Applicant Tracking System Prison - Are You In It?
Applicant Tracking System Prison - Are You In It?
December 19, 2016
A number of fellow Chameleon Resumes Tribe members (that’s what I call all of us), have vented about the frustration experienced when applying for jobs online.

I’ve been given an “ear” full via email:

“Lisa, will there ever be a resume/application form that actually does not take hours to complete??”

“I know I am qualified, but I can’t ever get someone to call me back after I submitted my resume. Will these systems ever allow me to convey how I am qualified beyond keywords?”

“Is there a way to beat the applicant tracking system, so I am not in this hell anymore?”

I am going to break it to you – here comes the tough love:



And no.

There will never be a uniform system to apply to a position.


As long as there are competing companies developing applicant tracking software, there will always be variation from provider to provider.

The technology is not designed to evaluate your qualifications. It’s designed to track keywords: job titles, company names, skills, software, etc.

We believe trying to beat the application system is like trying to rearrange the furniture in your prison cell.

You can make it look better and more comfortable, but it is still prison.

It will always be an ATS prison.

So what I preach is to get to the person to get out of ATS prison.

Only 20% of hires are made through job boards/ATS systems.

That’s it.

Roughly 70% of hires are made through employee referrals, social media connections and personal contacts—and this is how recruiters and hiring managers prefer to hire in the first place.

Only when they can’t hire someone using these three tactics (the ones covering the 70% of hires) do they post an ad, or hire a third-party recruiter, if the budget allows (that is the last 10% roughly).

In essence, the job postings are difficult jobs to fill as they were not filled by the 70% tactics.

Yet, it is applying to job postings where most executive job seekers spend their time to look for a job.

You see the problem?

Wonder why job seekers are frustrated?

Is it a problem you are experiencing first hand?


Well, here is what I encourage you to do to break out of ATS prison:
  1. Give yourself a break, and refocus your efforts. Stop surfing the job boards for 2 weeks.
  2. Make a list of companies where you want to work:
    • Don’t worry if there is not a job posting advertising an open job. If you want to work there, put it on the list.
  3. Use the Advanced LinkedIn Function to find a prospective manager that you would report to:
  4. Reach out to prospective managers directly. Write how you are interested in working for the company and demonstrate tangible ways you can add value.
This way you create your own leads by contacting people and stop the dependency on job postings. Stop letting technology keep your job search in prison.