How Do Applicant Tracking Systems Work? 3 ATS Myths Answered

by | Finding A Job, Resumes & LinkedIn

Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are one of the most misunderstood aspects of a modern-day job search. As a job search expert and career coach specializing in high tech and Silicon Valley, I field more questions about ATS than nearly any other aspect of the job search. What is an ATS? How do ATS platforms work? How do you navigate the ATS? What ATS myths should you ignore?

Three Applicant Tracking System Myths Debunked

Below are three common ATS myths you can ignore.

ATS Myth: My resume never made it to a human because of bots.

ATS Fact: A human likely read your resume.

Job seekers often worry they will spend tons of time optimizing their resume only to have it never read by human eyes. Thankfully, this is one of the most common misconceptions about ATS. Yes, even at the big tech companies like Meta, Google, and Amazon, dedicated sources or recruiters are reading the resumes they receive. Therefore, you want to approach each resume submission with the mindset that a human will read it — because they most likely will.

ATS Myth: Keyword stuffing is the best way to beat the applicant tracking system.

ATS Fact: Focus on making recruiters’ jobs easier.

Knowing that a human will likely read your resume, avoid stuffing your resume with keywords for the sake of the ATS. Instead, nimbly connect the dots between the target job posting and your experience. If the job posting mandates a PMP certification, for instance, be sure you quickly call yours out at the top of your resume. In other words, you need to remember your role as a job seeker: To make it as easy as possible for the recruiter to put you in the ‘heck yes’ or ‘heck no’ pile.

ATS Myth: An applicant tracking system rejected your resume.

ATS Fact: A human rejected your resume.

An ATS is merely a digital file cabinet for job applications and resumes. Applicant tracking systems are unable to think on their own. Ultimately, any actions an ATS makes are the result of humans. Even if you receive a rejection at 2 AM, for instance, it may have been because of how you answered a knock-out question like, “How many years of experience do you have working in tech?” A recruiter could have programmed the ATS to automatically reject all candidates without experience in tech. Alternatively, a sourcer or recruiter may have been working in the early hours and simply passed on your job application.

Hopefully, debunking these myths makes approaching ATS feel less scary. Again, ATS are merely digital file cabinets that hold and sort job applications.

Here are a few helpful resume writing resources as you craft your next resume and navigate the job search:

How To Write An Executive Resume

Three Creative Ways To Add Personality To Your Resume

What Are The Best Colors For Your Resume?

Four Things To Consider Before Hiring An Executive Résumé Writer

Three Empowering Ways To Stand Out In The Saturated Job Market

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

Dr. Kyle Elliott is the founder and career coach behind His expertise is in Silicon Valley and high-tech. As a result of working with Dr. Elliott, senior managers and executives have landed jobs at Meta, Amazon, Google, and nearly every other tech giant you can imagine.

A trusted career expert, Dr. Elliott’s words have been featured on Business Insider, CNBC, CNN, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Fortune, and The New York Times, among dozens of other leading publications. He has been recognized as a Best Career & Interview Coach, Best Resume Writer for Silicon Valley/Tech Managers & Executives, and LinkedIn Top Voice (the platform’s highest honor).



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