An applicant tracking system, or ATS, is a software application used to store, sort, and search through resumes. There are many applicant tracking systems out there, all with different features and functions. This post provides an in-depth review of one particular ATS: Qandidate. Launched by Wouter Goedhart, Tycho van Paassen, and Remy Verhoeven in 2013, Qandidate is now used by more than 6,000 companies worldwide, including Mattel, WeightWatchers, and KLM. Qandidate is based in Europe, with offices in Rotterdam and London. With 10 sample applications, we used Qandidate to do a test run of hiring for one job.

Have you ever received a rejection email immediately after applying for a job online? Read on to find out why that happens, along with what else we learned.

Application process

To apply for a job with a company that uses Qandidate, you manually fill out fields asking for your name and contact information. While this might feel a bit tedious, it’s a better solution for candidates than applicant tracking systems that try to pluck contact information straight from resumes (which can lead to errors and omissions).

The homepage.
The homepage.

Next, you answer any screening questions the company has chosen, paste your cover letter in the provided space, and upload your resume as an attachment. The space for the cover letter allows you to include links, making it the perfect opportunity to point the recruiter to, say, your online portfolio or GitHub account (GitHub is a code repository known for open source development. For developers, having a GitHub account showing numerous contributions can be almost as important as a resume). There is also the option to upload further attachments, such as writing samples or design work.

Instead of submitting your resume as an attachment, you can elect to use your LinkedIn profile. Companies that use applicant tracking systems report that many candidates start, but do not finish, applications. Offering such shortcuts is one way to minimize this.

The cover letter is front and center on a Qandidate profile. This is how your profile will look without a cover letter.
The cover letter is front and center on a Qandidate profile. This is how your profile will look to a hiring manager if you don’t submit a cover letter. This image capture also shows that this candidate’s answers to the screening questions were in line with the job’s requirements.

Qandidate is based in Europe, and U.S. users might notice some minor differences when applying. When filling in your address, it asks for your postal code and your house or apartment number on one line, and your street on a standalone line. Each candidate’s profile contains space for a picture; while it’s frowned upon in the U.S. to have your picture on your resume, it’s a standard practice elsewhere in the world. Dates are written in day/month/year format instead of month/day/year.

Screening questions

Used by 80 percent of recruiters on Qandidate, screening questions are a versatile tool. There are three different types of questions:

  • Informative. For these questions, there is no right or wrong answer, and the question isn’t counted at all toward how the system weighs the applicants.
  • Normal. These questions are taken into consideration when weighing the applicants.
  • Killer. A wrong answer to this type of question will automatically reject a candidate. Recruiters choose what constitutes a wrong answer (such as insufficient experience or education).

Recruiters choose the number of questions they want to use, if any. For each individual question, the recruiter decides whether to classify it as informative, normal, or killer. In addition to Qandidate’s predefined questions, recruiters can also create their own. The predefined questions include education level and experience level. For the education level, recruiters select from a checklist the range of education levels they will accept (equivalent American and European degrees are grouped together). For experience level, recruiters enter a minimum and maximum number of years of experience that they are looking for. Numbers with more than four digits can be entered in these fields, meaning that recruiters can effectively ask for a minimum amount of experience without setting an upper limit.

The education level options. Recruiters can recruiters can choose from. More than one level can be chosen.
The education level options. Recruiters can choose more than one.

The custom question options include open question; number range; multiple choice; date range; and closed question. Recruiters can also set a minimum number of screening questions that each applicant must answer correctly. If a candidate does not meet that minimum, their application will be automatically rejected after a 48-hour window.

Once a job has been posted, the questions can no longer be changed. This ensures that all candidates are subjected to the same questions, and that all questions are weighted the same for all candidates.

In this predefined screening question, recruiters specify the amount of experience they're looking for.
In this predefined screening question, recruiters specify the amount of experience they’re looking for.

If you have ever applied for a job online and gotten an immediate rejection, it is likely that you answered a screening question with a response that fell outside the window of what an employer was looking for. (Screening questions do not come with a lie detector, so recruiters should verify answers by looking over the other information a candidate has supplied.)

Search and filters

Unlike SmartRecruiters and many other applicant tracking systems, Qandidate stores applicants’ resumes as attachments in their original formats. There is no profile section that presents resume information in an identical format for each candidate. The benefit is that your resume information won’t get garbled, but this also makes it imperative that your resume contains the right keywords. If your profile does not show up when the recruiter searches for their most-desired keywords, your application is likely to go unnoticed. For help with tailoring your resume to a specific job, visit Jobscan for a keyword analysis. Jobscan will rate how well your resume matches the job description, and provide suggestions for improvements.

