Applicant Tracking Systems taking over the job hunt

Students outside Academic & Career Success Center (Murissa Barrington) Students outside Academic & Career Success Center (Murissa Barrington)

Murissa Barrington


Wilson Tu’s job hunt would probably be easier right now had he known about Applicant Tracking Systems.

Tu, a third year Humber College mechanical engineering student, has spent the last six months looking for a job. He often applies for jobs online and only gets a response once every two to three weeks.

Applicant Tracking System (better known as ATS) allows hiring managers to easily filter through the massive amount of job applications they receive daily, but not many people outside the Human Resources field know about such tools.

The system will put a resume or application through a series of tests to see if it contains the key words specified in the job description. If it doesn’t, the resume gets the boot before ever being seen by a human.

“It would make it pretty easy,” said Tu, who would have prepared the appropriate key words in his documents had he known.

Key words are only one trigger. After that hurdle, the resume undergoes human scrutiny.

Rosemary Haefney, VP of Human Resources at Career Builder, an international job search agency, said in a statement that 51 per cent of human resources managers reported using an applicant tracking system to screen and manage resumes.

“It’s important to incorporate key words from the job posting into your resume because it will increase your chances of appearing near the top of the employer’s ranking of the most relevant candidates,” she stated.

Beyond optimizing resumes to get past the ATS system. professional resume writer Martin Buckland said people shouldn’t clutter their applications with text and paragraph formatting.

“You can’t have footers, you can’t have headers, you can’t have shading, you can’t have graphs or underlines…and limited bolding,” said Buckland, with Elite Resumes in Toronto.

“You must have a LinkedIn and it has to be up to date. If you don’t, you’re committing career suicide,” said Buckland, considered a leading resume expert internationally.

Applicants should make sure to check for spelling and grammatical errors, include volunteer work and make sure they’re qualified for the posted job.

“The first thing you want to do is you want to take a look at the job posting and take a look at your resume… it needs to speak to that job posting clearly,” said Christine Colosimo, career advisor at Humber North’s Academic and Career Success Centre.

“So you need to make sure that some of the skills that you have actually match up to the job posting,” she said.

Colosimo recommends students have their resumes looked at by peer tutor resume assistants – “senior level students who have strong writing skills,” she said — at the Centre to ensure they meet current standards. Students can also submit their resumes online on the career services page at