How to spot an ATS applicant tracking system

Savvy job seekers know that their first step to getting an interview is optimizing their resume for applicant tracking systems, or ATS.

Hiring managers are inundated with job applications for any online job listing. For many companies, ATS is a necessity that makes it possible to easily collect and filter large numbers of applicants.

Read more: What is an applicant tracking system?

That convenience comes with a price– highly qualified candidates are at risk of being filtered out sight unseen. Job seekers who understand ATS and how to strategically add keywords to their resume have a better chance of keeping themselves in play and landing an interview.

The first step to beating the system is knowing when you’re in one. Here are 4 things that can help you spot an ATS:

Online Forms

Some systems try to automatically parse your resume into searchable fields. Others will ask you to do it for them.

You can be sure you’re in an ATS when you’re filling out text fields in an online form. Each field contributes to a report that a hiring manager or recruiter can use to search or filter their applicants.

Copy and paste your resume into the ATS.
An ATS that instructs you to type your info, including your resume, into text fields.

Not all online job listings are part of an ATS. For example, some job postings simply instruct you to send your resume to an email address. That will likely be reviewed by an actual person.

“Easy Apply”

Job boards will direct you to any number of external ATS, but many of these sites double as their own. For example, anything marked “Easy Apply” on LinkedIn or Glassdoor will begin your application within their own ATS.

Easy apply buttons on Glassdoor and LinkedIn

Company Size

99% of Fortune 500 companies rely on ATS. The larger the company, the higher your chances of encountering an ATS. Larger companies are more likely to

  • have a dedicated HR department and the need for hiring software
  • be filling multiple job openings at once
  • be on the radar of more job seekers
  • need help proving compliance for government regulations like EEOC

Companies with fewer than 50 employees are less likely to see ATS as a necessity. Get an idea of company size and resources by looking them up on Glassdoor or LinkedIn.

That said, a small company could be working with a recruiter. Most recruiters — especially recruiting agencies — use ATS. If a job posting mentions “our client” instead of a company name or the company who authored the job posting doesn’t match the company discussed in the job description, you know you’re dealing with a recruiter.


The job listing or application URL is one of the easiest ways to spot a specific ATS.

For example, if you’re looking for a corporate marketing job at Starbucks, you’ll navigate through Starbucks’ careers website to:


You’re still on the Starbucks website, but once you click a link for one of their job categories you’re redirected to a new website:


Based on the URL, you know that Starbucks uses Taleo, the most popular system out there. Some other top ATS:

  • Jobvite
  • iCims
  • Greenhouse
  • BambooHR

Recognizing an ATS is the first step in beating it. Scanning your resume with Jobscan helps you create a resume that can get through popular applicant tracking systems. Jobscan users can even enter the name of the ATS into their Match Report to get specific tips that increase their chances of an interview.

taleo ats tip
One of the Taleo-specific tips available in the Jobscan Match Report.

ATS are easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for. When you see one, craft a strategic ATS resume.

Learn more about ATS:

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