This image capture shows the results of a search for resumes that contain the word "trained."
This image capture shows the results of a search for resumes that contain the word “trained.”

The search tool is what allows recruiters to find candidates whose resumes contain particular keywords. But while a human might recognize slight variations on the same word, Qandidate does not. This is typical for an ATS. Qandidate’s search tool returned different results for “bachelor’s,” “bachelors,” and “bachelor.” Searches for “manager” and “management” also returned different results. This is another reason why it’s important to submit a cover letter—doing so gives you more chances to include potential keywords. In your application materials, make sure to use synonyms and different forms of writing things out. For example, instead of always using “Adobe Creative Suite 6,” write it as “Adobe CS6” as well.

Because Qandidate doesn’t insert each candidate’s resume into a standard format, recruiters have to hunt through each profile individually to determine where a keyword showed up, and in what context. With this ATS, your resume format still matters. Make sure all of the information on your resume is relevant and easy to see at a glance.

Qandidate has a rating system that allows recruiters to rate all candidates on a scale from one to five stars. Qandidate also features several filters to help recruiters sift through applicants. Recruiters can use filters to view applicants that meet certain criteria in numerous categories:

  • Rating
  • Score from screening questions
  • Years of experience
  • Education level
  • Location
  • Application source (online application, employee referral, etc.)

This makes it easy for recruiters to look for candidates who meet their ideal requirements, such as living locally and possessing 7 or more years of experience.

When moving a candidate along in the hiring process, whether that’s rejecting them, offering an interview, or simply confirming receipt of their application, recruiters can choose to use Qandidate’s default email templates, or create their own.

The default email template for offering a candidate an interview.
The default email template for offering a candidate an interview. Recruiters can also create custom templates.

Applicants can be considered for more than one job with Qandidate. There is a feature called Talent Pool that lets recruiters match applicants to different roles open within a company, or add them to the company’s general talent pool for consideration for future roles.

For recruiters

Qandidate is free for all users; no paid option exists. Though the system is fairly intuitive, there are various forms of customer support for those who want more guidance (live chat, webinars, and an online forum, among others). It is designed as an in-house recruiting tool, based on the premise that people who know an organization well will best be able to choose the right candidates.

Qandidate offers recruiters guidance for posting to job boards.
Qandidate offers recruiters guidance for posting to job boards—and discounts.

Qandidate offers both a calendar tool and a one-stop shopping option for posting job vacancies online. By doing this through Qandidate, recruiters can take advantage of discounts the site has negotiated with 22 different job boards. Some of these job boards are U.S-based, some are Europe-based, and some are global. Posts on these job boards are active for 14 to 60 days, depending on the board. The price range for individual job postings is from $254 to $2021 (prices converted from euros), again depending on the board. Additional discounts are offered to recruiters who post on more than one job board. Qandidate suggests the job boards most likely to lead to the best candidates, based on the success rate of similar job postings from other users, though recruiters can post wherever they wish.

In addition to the standard corporate blog, Qandidate has what they call their Labs blog. This is where developers talk about how they build their software, projects they’re working on, and the results of their R&D efforts. If you’re interested in the technical side of what Qandidate is doing, and what they’ll be doing next, this is the place to look.

Qandidate’s blog by and for developers.


If an online application asks questions, answer them honestly. Not doing so wastes your time and that of the recruiter. Remember that the questions could be for informative purposes only; not every question is meant to weed out and reject candidates. On the other hand, be prepared to accept that you may not be considered for a job for which you felt qualified.

Additional things we learned from trying Qandidate:

  • Make sure you have two copies of your resume: one flawlessly-formatted PDF, and one text file.
  • Use a cover letter. This is displayed prominently on an applicant’s Qandidate profile. Besides, whether candidates submit cover letters may play a role in how a recruiter rates candidates.
  • Include links. If you have a minimal web presence, job hunting should spur you to change that. A portfolio, blog, or other site allows you to not just list where you have worked, but to show specifically what you can do. Have you built an app? Published an ebook? Helped launch a local film festival? Whatever you’ve done, make sure you are prepared to provide links that make you stand out when applying for jobs online.
  • Submit relevant samples. Doing so shows a willingness to go above and beyond, and gives you the chance to prove to recruiters that you are capable of actually doing the job.

One other way to increase your chances of landing an interview is to test your resume with Jobscan before applying. Paste in your resume and the job description, and Jobscan will tell you how effectively you have targeted your resume for the job, plus suggest improvements you can make.

Better than a word cloud. Scan your resume.

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