Applicant Tracking Systems



Updated June 8, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt of Admitted by Soundarya Balasubramani. Written by an Ivy League graduate from India, this is the proven guide for students worldwide looking to pursue undergraduate or graduate study abroad in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Purchase for instant access to the guide and other exclusive resources—including sample SOPs, sample resumes, scholarship lists, and a private community with other readers.

An applicant tracking system (or ATS) is a tool used by companies, and more specifically recruiters, to manage the thousands of resumes that come into their pipeline, by parsing the resume content of resumes for relevant keywords followed by sorting and ranking them into different categories.*

If you were applying for a data science role that specifically states that you need a background in Python, R, and machine learning, it’s pretty obvious that the recruiter would only want to look at the resumes that had them. However, instead of having to skim through all of them manually, they let the software do its magic, which then provides them with a ranking of applicants (based on a plethora of indicators).

The ATS is a quintessential example of the phrase necessity is the mother of invention.

As mentioned before, the advent of personal computers, word processors, fax machines, and the internet over the decades made it exponentially easier for job seekers to create and send resumes. Not surprisingly, as their task became simpler, the employers’ task in choosing a candidate for the job became harder.

Until the 1990s, recruiting happened primarily through classified advertisements in newspapers, but this changed dramatically as we entered the 2000s. An early version of the ATS began to take shape in a website based out of Canada.* Before we could reap the benefits of the internet, though, there was the infamous dot com bubble collapse.* Within a few more years, there was the housing collapse.* All this meant the number of unemployed people around the world skyrocketed in a short amount of time.

So what did they do to find jobs?

They flocked to job boards such as Monster and CareerPath, which were already seeing steady growth.

statsThis surge of growth left the job boards blindsided, paving the way to an accelerated adoption of ATS software, which is now used by over 95% of the Fortune 500 companies.*

And somewhere along all this, the need to mention your race, height, weight, and more in your resume lost its significance. Fortunately.

We tell you all this so you know that the ATS is here to stay.

The Two-Column Resume

Let’s begin constructing a two-column resume from scratch. If you choose to go for a one-column resume, you can still use all the best practices provided below, since the difference between the two is more structural than functional. We’re going to pick a two-column resume format created by Debarghya Das* and taken from Overleaf, a website that lets you use ready-made templates and customize them in LaTeX (pronounced lay-tech).

LaTeX* is a document preparation system that is generally used for technical or scientific documentation writing. Unlike a word processor, it lets you focus more on the content of a document and less on its appearance, which is taken care of by it by assigning default values.

You can either pick the template we chose, or pick something else to your liking, and follow along. The following are the five major sections of the resume.

You’re reading a preview of an online book. Buy it now for lifetime access to expert knowledge, including future updates.
If you found this post worthwhile, please share!