10 million—that’s the number of U.S job seekers that continue to struggle through the job search according to a Harvard Business School (HBS) study. However, the U.S. is also experiencing a dire need for more workers to fill positions.

So why aren’t these two groups meeting in the middle?

In this article, we’ll discuss the following: 

  1. How applicant tracking systems work
  2. The limitations that come with ATS
  3. Misunderstandings around how knock-out questions work
  4. How Jobscan works to help solve these issues

How do ATS work?

One of the big issues the HBS study found was the use of applicant tracking systems (ATS) to filter out candidates. These ATS can disqualify candidates based on filter setups and searches that don’t take into account the nuances that commonly accompany job searches. 

More frequently than not, it’s a search problem. Imagine ATS is like Google—recruiters type in specific keywords or skills to find candidates that match a list of criteria. For example, a recruiter can search for terms such as “computer programming.” As a result, only candidates who have the exact words “computer programming” show up in their search results. 

The study also found that companies know this is happening. Nine out of 10 executives reported knowing the ATS continues to filter out good candidates for their roles.

But why exactly is this happening?

The limitations with ATS

Basically, ATS isn’t as intelligent as Google. It lacks specific capabilities that would connect more qualified candidates with jobs.

For example, an ATS wouldn’t recognize “Javascript” as a programming language because the system is more of a CRM (think Salesforce). Plus, ATS creators haven’t invested their resources into keywords/skill matching algorithms. Therefore, these systems cannot correlate computer programming languages to the word “computer programming.” That’s why it’s imperative for candidates to include the exact matching keywords on their resumes. 

Screenshot from iCIMs—an ATS used by companies such as RiteAid

What are knock-out questions?

It is also important to shed some light on which parts the ATS auto-reject candidates and which parts are scanned by a person such as a sourcer or a recruiter. 

A Wall Street Journal article referenced hospitals scanning resumes of registered nurses for “computer programming” and power companies scanning for a customer-service background. It is true that some ATS have knock-out questions to filter out candidates. 

However, these questions usually revolve around basic information such as location, years of experience, and criminal records. Recruiters and hiring managers can also create custom knock-out questions to filter applicants out automatically. But these knock-out questions are usually more general such as the examples provided above.

JazzHR’s auto-reject candidate functionality

How Jobscan can help

We work tirelessly at Jobscan to bridge the resume gap between employers and candidates at the skill match level, created by ATS. Our tools identify skill/keyword differences between the job description and your resume to help you identify the skill gap or skills you may have forgotten to include.  Furthermore, Jobscan breaks down these skills into hard skills and soft skills, required skills, and predicted skills. 

It’s important to understand that companies actually don’t reject millions of resumes in the way that is frequently portrayed. Instead, many resumes are simply lost in (skill) translation. These resumes are just not found by recruiters because the candidates are using different language or terminologies than what the companies are using. 

Our resume optimization tool specifically aims to solve this problem. Give it a try below! Just copy and paste the job description and your resume. You’ll then see a report to show you how to set up your resume so recruiters will see it when they search for important keywords, skills, and qualifications.

About Jobscan: Jobscan was born as a result of a job seeker’s frustration. When CEO James Hu found himself on the job hunt in 2013, he discovered that companies were using software to scan resumes for keywords. Discovering that job searching shouldn’t be a one size fits all approach, he built Jobscan from scratch to help job seekers automate the process.

Now Jobscan is not just helping one job seeker, but hundreds of thousands worldwide by building the best tools to empower job seekers so they can land their dream jobs.

We also partner with leading higher education institutions and career services organizations to improve employment outcomes for students and underserved populations and increase career coaching efficiency.

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James Hu

James Hu is the founder and CEO of Jobscan, a web tool that helps job seekers land interviews by optimizing resume keywords.

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