Are robots assessing your job application?

With the super fast integration of AI into our daily lives, many people are wondering how it impacts recruitment processes. Frequently, I am asked by my clients for assistance in navigating the ATS (Applicant Tracking System), with them believing the ATS is a significant hurdle. However, the reality is different.

An ATS is used by many large employers and recruitment agencies to streamline the recruitment process. There is a common misconception that these systems simply scan CVs for keywords. The standard belief is that keywords determine which CVs reach human eyes, while the rest face rejection without ever reaching a human for review.

This idea leads candidates to focus on creating ‘ATS-friendly’ CVs, but this is a misleading and counterproductive myth.

What is the real purpose of an ATS?

The genuine purpose of an ATS system is the same as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system but specifically for job candidates. It serves as a comprehensive database, handling job adverts, standardising applications, and automating communication throughout the recruitment process. The primary goal is to facilitate recruiter-applicant connections across various platforms.

Although ATS systems employ a scoring mechanism based on keywords, it’s essential to debunk two crucial myths. Firstly, scoring high on the ATS doesn’t guarantee being selected. Recruiters tell me they do not follow this practice. Recruiters pride themselves on relationship-building and aim to assess every application, especially considering the scarcity of suitable candidates.

Secondly, even if screening were automated, it would be done to align with the Person Specification. Therefore, candidates should tailor their applications, emphasising the skills and experiences outlined in the specification. There is no additional work to be done.

For candidates, practical steps involve avoiding tables or images on their CVs for clarity. But, these look messy anyway. It was never sensible to use these.

However, the unnecessary and detrimental practice of ‘optimising’ CVs specifically for an ATS is discouraged.

There are no technical tricks to guarantee job selection.

Instead, focus on articulating why you are a suitable candidate based on the employer’s requirements, evidenced by relevant details and examples.

This approach ensures that merit, not technicalities, secures your place in the shortlist, regardless of the employer’s chosen system.


This blog post is based on my article in the Northern Echo.

Written by

CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.