Small Business Applicant Tracking System Tips to Help Your Candidates Avoid Auto Rejection

There are rejections because a recruiter or hiring manager decides a resume doesn’t prove the candidate is the right match for the job and then there are automatic rejections completed by the small business applicant tracking system, or ATS. This will likely happen immediately after receiving the application. While this can save the recruiter time looking through resumes that aren’t promising and keep the candidate from wasting time waiting for an answer from a company they won’t be hired at, it can be done for reasons that have nothing to do with a candidate’s competency or compatibility with the job and this realization can be disheartening to candidates who feel they are being dismissed unfairly. Thankfully, there are some simple steps you could take to increase the chances that your small business applicant tracking system will only auto reject candidates on terms that are more beneficial to both you and the candidate.

Small Business Applicant Tracking System

Small Business Applicant Tracking System Tips to Help Your Candidates Avoid Auto Rejection

Needs to be in proper document type

Small business applicant tracking systems read specific document types, doc, docx, pdf, and txt, for example. Make sure you know which document types your applicant tracking system reads and alert your applicants.

The online job portal may inform the candidate which document types are acceptable when they upload the document. If so, ensure it is telling them the right ones. If not, you could write a note on your careers page informing candidates to only submit resumes of certain types.

If the system can’t read it, it has no choice but to reject it.


Candidates used to be advised to artfully design their resumes to help them stand out. This was particularly important for candidates in creative fields. But applicant tracking systems can’t read all those fancy styles and flourishes. Their creativity will be wasted and their resume may be read incorrectly or automatically rejected.

On your careers page, include a section on resume tips. Inform candidates to upload a resume that is as simple as possible to ensure it can be read accurately. They can always save a more impressive looking resume for human eyes.

That being said, make sure you don’t give them the idea that it doesn’t matter at all how the resume looks. A human may eventually see the resume. Just tell them to keep it simple.


A moderately-sized text size is important, as is using a standard font. They may want to avoid serifs. If you can determine that your small business applicant tracking system reads serifs fine, then you can include those in the list of fonts your ATS accepts.


A small business applicant tracking system takes a resume and reorganizes it to fit the system, making all resumes look the same and easily searchable. If a candidate makes up sections or uses ones that the system doesn’t prioritize, it will delete the incompatible sections (rendering them useless), jumble them together with the sections it uses (creating a hard-to-read mess), or automatically reject the resume.

Advise candidates to stick to the most common resume sections such as experience, education, and skills. You might suggest ones to them that you prioritize. This way they won’t put information that they want you to see in sections that may be removed or made unreadable.

Spelling and Grammar

Most applicant tracking systems check spelling and grammar and may automatically reject a resume on these grounds. If you don’t really want it to do that, you might be able to adjust the settings to make it less picky. This may be particularly important for business owners in industries where spelling and grammar are not part of your job requirements or you are trying to improve your diversity efforts and expecting an immigrant or refugee to use perfect English will hinder your plans.

If you are using a small business applicant tracking system that doesn’t allow you to change this feature, you could switch systems or you could warn your candidates so they can plan accordingly. The candidates you’d most like to avoid are the ones who just don’t care about being professional enough to worry about their spelling and grammar.

If 100% perfect spelling and grammar is important to you, then warning the candidates might help some candidates self-screen before even sending their resume or at least they can see that their resume was probably rejected on those grounds rather than blaming some unknown factor.

Lack of Relevant Keywords

A small business applicant tracking system uses keywords you set to rank candidates. If a candidate is deemed a poor enough fit, the system may automatically reject them.

Of course, you don’t want to tell candidates exactly which keywords to use and how many and so on because some candidates may just load their resume with these words without considering whether they represent their actual qualifications.

You might want to give candidates who are interested enough to research your company and pay attention to what you are looking for some hints about what you are looking for, and even the exact wording of the keywords that represent these qualifications, by including them in your job advertisements, careers page, and online job portal.

This is a good practice to help candidates self-screen too, saving you and the candidate valuable time, so you can’t really go wrong.

Notify Them of Criteria

There are some things that candidates may not need to know about because it may impact the results, but other tips hurt nothing and help everyone.

For instance, if your system checks length of time at a job and/or relies on dates of employment to calculate the length of time, there is no harm in telling your candidates that so they can give you an effective resume.

Rejection Reason Notes

You can take some of the sting and mystery out of rejection, automatic or otherwise, by utilizing different rejection notices to be sent depending on the reason for the rejection. If a candidate understands why they were not hired, it gives them the power to learn how to improve themselves or their resume to apply to future jobs. This helps the candidate, making them feel like their interest was valued and still gave them something to take away, even if it wasn’t a job. It also helps you because they may apply to a job opening in the future as exactly the candidate you’re looking for. It’s like building a candidate base for future jobs.

You can thank them, give them a brief but honest reason for their rejection, and invite them to apply again in the future automatically by having compatible applicant tracking systems send premade rejection letters when it rejects candidates for different reasons.

If it can only send one rejection letter, you might include a link in your one custom letter telling candidates the common reasons why you reject candidates so they can see if one seems likely to fit their case.

Tweak Your Small Business Applicant Tracking System

An applicant tracking system can reject candidates you don’t want it to. You should routinely check the settings of your system to ensure it is performing as intended, say every six months or a year, or whenever you’ve changed business goals.

To check your system, imagine your dream candidate and create a resume for them. Then run it through the system and see what happens.

Don’t beat yourself up if your results are way off. Most people don’t check this at all, and they let their applicant tracking system keep on doing this to actual candidates.

Ensure you are using the right keywords so the system can get as close as possible to choosing candidates the same as you would if you were reading the resume. Use both acronyms and full words, word skills in various ways, and reevaluate which keywords best represent your needs.

A side note to make your small business applicant tracking system consider resumes even more like a human reader can, consider including keywords to represent soft skills and lowering the priority of experience to allow passionate under-qualified candidates a chance to wow you.

Check for Mistakes

Recruiting software saves you a lot of time. Use a little of that time to go back behind it every now and then to catch candidates that it may have mistakenly rejected. They may still have been auto rejected, but that doesn’t mean they have to be forgotten.


Auto rejection doesn’t feel good. It can be helpful to candidates to know right away that they should not wait for a call from you. But candidates have gotten the idea that applicant tracking systems reject resumes unfairly, and many times they do. You can prevent your small business applicant tracking system from rejecting candidates unfairly by informing them of potential reasons why their resume may be rejected and routinely checking the system to make sure it is working as intended. It is also considerate to candidates to send them automated rejection letters that respectfully tell them why their resume was rejected and invite them to apply again in the future.

Best Small Business Applicant Tracking System for 2019

Recruiteze offers efficient recruitment tools to help HR and recruitment professionals meet the staffing future head on. Our small business applicant tracking system allows you to parse, format and easily navigate candidate information, so your online recruitment process is more efficient. You get a custom careers page and application system, which ensures your candidate experience is top-tier. Stop doing recruitment the hard way, and start using Recruiteze today.

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