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How AI and ATS are Affecting the Job Search

Wednesday, April 22, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Crystal Cory
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As most career coaches know, Applicant Tracking Software, or ATS, is one of the biggest influences on the job search today. The latest stats suggest that over 90% of Fortune 500 companies are currently using ATS technology, and many small to medium sized businesses have followed suit. However, it is easy to get conflicting information from a variety of sources, and the fact that hundreds of solutions are used by employers today creates difficulties for job seekers to manage. The rise of Artificial Intelligence (or AI) doesn’t seem to be helping things as it seems that nobody has a definitive answer on how it integrates with ATS technology. So how can job seekers manage this complex environment? And what is the current role of AI in the hiring process? 

Why is there so much conflicting information?

It seems like font types, templates, graphics, key words, and other things about resumes are almost always up for debate in regards to ATS. But why is there so much conflicting information? According to the Career Confidante Podcast, there are about 400 different ATS on the market. Not only that, but employers can customize what features are in their ATS to meet their specific needs. This complexity and lack of standardization can cause more harm than benefit, leading to lots of conflicting and/or outdated information in the field.

How can applicants combat the complexity of the fragmented ATS landscape?

When thinking about what advice to pass onto others, think about the “common denominator” of all ATS technology. For example, some ATS technology might be able to read a third party font, but not all of them can. Sticking with the “common denominators” such as Calibri, Arial, and Times is a safe bet. Some ATS technology might be able to take Pages as a document type, but not all. Submitting a Word Document or a .pdf is a safe bet since all ATS can read those types. It takes a little more work to figure out the commonalities, but the advice you give will be better off in the long run. 

How is Artificial Intelligence affecting the hiring process?

Each ATS solution leverages AI in different ways. However, there are three common ways that AI is being used across companies both small and large. 

The first way AI is used in ATS technology is through a Boolean search. In systems like iCIMS, a recruiter or hiring manager searches for keywords to find applicants. iCIMS, and by extension the AI within it, then ranks the applicants based on how often that keyword is used in the resume/application. 

The second way AI is used in ATS technology is through a match percentage to the job description. In systems like Taleo, every time someone applies to a job, it automatically searches the application for a match percentage against the job description. Then it ranks the applicants for the recruiter based on that percentage. 

Finally, AI within ATS is also being used to figure out the “signal to noise ratio” in application documents. It isn’t uncommon to hear a student or job seeker say that they are “keyword stuffing”, or putting in all the key words without context as many times as possible. Still other job seekers say that they are going to paste in the job description in white text so ATS reads more keywords, but the recruiter can’t see it. Both methods are considered by job seekers as ways to “beat the ATS” and get them a higher rank in the system. Because of this, some ATS technology has AI within them that measure a signal to noise ratio – essentially meaning that AI can determine if keywords are used way too frequently and/or out of context. If it detects this, it will alert the recruiter.

Looking Toward the Future

Most Career Coaches know the tips and tricks of working with ATS technology – not using templates, matching keywords exactly, and so on. Managing the complexity of ATS technology is still very important for working with job seekers, and being aware of the different ways ATS technology interacts with AI is a new avenue to explore and learn about. Here’s to learning all we can and keeping our knowledge up to date on ATS and AI! 

About the Author
Crystal Cory is a Career Coach at the University of Utah. She also serves on the MPACE Mountain Central Committee.


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