  • Relevant coursework
  • Soft skills (e.g., teamwork, communication)
  • Entry-level job titles (e.g., “Junior Developer” or “Marketing Assistant”)
  • Certifications or training
  • Industry-specific keywords (e.g., “data analysis” for data science)

For Senior-Level Professionals:

  • Leadership experience (e.g., “Managed a team of 10”)
  • Industry-specific certifications (e.g., PMP, CPA)
  • Strategic planning
  • Budget management
  • Project management methodologies (e.g., Agile, Six Sigma)
  • Revenue growth
  • Profit margins
  • Market expansion
  • Senior-level job titles (e.g., “Director of Marketing” or “Senior Software Engineer”)
  • Industry-specific software or tools (e.g., SAP, Salesforce)

Industry-Specific Keywords:

  • Healthcare: Electronic Health Records (EHR), HIPAA, patient care
  • Information Technology: Cybersecurity, cloud computing, programming languages (e.g., Java, Python)
  • Finance: Risk management, financial analysis, SEC compliance
  • Marketing: SEO, content marketing, social media strategy
  • Engineering: CAD software, structural analysis, mechanical design
  • Education: Curriculum development, classroom management, pedagogy
  • Sales: CRM software, sales funnel, customer relationship management
  • Human Resources: Talent acquisition, employee relations, HRIS
  • Hospitality: Guest services, hotel management, food and beverage
  • Retail: Inventory management, visual merchandising, POS systems

Remember that the specific keywords you should use will depend on your unique skills, experiences, and the job you’re applying for. 

Write A CV For Humans, Not Robots

Too often, I see jobseekers writing and rewriting their CVs to include every last keyword. They hope that by including every permutation, and maximising their “CV score”, they can maximise their chances of being selected.

Instead, what ends up happening is that the CV becomes a mess. A hodgepodge of keywords and impossible to understand.

If anything, it harms their chances of getting called for a job interview.

Always remember, the final filter is a human reader. Always make your CV easy to read and understand. And if you can, make your CV memorable by including a career narrative.

Closing ATS Tips For Jobseekers

As a jobseeker, here’s what you should do to best position yourself:

  • Use a CV template that’s easily read by the ATS
  • Include relevant technical keywords
  • Craft a CV with a good narrative
  • Make the CV easy to understand (avoid unnecessary jargon)
  • Don’t use any ATS scoring systems. Instead, use your superior human judgement.

And if you still aren’t getting the interviews you deserve, reach out to us.

Take advantage of our free CV Feedback session! Our team of recruiters will be happy to give you an expert opinion.

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Harry Suresh
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