Applicant Tracking System (ATS) – What is it? Why it is used by recruiters.

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software application that enables the electronic handling of recruitment needs. An ATS can be implemented or accessed online on an enterprise or small business level, depending on the needs of the company. An ATS is very similar to customer relationship management systems, but are designed for recruitment tracking purposes. In many cases they filter applications automatically based on given criteria such as keywords, skills, former employers, years of experience and schools attended. This has caused many to adapt resume optimization techniques similar to those used in search engine optimization when creating and formatting their résumé.


Almost all recruitment agencies and most major corporations with an in-house recruitment function use some form of applicant tracking system to handle job postings, applicants, resumes and interviews. A dedicated ATS is not uncommon for recruitment specific needs. On the enterprise level it may be offered as a module or functional addition to a human resources suite or Human Resource Information System (HRIS). The ATS is expanding into small and medium enterprises through open source or software as a service offerings (SaaS).

The principal function of an ATS is to provide a central location and database for a company’s recruitment efforts. ATSs are built to better assist management of resumes and applicant information. Data is either collected from internal applications via the ATS front-end, located on the company website or is extracted from applicants on job boards. The majority of job and resume boards, have partnerships with ATS software providers to provide parsing support and ease of data migration from one system to another.

Recent enhancements include use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools and natural language processing (NLP) to facilitate intelligent guided semantic search capabilities offered through cloud based platforms that allow companies to score and sort resumes with better alignment to the job requirements and descriptions. Modern ATSs allow applicants to be sourced from the company’s own database of past job applicants.

With the advent of ATS, resume optimization techniques and online tools are now used by applicants to increase their chances of landing an interview call.


Functionality of an ATS is not limited to data mining and collection; ATS applications in the recruitment industry include the ability to automate the recruitment process via a defined workflow.

Another benefit of an applicant tracking system is analysing and coordinating recruitment efforts – managing the conceptual structure known as human capital. A corporate career site or company specific job board module may be offered, allowing companies to provide opportunities to internal candidates prior to external recruitment efforts. Candidates may be identified via pre-existing data or through information garnered through other means. This data is typically stored for search and retrieval processes. Some systems have expanded offerings that include off-site encrypted resume and data storage, which are often legally required by equal opportunity employment laws. Very few applicant tracking system have any major job distribution function instead, relying on suppliers such as Logic Melon and eQuest.

Applicant tracking systems may also be referred to as talent acquisition and management products (TAMP) and are often provided via an application service provider or software as a service (SaaS) model. The level of service and cost can vary greatly across providers. In the UK and Ireland, Applicant Tracking Systems which are specifically for Agency Recruiters are often referred to as Recruitment Software and this is a term used mainly in the recruitment agency industry (representative bodies include the REC in the UK and the NRF in Ireland). Although proprietary systems dominate the ATS space, there are open-source alternatives.

As the data held within recruitment software is predominantly personal data, it is often tightly controlled by data protection legislation, preventing the data from being held offshore, which frequently places a legal restriction on the use of SaaS offerings. (sourced by


Love Your Career, Love Your Life

(Image courtesy of

Written by Melissa Hefferman for Mywhirld.

When Bryan connected with me on LinkedIn, my curiosity and I sensed a like mindedness so I took the connection seriously.  This led to some wonderfully open exchanges that have left me asking myself, in contemplating writing something for his website, what is it that sets me apart from other recruiters and what value do I even have to add on the subject?  Or am I just one of many; clocking in and out each day, collecting a paycheck, chasing the almighty dollar, allowing myself and my worth to be defined by an arbitrary career in order to exist in this man-made world of money, business and commerce.  Then it hit me, because in reality I am a woman who has a great passion for her profession and who constantly thinks about life and how to live the best one possible:  my greatest value as a recruiter is intrinsic.  I’ve scratched my strictly informative toned article and am going to do what I do best instead, speak from the heart.

I am an ENFP, who knows she is an ENFP, and I am committed to improving upon my weaknesses and emotional intelligence because I’m striving for excellence in life.  That may sound like a lofty claim but optimism, as well as a high level of empathy and genuine love of people, is inherent in my personality.  Recruiting and I are, quite simply, a natural fit.  My self-awareness has brought me to a profession that is aligned with my personality strengths and likes perfectly and it truly does bring me great joy to work with, encourage, and champion my applicants during their career search.  And is not joy what we all ultimately want in our careers?  Not just to survive, but to thrive?  I believe that it is.  We all want excellence deep down and the first step towards it, the off-paper attribute that I search for in every applicant that I interview because I want them to succeed, is: do you know who you are?

