• Rachel Doyle

Automated Tracking Systems are hated by candidates - can they support the recruitment process?

Enter a search into Google for “how to cheat the ATS” and you will find countless responses to the query, from YouTube videos, to blogs and articles. These are the most hated approach of recruitment and candidates are tired of being unfairly auto rejected. Whilst these systems are hailed as massive time savers for hiring teams, they do nothing to help genuinely talented candidates. So if candidates can identify how to ‘cheat’ the ATS, it makes your initial screening process ineffective.



What is the ATS?


The ATS is the automated tracking system which is an automated platform created to support HR and hiring teams in their recruitment. These systems haven’t been called ‘automated recruitment systems’ because they cover an end to end process for the HR team (and that would be an unfortunate acronym).


  • Candidate sees a job on the hiring businesses website, or clicks a link to the job from a job board or LinkedIn. Alternatively, they are identified as a potential candidate by a recruiter but have to complete their details via the hiring businesses’ website.

  • Candidates are prompted to upload their resume and answer some questions in relation to the role. This might be the first pre screening stage.

  • Based on the candidate’s CV format and the ease of the automated system to parse the information within it, as well as the answers to the recruitment questions, the candidate will either be automatically rejected, flagged for a human look over their application, or successfully moved on to the next stage of the process.

  • The next stage of the process might be a telephone call / video screen with a human, or an automated telephone interview with a bot (yup).

  • Again based on the success of this round, the candidate will either be rejected or sail through to the next stage. This could be sent to the hiring manager to make a decision on their CV.

  • The next stage should be a face to face interview (could be virtual or in person). The system will link to the hiring manager’s diary and give the candidate the option to select their availability to interview.

  • Interviews will be confirmed via the ATS and also send confirmation emails.

  • Depending on the outcome of the interview, there may be some requirements to complete tests, either competency based and / or personality based to match cultural fit to the business.

  • Outcomes of interviews will be posted through the ATS and future interviews scheduled if appropriate.

  • An offer would be made hopefully verbally, although it would be possible to include this in the ATS.

  • The ATS can then be used to transfer documents such as the handbook or other documents. Depending on the sophistication of the platform, it might contain an onboarding module to start engaging the candidate from the start.


What’s the issue?


Firstly, these systems are preprogrammed with questions designed to filter out candidates at the initial stage. However, as identified,candidates are being rejected when they shouldn’t be. So they aren’t uploading their CV in the right format and they aren’t including the right words to be picked up and screened by the ATS. The pre-screening systems might have a hard time understanding nuances in your CV, or picking up on abbreviations or acronyms, so try and make sure the words you are using are relevant to the job description.


Just today I read some advice from a MD giving a jobseeker advice on how to get through the ATS, which involved copying part of the job spec, word for word and posting it into the top part of their CV, so that it would be picked up with keywords by the ATS.


Secondly the challenge with using pre screening questions is that it allows preconceived bias to seep through and will exacerbate social mobility problems.


And last of all, if a candidate is cherry picking words that it has identified from the job spec, that it thinks will be needed by the ATS, or preprogrammed, then the screening process isn’t fit for purpose. It will reward those that have done their homework on how to get around the ATS and won’t necessarily bring the best candidates to the interview stages, or at the very least it won’t capture all the potential talent for that role.


ATS has its place, particularly where it can help with reducing the admin intensive side of recruitment. Similarly, it may work well if you have a talent pool of pre screened candidates - by human first but in terms of being fit for purpose to aid with pre screening the systems on the market aren’t sophisticated enough to truly identify best fit for a business by talent and culture fit. There can be no replacement for human interaction in recruitment. HR tech has its place and there is certainly a need for systems to support currently overwhelmed HR departments but the tech stack needs to be mindful of human in the loop involvement, particularly on decisions that are related to emotional intelligence and behavioural understanding.


Engage with a recruitment partner


If you are looking for help with your recruitment processes, get in touch with Auxeris. We are a tech enabled recruitment business with specialist recruiters who have a wealth of experience and knowledge of their sectors. They have competently recruited across many roles and in temp, temp to perm and permanent roles. Get in touch today for an initial discussion.



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