In the space of a few hours this past week, the topic of Automatic Tracking Systems (ATS) arose in activities with which I was involved. The first individual who brought them to my attention is a current resumé writing coach who in previous job experience has been a recruiter within organizations. The other individual was a client of mine who had read about them and was kind enough to provide me a copy of the articles he had read. Most likely if you have applied for a job over the last couple of years, particularly with a mid-size or large firm, you have come up against the Automatic Tracking System. It is the background engine to the online application system you are asked to enter in your resumé information when applying for a job.

While companies will indicate to you the purpose behind the online application system is to make life easier for their recruiters and human resource personnel, my contact who worked as a recruiter would greatly dispute that fact. She will tell you that the Automatic Tracking System’s greatest function is to help companies when they have to fill out reports which are based on supporting the fact that they are considering the resumés of a diverse pool of candidates when filling their job openings. One thing that the recruiter that I listened to and the article that I read confirmed is that Automatic Tracking Systems have the tendency to do more harm than good. That is because of how they are programmed to work.

ATS is set up to screen resumés to look for key words and phrases to match to the job description for the position being applied. Match enough key phrases and your resumé rises as one that is sent on to human resources as one they should consider. However, have all the experience the job requires, but not word it to match the screening of the ATS, and your resumé will not see the eyes of a human being. Making the process more impersonal, since there are so many resumés going through this screening and with no human interaction involved, a candidate applying falls into the proverbial “black hole” and hears nothing about their application.

While many of you who have applied for jobs online will tell me this is something you already knew or have suspected, what made this whole topic more interesting to me were a few items in the article provided to me by my client. One is that the ATS does not view your resumé the same way a human may as a paper or computer document. It often is trying to take your application information and fit it in its template. This has caused the ATS to eliminate actual job positions a person has had or knocked off the timing of the jobs they have had, since it expects input in a certain format. This then causes gaps in the candidate’s resume’. The final outcome is that the information submitted looks nothing like the resume’ the candidate thought they were submitting.

The other thing that the article spoke of is software that has been developed to actually evaluate your resumé before you submit it to the ATS. This software is meant to help evaluate the ability of your resume’ to get past the ATS and match up to the job description before you put it into the company’s system. This way you get an opportunity to adjust your resume’ to meet the requirements of the tracking system and move it higher in the priority order of the company evaluating the resumés and selecting the candidates brought in for an interview.

A few years ago there was a diet guru who was popular whose tag line was “stop the insanity”. Hearing about this whole process and even the supposed “antidote” makes me say the same thing when it comes to job searching. Yes, you may very well need to put your resumé through an ATS if that is how a company indicates you must apply to them. However, it is NOT the only way. More than ever the ATS enforces a principle that strategic job seekers have known all along. Get your resumé directly into the hands of hiring managers to see. Do this by setting up face to face meetings with them on your own, through a targeted mailing and telephone campaign. If you see a job opening in an organization that is of interest to you, thoroughly review your list of contacts. Who may work at that place where you are interested in working? Who may know someone that works there and can provide you the contact information of an individual to whom you can reach out? Work those association meetings within the profession in which you have interest so as to meet individuals in the field, so they get to know who you are, what you have accomplished and what you can contribute.

Technology can be a wonderful thing when used for the good of mankind. However, when it comes to the world of job search, nothing beats “the human touch” for making connections and pursuing that next position you seek. Ultimately the hiring decision is in the hands of a human being or several human beings for any opening. While prospective employers may put electronic obstacles in your way, remember they are not for your benefit but for the company’s. You still have the accountability for your search at all times to present who you are and what you have to offer in the best possible light. And, much like it has been in the past, the way it is still best done today is through face to face contact.

Author's Bio: 

Tony Calabrese of Absolute Transitions provides suggestions, approaches and information on how you can find a new job, move up to a new position, or change your career. To get his free report, "Overcoming Obstacles to Change Your Life" visit