Knowing who we are is a life-long process but our awareness can start immediately.  If you haven’t before, take a personality assessment online, examine your strengths and weaknesses then think about your chosen profession and whether or not it is aligned with your natural abilities and talents.  If it is, your chance for success is greater, keep at it and acknowledge your weaknesses so that you can improve upon them.  If it isn’t, and you want to live your  best life possible, I suggest that you have some changes to embrace.

From a recruiter’s perspective, I often find that you can hone in on this in interviews by asking open ended questions about the environments an applicant has worked in previously, what their likes and dislikes were, and then listening.  Above all else, listen.  If you are open, caring, and attentive (a recruiter who is in the right profession), people will open themselves up to you in return.  Hard skills and experience are either there or they are not; it is tuning into the soft skills and a person’s personality that will allow you to assist them best and place them in a position and environment where they will have an opportunity to thrive.  Isn’t that what it’s really all about?

We will all spend a tangible amount of time during our lives at work.  If we stop for just one moment and examine what our own strengths and weaknesses/likes and dislikes are beyond mere titles and salaries, and adjust accordingly, we may invariably place ourselves in a position and environment where we will shatter even our own expectations with passion and joy.  I tend to think of it like this:  to love your career passionately is to love your life passionately.   Why settle for anything less?

“There is no such thing as work life balance, there is only life” ~ Unknown

About the Author

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Melissa Hefferman is a Canadian expat who has called sunny San Diego home since 2004.  She misses her family but not winter.

In 2014, after examining her past work environments and related successes and failures (large corporate companies, small companies, remote experiences, sales and recruiting blended desk models), she knew that she would thrive best in a small company, working in an office with open and positive colleagues, in a recruiting only capacity (helping people is her passion).  She found just what she was looking for in her current role and feels blessed and grateful to work with a team of dedicated professionals who are like-minded and who inspire her on a daily basis.

PARENTS – How You Can Help your teenager, land their first job.

Back in the day.

Most of you with teenage kids, will have fond memories of a childhood through the 70s and 80s. I certainly do. Cordless phones and TV remote controls were new and exiting. Many of us were fortunate enough to have the rudimentary video games or a VHS player. But none of these things consumed our entire lives.

Many of you, like me, will have spent much of your time outdoors, on a BMX or climbing trees and building camps. A game of football or cricket, at the rec’ or in the street, was almost an everyday occurrence, especially during the holidays. The girls that didn’t join in would be seen skipping or hula-hooping just about anywhere. On rainy days, the yoyo or Action Man got dragged out the toy box or mum and dad’s old bed sheet over the dining table, would be reassigned to form make-shift tent.

What’s changed ?

As you might guess, I’m saddened by the changes that technology has bestowed upon our younger generation. To start with, the distraction of television during mealtimes silenced the family and reduced interaction around the dining table. Since then, digital technology has consumed teenage culture; Advanced gaming and social media have isolated many teenagers, widening the void of parent/teenage interaction. Today, teenagers re-affirm bonds with friends and sometimes strangers through smart phones and the social media explosion. The family bond, telling each other about their day of mischief or Mum and Dad’s interesting day “at the office”, have gone by the wayside for most families.

The point to this trip down memory lane is to demonstrate the disconnect we’re creating between working adults and our young generation of school-leavers. Their transition from GCSE or A-Level qualification, to the adult workplace will be a big step. How prepared is your son/daughter for the transition from being a big fish in a small pond to their release into the work sector ‘ocean’? Putting that question to them will normally be answered by a grunt or murmur, if you’re lucky.

My previous articles;

give some advice and guidance on preparing a CV/Résumé and, for an interview.

Mums and Dads … times have really changed.

By comparison, my job hunting days while at school, and once I left, were much easier than it is now. In most cases, a simple response to a job ad in the newspaper, by phone, followed by an interview with your potential boss, was about It.

To the rescue!

With the exception of the pub/bar, corner shop, and local pet store, many businesses use recruitment agencies. They now deal with hundreds, sometimes thousands of applications. As we approach the end of the school year, use this opportunity to connect with your teenager by helping them prepare for that first step into the working world. Don’t assume that the school has prepared them, even if you’ve dished out thousands on private schooling. Agencies use advanced software, Applicant Tracking System (ATS), to scan CVs for relevant keywords that match the job’s skill criteria.

Recruiters will read pre-selected CVs, looking for academic, as well as soft skills. These are skills developed through nurturing and moral guidance, mostly from yourself. So, who better is there to help them recognise these skills but you. The shared experience of producing a CV, Cover Letter and preparing for an interview can be very rewarding and secretly, I think your Son/Daughter will really value the support as they secretly mask their angst and, as they make their way out there, relying on your support.

As Parents, we are our children’s Leaders.