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Application tracking system (ATS) explained

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

This is a series of 3 short articles, throughout those we explain the application tracking system, adding value vs nepotism, why do people respond and help when you are a junior and are looking for job placement.

This material will be relevant to early-stage professionals and hiring managers.

One of my recent conversations with an ambitious young lady revolved around job ATS (application tracking system). Like many other things in our lives, ATS could be seen as a blessing and a curse.


  • It certainly saves time of HR personnel on initial screening

  • Consequently, it reduces the business’ cost of screening (FTEs within the HR & recruitment team can be reduced and reallocated)

  • It gives an opportunity to a greater pool of candidates to submit their applications and to test their luck


  • Risks for business - to overlook some unique talent (raw gems) in the market. ATS is usually designed to screen against requirements of a job description (JD). Yet as a person who has been hiring and interacting with peers who are hiring I could tell with certainty - only a human manager (until artificial intelligence replicates our gut feeling and perspective of where the business is going in short and long term…) could tell what’s in between the line of a standard JDs used by the companies.

  • Reputational risks for business - An anecdote that I share from time to time. I was already working for a company and just celebrated my “SEE” (significantly exceeded expectations) annual appraisal (meaning I did quite well) when I received an automatic response from ATS on my application submitted somewhat eighteen months ago to the same organization informing me that regretfully at this instance I wouldn't be progressing to the next stage of the application. Even ATS takes time to respond, making the anxious candidates eventually express their disappointment in the virtual space.

The systems will evolve, ATS will get faster and more sophisticated. Therefore we will avoid rolling into a false pledge of the “good old times when things were better”.

With that, we should remember throughout our history and now as never before we have an opportunity to effortlessly connect (virtually and physically). The importance and impact of connection have been progressively increasing. And this will continue to mitigate the limitations of the systems we have in place.

I am a believer in the virtue of referrals. Read more about Referrals in Part 2 of this series.

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