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The End of the “Traditional” Application Process »

Five years ago, I applied for a summer job in Seattle. Instructions on the company’s website told me to email the manager with my cover letter and resume. I did not have to fill out a form online and I certainly did not have to attach my LinkedIn URL to my application. At the time I started applying for my first jobs, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS, for short) existed, but many companies in Seattle, particularly smaller companies, did not pay for them. Today, more and more companies are moving away from traditional hiring processes and introducing smarter recruiting systems. One result? A transformation in how business schools teach students career development.

In the past, resume workshops would have focused on content and formatting as it relates to clarity for the reader. At Atkinson, career services are integrated into our core classes, including PACE (Practical Application for Careers and Enterprises). This week in PACE, in addition to receiving content and formatting advice, we learned about HR software and the AI systems used by almost all Fortune 500 companies. We read job descriptions closely and examined the key skills required for various positions. We learned that we should upload our resumes in text format and without graphics because the ATS often cannot read resumes that are written in Microsoft Word or contain graphics. We added the letters “MBA” to our resume in addition to the words “Masters of Business Administration”, because some ATS look for the letters MBA instead of the full words. Five, ten, or fifteen years ago, employers spent the time reviewing all of resumes themselves. There would have been no need to add the letters MBA to our resume because a real person would understand the sameness of Masters of Business Administration and MBA. As a result of HR software innovation, our professors have constantly updated the content of PACE to match the ever-changing application process.

This all might sound detrimental to the candidate experience, but AI can have huge benefits for the employer. Good HR software, when implemented properly, can reduce the need for a person to scan hundreds of documents, thereby saving on administrative and personnel costs. Recruiters can focus on other, more intellectually stimulating tasks beyond resume review. However, perhaps the greatest benefit, is the possibility of reduced bias in the recruiting process. Applicant tracking systems ensure that candidates with the right skill sets are chosen for interviews, reducing unconscious bias on the part of recruiters. An ATS that consistently produces high quality hires far outweighs the potential costs of losing qualified applicants because of the pitfalls of the technology.

Fortunately for the candidate, applicant tracking software will continue to improve. In the future, we may no longer need to worry about formatting, key words, and exact phrases. Until then, I’m going to keep adding the letters MBA to my resume, thinking of the recruiter on the other side of the computer. 


KMC_9902 - Version 2Emily Anderson is a first-year MBA candidate at Willamette University. She is a 2017 graduate of Gonzaga University, where she received her B.A. in International Studies. Emily enjoys PACE because of the opportunity to learn valuable career information, improve her analytical and speaking skills, and build partnerships with non-profits in Oregon.