How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?

How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work?

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a commonly used tool that hiring managers or recruiters use to shortlist applicants. The ATS is one technical system that evaluates your resume. There are at least four hundred kinds of ATS, all handling matching differently. All resumes go through this structure so that the recruiter will know the best applicant to hire.

But how does an ATS work, and what elements make up the system? This guide is here to help.

The Elements of An Applicant Tracking System (ATS)

Though recruiters use the tool, understanding how it works can help you fit your resume for your desired job. There are six elements of the ATS, all working together to make hiring easier:

  • Company website

    The company website is where you usually send your resume. Depending on the company, this may be one page that lists all open positions. However, if you're using a specific job site clicking the position's link will take you to a separate page, where the company's ATS will handle your application.

  • Matching system

    Once your resume is submitted, the ATS will run it through the matching system. This system will review your resume to see if it matches the job description. If your resume doesn't fit, the system passes it over.

    It would be best if you tailored your resume so that the ATS will consider you a good candidate. Editing your resume is important because, according to Capterra, "75% of recruiters and hiring experts use a recruiting or applicant tracking system." Wherever you apply, chances are it will go through an ATS.

  • Resume database

    The database stores all the submitted resumes. It's what the matching system uses to sort through them to find the ones that match the company's job descriptions.

  • Job descriptions

    The job descriptions are a separate database that the matching system uses with the resume database to see if there are any matches. Depending on the type of ATS, the system ranks resumes by how closely they match the job descriptions, which the recruiters will then use to narrow down their list of candidates.

  • Workflow tools

    The workflow tools help recruiters take their chosen candidates through what they call the recruitment funnel. The funnel is the entire process that leads up to hiring an applicant, from the interview to contract signing. The tools included could be calendars that display interview dates or tasks that show which documents still need a signature.

  • Plug-ins

    Many ATS have plug-ins that go with the workflow tools to make the process smoother. These could include video call and calendar integrations for interviews, applications that perform background checks, and email integration to talk to candidates.

How Does an Applicant Training System (ATS) Work?

When a recruiter wants to search for job applicants, they look up keywords in the ATS that match the job description. This process is sourcing, and the ATS shows the recruiter those with high rankings.

The keywords can include the job title and the skills needed for the position. The interface can also display the relevant skills, job history, and other credentials so that the recruiter can quickly scan and decide whether a candidate is a good fit.

Read the job posts carefully and look for the specific keywords they're using. For example, if the job description mentions "restaurant manager" instead of "manager," use "restaurant manager" in your resume. Keywords also include the skills mentioned in the job description, so be sure to have these in your resume.

Learning sourcing will help you know which parts of your resume you should edit so that the ATS chooses your application.

Understanding ATS Helps Secure a Job

The ATS effectively ranks candidates according to relevant skills, qualifications, achievements, and other factors. This tool allows recruiters to go through hundreds of applications daily to make matching and hiring easier.

Even though there are many kinds of systems, the six elements are still present. Understanding how an ATS work helps you as a job hunter because you'll know how to tailor your resume to fit the structure.

To see the keywords and descriptions used for the job you're looking for, check out the postings at

Written by Career Specialist Jun 07, 2023
Supercharge Your Job Search
Create an account to save and apply for jobs and enjoy many other benefits.

Other Articles About Resumes, Cover Letters, Thank Yous

When it comes to job hunting, standing out is important. Being unique to the rest of the competition will make you look more attractive.
Ever wonder how recruiters hire you? Most recruiters use an applicant tracking system or ATS. This system collects and analyzes the thousands of applicants they receive per open job role.
The gesture of saying “thank you” or showing gratitude is a common courtesy in people. These two words are easy to say and can make somebody's day.
Job hunting today is a long process for most people. It involves many applications and interviews that don’t even guarantee a job offer in the end.