ATS 101

Jun 4, 2024

Think ATS = automatic rejection? Not quite...

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) scan and rank resumes based on criteria (like keywords or titles) set by human recruiters. This ranking helps those humans focus on qualified candidates.

What does this mean for your resume? You don't need to impress the ATS; you need to impress the recruiter behind it. But before you can, your resume has to pass ATS screening and the best way to do that is to understand how ATS' work

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is a software application designed to assist organizations in the recruitment and hiring process. ATS are utilized by businesses of all sizes to automate the collection and scanning of resumes, manage candidate information, and streamline the hiring workflow. Essentially, they serve as a central repository for job applicants' data, making it easier for recruiters to find the right candidates for their openings.

How Do ATS Work?

Understanding the workings of an ATS can demystify the recruitment process and provide insights into how to optimize your application to increase your chances of getting noticed. Here’s a step-by-step overview of how ATS typically function:

  1. Job Posting and Distribution

Recruiters begin by creating job postings within the ATS. These can be distributed to various job boards, company websites, and social media platforms directly from the system. This centralized posting saves time and ensures consistency across all mediums.

  1. Resume Collection

Candidates can submit their resumes through online applications. These resumes are then funneled into the ATS, where they're stored in a structured database. Whether submitted via email, uploaded directly, or imported from job boards, all resumes end up in the ATS repository.

  1. Parsing Resumes

Once received, the ATS uses algorithms to parse resumes, extracting key details such as contact information, work experience, education, skills, and more. This structured data format allows for seamless searching and filtering.

  1. Keyword Matching

ATS use keyword matching to compare the parsed resumes against the job description. Keywords typically include job titles, specific skills, years of experience, and educational qualifications. Resumes that score higher on relevancy are often moved to the top of the list.

  1. Screening and Ranking

Based on the keyword matching and other customizable criteria, the ATS screens and ranks candidates. This can include knockout questions (eliminating unqualified candidates), scoring thresholds, and other automated filters.

  1. Candidate Management

Recruiters can access sorted and ranked candidate profiles in the ATS dashboard. They can further review, comment, and rate applicants, share profiles with other team members, schedule interviews, and communicate with candidates—all within the system.

  1. Communication and Tracking

ATS keep track of all candidate communications, including emails, interview notes, and status updates. This centralized communication ensures that recruiters can follow the candidate’s journey from application to hiring seamlessly.

  1. Compliance and Reporting

Many industries require specific compliance and reporting measures. ATS often have built-in features to handle Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) reporting and other regulatory requirements, ensuring that hiring processes meet legal standards.

Tips for Job Seekers

For job seekers, understanding how ATS function can significantly improve the chances of your resume getting through the system:

1. Use Keywords: Tailor your resume to include relevant keywords from the job description.

2. Simple Formatting: Avoid complex formatting, graphics, and tables. Use standard fonts and bullet points.

3. Professional File Type: Submit your resume in a compatible format such as .pdf.

4. Specificity: Be specific about your skills, responsibilities, and achievements.

5. Section Headings: Use common headings like “Work Experience,” “Education,” and “Skills.”


ATS have revolutionized the recruitment process, making it more efficient and effective. By automating many aspects of hiring, they allow recruiters to focus on what truly matters: finding the best fit for the job. For job seekers, understanding how ATS work can provide a competitive edge in landing that dream job. In a world where technology and human resources intersect, ATS are undoubtedly at the forefront of modern recruiting practices. Fortunately, Canyon is designed to help candidates pass the ATS screening.

Sign up for Canyon today to pass the ATS screening!