How ATS Systems Have Become Less Personal and Its Effect on Job Seekers


Over the last year, corporations and job board companies are starting to use a search tool called semantic search to help match open jobs with potential candidates better than ever before.

It’s actually been around for about 5 years, but it’s within the last year that it’s begun being used in recruitment (by companies like Deloitte, Bosch and Manpower).

What is semantic search?

It seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding the intended meaning behind the search terms – not simply yielding results on the literal term itself.

For example, if you told the system you wanted to find an eye doctor candidate, it may not only give you candidates calling themselves an eye doctor, but also those candidates calling themselves an ophthalmologist.

Semantic search looks at the meaning behind the word to give you related terms.

It’s taking the thinking away from the recruiter and making the process less personal.

What does the mean for job searching, HR and Applicant Tracking Systems?

Well, like almost everything, it has its pros and cons.

One of the pros can be that the keywords you use in your resume can now be found when related words are used in the search.

For instance, if you are Controller, this term can be a result for Finance Manager, Accounting Director and other related terms.

A con can be that now hiring managers need to be hyper specific as to what they are looking for in a job description. Hiring managers already tend to write poor job descriptions and don’t always know what they want.

So how can an artificial intelligence system know what the hiring manager wants, if the hiring manager doesn’t precisely know?

What is a job seeker to do?

(1) Know it exists:

So you can have a plan to use the right keywords. Don’t obsess about using every keyword, since related words get considered when searching.


(2) Realize only 20% of hires happen through job boards (according to Jobvite):

You don’t want to spend all your time on job boards, but at least you know what you need to do to make your job posting search time more effective.


(3) Focus your job search on reaching out to people:

If you complain that your resume goes into a black hole and you are only submitting to faceless job boards, then re-focus on connecting with people. 65-70% of hires happen through people, so focus your efforts and tactics accordingly.


Want to know how to pick keywords for your resume?

Want to know the most effective tactics for reaching out to people?

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Looking forward to your stories!


Be Well,




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