Applicant Tracking Systems

by David Marwick, KempMillJobAssist

February 28, 2024

Applicant Tracking Systems, computer systems that scan resumes for keywords specified by an employer, have become an increasingly prominent part of the job-search scene.

According to Coursera, “The vast majority of online job applications first go through an applicant tracking system (ATS).”

Andy LaCivita, the founder of and no fan, calls them Applicant Trashing Systems.

Why do companies use an ATS?

In the “good old days,” applying for a job was relatively costly to the applicant.

You had to type, or at least copy, your resume, buy a stamp, address an envelope,  and snail-mail it to an employer.

This required you to spend a certain amount of time and incur out-of-pocket expenses.

Today, you can apply online with just a few keystrokes.

Because it is so easy (and inexpensive) to submit an application, job seekers are far less choosy about where they apply, which means that employers sometimes receive a flood of applications.

This shifts the cost burden to the employer, who will need to (1) pay people to do the initial screening of applications or (2) pay for an Applicant Tracking System to screen applications for certain keywords.

How to navigate an ATS

Because there are many such systems, it is hard to know exactly how to “defeat” them, but here is some common-sense advice from Candice White:

  1. Answer all the “knock-out” questions. 
  2. Tailor your resumes to the job. 
  3. Be careful with formatting. 
  4. Apply early. 
  5. Write for humans. 

You can read her January 2023 article, “Five Tips For Navigating Applicant Tracking Systems,” at

For further reading

Rebecca Ahn, “What Are Applicant Tracking Systems and Their Best Practices,”

January 8, 2024 (detailed article)

What Are Applicant Tracking Systems and Their Best Practices

Coursera Staff, “Navigating the Applicant Tracking System (ATS): A Job Guide,” Updated January 5, 2024

Indeed Editorial Team, “13 Best Practices for Beating an Applicant Tracking System,” updated March 10, 2023

Carol Henger, “ Beyond The ATS: How And Why To Target Your Resume,” February 2023,

Aileen Laqui, “How to Beat the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS): 10 Best Practices”
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