Savvy job seekers don’t just rely on the information readily available to them when looking for a new position. They hunt down information that will make them a competitive candidate. When applying to any large corporation, especially a Fortune 500 or otherwise desirable company, getting an edge on the competition can be the difference between getting a call back and indefinite silence from the employer. Job seekers who understand the exact applicant tracking system (ATS) that they want to beat are better able to fine-tune their resume and ensure the highest chance of success.
Read more: What is an applicant tracking system?
With insights about a particular ATS, you can tailor your resume above and beyond just optimizing your resume keywords.
Today’s post examines iCIMS, a top applicant tracking system used by more than 2,700 companies in the United States and internationally—including major companies such as FedEx, Sony, and Amazon. Understanding how iCIMS operates, and being able to identify whether the company you’re applying to uses it, will allow you to improve your chances of scoring an interview before you even apply.
iCIMS parses resumes by scanning your uploaded document and trying to identify the skills and qualifications that you possess. In other words, it tries to recognize your skill set and associate it with your profile. If done perfectly, this enables recruiters and hiring managers to match you with positions that fit your exact skill set and qualifications. However, parsing is not an exact science, and iCIMS often incorrectly captures the contents of a candidate’s resume.
In one example, a fine arts graduate who listed “silk screening” as a skill was mislabeled as a “silk performer” by iCIMS. This is problematic because the candidate’s profile will not be associated with their actual skill.
Because of the inaccuracy of parsing tools, it’s critical to present your skills so they precisely match the way they are written in the job description. Without optimizing your resume for the keywords that the ATS is most likely to recognize, your skill set might be completely misinterpreted by iCIMS and prevent you from being considered for a role. Consider Ruby on Rails; if the job description mentions “Ruby on Rails,” and your resume only includes “Rails,” your resume might not be seen as a match if a recruiter searches the full term “Ruby on Rails.”
During the application process, many companies will ask a few questions relating to work experience, qualifications, or skills. Some might even just ask for basic numerical data such as the number of years you’ve worked in the industry. While you might not give much thought to these questions as a candidate, they are actually a powerful filtering tool for employers.
Recruiters can use any combination of keyword searches and filtering by question to identify ideal candidates. iCIMS has a customizable feature that allows companies to ask you yes or no questions, ask you to select an answer from a drop-down menu, or ask you to manually fill an answer into a text field. Additionally, iCIMS supplies some stock questions—you may see them frequently on applications, because many employers use them. Employers can also add other questions.
As a candidate it’s important to answer questions honestly, but also to decide if your answers will make you a strong candidate. Employers may use a “knockout” question that automatically disqualifies candidates if they don’t meet a requirement, such as education level or years of experience. If your answers will likely eliminate you from the running or make you an otherwise low-priority candidate, you might be better off searching for a connection on LinkedIn and getting a referral so that your resume lands directly in the hands of a company recruiter. You might get an automatic rejection email if you don’t “pass” the knockout question filter—even if you have a perfectly keyword-optimized and visually-pleasant resume. iCIMS also allows companies to send out an automatic rejection email a specified number of days after the application was submitted, even if the system rejected it immediately upon submission.
Another feature that candidates need to be aware of is iCIMS’ transparency about which jobs you’ve applied for and your application status. If you apply for more than one job using iCIMS, your recruiter is likely privy to that information. They can go into the system and look at details such as how far you made it in the interview process, notes from the interviewers, whether you were rejected after an interview, received an offer, etc.
There’s no reason to fret about recruiters having access to your application history, even if you didn’t land interviews or offers for other positions. However, be wary of applying to dozens of positions within the same company. Recruiters can review back as far as 200 days within their system and see all the positions at their company that you submitted your resume for. Shotgunning your application to dozens of positions that don’t match your skill set might hinder your chances of landing an interview for a position that would actually be a great fit.
Honesty is also the best policy if a hiring manager or recruiter asks whether you’re interview at other companies, outside of theirs. You can be honest without divulging details, such as company names, unless you feel comfortable doing that. It’s perfectly acceptable to say you’re entertaining an opportunity elsewhere but you’re really interested in their company, or you’ve interviewed elsewhere but you’re still seeking out the best fit. Recruiters and hiring managers will appreciate that you’re forthcoming—especially considering they generally already have the information most candidates try to hide. If anything, companies will generally view you as a more competitive candidate if you’re also being considered for other positions. And, expressing a clear interest in their company over others is generally viewed as a good sign and can even earn you points.
It’s hard to know which ATS you’re working with if you’ve never knowingly dealt with one before. Many people apply to jobs without any awareness of ATS or the role they play in job hunting. Luckily, ATS technology is structured in a way that makes it fairly easy to see what ATS your resume will be submitted to—as long as the company hasn’t intentionally taken steps to hide it.
You may recall from applying to jobs online that when you hit the “apply for this position” button, most companies will redirect you to a different page. More often than not, the URL of the new webpage you’re on will tell you which ATS you’re working with. Here’s an example:
Domain while looking at a job description on Amazon.com:
Domain after you hit “apply” for that position on Amazon:
By looking at the URL of the new page that Amazon directs you to for this position, you can see that they are using iCIMS. This neat trick can help you identify which ATS you’re dealing with most of the time. It’s not a foolproof method, and some companies are beginning to integrate their ATS in a way that disguises which system they’re using. But until all companies make their ATS invisible to candidates, be sure to check the URLs of any company that you’re submitting a resume to and see what you can learn from Jobscan about the ATS they use.
If you want to learn more about how iCIMS keyword searches, formatting, and social media integration work, sign up with Jobscan today. All users gain access to the “ATS Tip” tool (see video above), and premium account members are given access to our iCIMS Applicant Tracking System Uncovered e-book. The e-book goes more in-depth—including more iCIMS screenshots—than what we’ve shared here, and covers additional topics that can help you tailor your resume and land your next interview!