Anyone applying to jobs online will be using an applicant tracking system (ATS). Most will encounter the ATS without knowing it or recognizing just how much it impacts their application. It is important to understand when you enter that ATS and which one you are on in order to make your application as effective as possible.
An applicant tracking system is a type of software used by the human resources or talent acquisition team to sort candidates in the progress of filling the company’s open jobs. There are over 900 applicant tracking systems that are used commercially right now. There are countless more proprietary versions where the company has decided to build its own. In certain industries, some programs are used more than others. But, all of these programs can be highly customized to each employer. So, as an applicant, it is important to understand what applicant tracking system you are in (if any) when you are applying to a specific job.
Here are the ways to spot which ATS you are in when you are applying to jobs.
Why it is Important to Know Before Submit
Understanding which ATS you are navigating in is important to the success of your job application for a couple of reasons. First, the way that ATS handles your data after you hit submit is important. These programs are built with different features and options for the employer. Knowing what program you are working in will enable you to modify your efforts to ensure that your data shows up the right way when it is viewed by the talent acquisition person and the hiring manager.
Second, identifying the ATS when applying also enables you to track the performance of your resume on that system. Tracking the ATS on your job application tracking list will enable you to spot some important trends that most people are missing right now. For example, if you are never getting an interview on an application through a certain ATS (i.e. Taleo, Workday), then chances are that there is something off with your resume or how you are navigating the system in the first place.
Third, there are a lot of fake jobs out there right now. These jobs are put out there to steal your information and the only way to avoid the hassle that comes with that is to prevent it from occurring. The ATS programs aren’t cheap, sure there are some lower-cost options. But, they still cost something and they aren’t always easy to use. Thus, it is unlikely that a scammer will be using the ATS to try to get people’s information.
So, here are the ways to spot the ATS when you are applying to jobs on the company careers page:
This is often the fastest way to spot the ATS. Look at the URL for the company careers page or the open job postings. Somewhere in that link in the address bar (on chrome and internet explorer) will be the name of the ATS. There are a couple of ways this can show up in the URL which can be easy to miss if you don’t know what you are looking at. In fact, both the company name and the ATS name may be in the website address. This can happen depending on how the ATS and its job board are configured by the company. Here are some examples of how these frequently show up:
*Domains - this is when the company job board is set-up using the ATS and not the primary domain of the company. This will look something like:
The numbers will be automatically assigned by the ATS company to reflect the company that purchased the ATS from them (this is the company that you want to work for).
*Subdomains - an increasing number of ATS companies will enable the employer to configure a custom domain (or website link) for the job board of their system. Companies will set-up another page on their primary website to host the ATS job board and then redirect the link to the ATS job board. Basically, this means that the website link will mirror that of the company. An example of this is something like:
In this case, the URL will not tell you which ATS you are on. So, the following tips will likely be important for you to figure out which system you are navigating as a candidate.
This visual trick is the second easiest way to spot the ATS. The logo of the company that you are applying to will likely be on the page somewhere. However, the logo of the applicant tracking system will probably also be on there. To spot this, you will probably just have to scroll down. You will know it is the ATS logo because it will be the name of another company or the name of a product that cannot be found anywhere else on the company’s website.
The other place that you may see the ATS logo is in the candidate portal once you start applying. In there, there are often different screens that can be prompted depending on how the employer configured the ATS.
Not all employers put the logos on the ATS as they may be trying to keep their talent acquisition process as simple as process (or they haven't thought much about employer branding yet). In that case, you’ll have to move on to the next tactic.
This is the very bottom of the page that you are on. In here, you will often find the copyright information for the ATS. The holder of the copyright will be the ATS company. So, it can be listed something like:
© Year Name, Inc. All rights reserved.
Or, the footer may say something like “Powered by” or “Delivered by.” Meaning that the technology of the job board is through the ATS.
Some footers are configured in the ATS so that they are the same on every single page. Others are not. So, you may need to look at multiple pages on the job board to find the name of the ATS.
When You Can’t Find An Answer
Using the three tactics above will almost always reveal which ATS you are using as a candidate trying to apply to a job on the company page. However, if none of them work, then this means 1 of 2 things. Option 1, you are in a proprietary employer system. This is an ATS that the employer built themselves. It will be highly customized to that employer and likely be driven by their own keywords and unique job titles/culture. Or, option 2, you are applying to a company that does not use an ATS. This means that a real person will receive your application (likely by email) and review it for fit. In both of these cases, the way you build your resume should be different than if you were applying to a job through a commercial applicant tracking system. You will want to customize your resume in this instance to the particular job, the keywords, and to humanize it before hitting submit.