What is ATS or Applicant Tracking System? How does it work?

ats or applicant tracking system

Applicant Tracking System is a tool used to automate the hiring process of any organisation. It can be used to screen resumes and CVs of applicants, save and flow information & documents provided by the candidates such as the educational qualification, contact details, employment history, essays, cover letters and resumes.

Many corporates and MNCs integrate the tool on their website. They then invite the candidates to fill out forms and apply directly for job openings directly through their site.

However, many small enterprises use this tool provided as an open source or through various Software as a Service (Saas) providers.

Applicant Tracking Systems are also known as Recruitment Softwares or Talent Acquisition Management Systems.

Let us see the various uses of ATS in the hiring process:

Screening Resumes

One of the significant advantages of using ATS is to process hundreds of resume submissions. Its algorithm works similar to the Search Engine Optimisation Algorithm used by Google to rank websites in SERPs or search engine results pages.

When a hiring manager feeds the input data required to process and analyse resumes. A recruiter may feed – Bachelor of Technology’, ‘Data Analyst’, ‘Manager’, ‘Sales & Marketing’, ‘ServiceNow’ etc. into the system. Now, the ATS will perform the functions as:

  • Scanning the resumes of applicants by looking for resume keywords
  • It also checks citations or the number of times a keyword matches the criteria as put by the company
  • Grading the resumes based on the search algorithm and coming to a list of selected candidates
  • Manager can now share the resumes internally with other executives using an ATS

This system or algorithm follows Artificial Intelligence, where a machine would learn the resume keywords to look for and search in the database.

It takes no time as compared to doing the whole process manually where managers would read out the resumes and select/reject based on their findings. Thus, saving a lot of time & manual effort.

It is incredible how technology helps us in reducing the amount of work labour and increases the efficiency. While some have been sceptical about the use of AI – like Elon Musk, some believe it can be a great game-changer like Larry page.

“Artificial intelligence would be the ultimate version of Google. The ultimate search engine that would understand everything on the web. It would understand precisely what you wanted, and it would give you the right thing. We’re nowhere near doing that now. However, we can get incrementally closer to that, and that is basically what we work on.” —Larry Page

Forward Information, Schedule Interviews

Once the ATS is done screening the resumes or CVs, you can use it to forward the information of candidates from one manager to another as a candidate proceeds in the interview rounds.

You can schedule meetings and inform the candidates of their selection or rejection. You can even create offer letters and send it across.
However, the features of any Applicant Tracking System vary with the client or service you use.


Applicant Tracking Systems are a great resource to reduce the human labour by automating a significant part of the hiring process, i.e., resume screening,

However, there are issues with some systems such as not being able to understand various versions of a similar resume keyword. For example, MBA, M.B.A or Masters of Business Administration. All three of them mean the same thing, but a machine may not be able to read and understand the versions.

But, with time, these machines are getting better. Also, many big players like Google, Facebook, and Investors from Silicon Valley are now funding in the R&D of AI and Machine Learning Tools. Therefore, Applicant Tracking Systems are bound to get better and may replace many small jobs/tasks of HRs.

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Rohan believes in learning from other’s mistakes and his own. He is a curious person and is always all ears to good stories and ideas. He is passionate about reading, exploring new places, people, food. He likes to write about education, books and life hacks.