Job Mission: Defeating the ATS

5 min readOct 19, 2020


Whether you’re a transitioning servicemember looking for that first job in the commercial market, or you’re an old hand at searching, finding and applying for jobs, you still meet the common enemy of all job searches — the ATS. They tell you ATS stands for “Application Tracking System,” but it really stands for “All the Stuff.” Mainly because you and everyone else just stuffs their resume in there, even if you’re not really qualified for the job. It is literally ‘Step 1’ when apply for a job at any company.

On average a recruiter spends ten seconds screening a Stuff resume. That’s because the ATS is full of stuff, and the recruiter is measured on how much stuff they clean out of the ATS every day. So ya, that resume you spent four, eight, or endless hours wordsmithing to meet the requirements of that poorly written job description, got a seven second look and moved to the circular Stuff bin.

What recruiters and candidates dream of is an AAS — an “Applicant Alignment System.” What they have is equivalent of dropping a resume on a Job Fair table no one is sitting at.

Everyone tells transitioning military and Veterans that they need to rewrite their resumes to get noticed — i.e. told to rearrange the stuff on their page as if that will help. (Here is a hint on how that works: If you’re an E4 Aviation Ordnance man, no amount of wordsmithing is going to get you a cybersecurity job.) I recently heard one speaker make an excellent point, “Your whole approach to finding a job at any company should focus on defeating their ATS.” Nailed it! Your peer competitor is no longer a cell operating out of Syria, or a CHICOM EW platform in the Spratly Islands — it is now the ATS that is the perimeter defense.

His approach was basically to use networking to get to someone in the organization rather than dropping our stuff in their stuff bin. This approach is valid, but difficult and time consuming. As a matter of fact, over 70% of all hires in large enterprises come from direct referrals. The irony is that the PRIMARY reason a company bought an ATS was to allow them to speed qualified candidates through a company screening process. The promise of the ATS was that a couple of well-trained recruiters could rapidly source, vet, and pass on all the qualified candidates hitting a company’s career site from a centralized position — it was meant to save everyone time, and yield highly productive candidates for the company. Since it does the inverse of that, how or where did the alignment promise go wrong?

Two words: Analog and Scale.

These two do not go together like peanut butter and chocolate. An ATS is good for racking and stacking a handful of resumes against a handful of jobs. But those jobs need to be clearly scoped and well written so that all candidates understand clearly if they are qualified or not. But as anyone looking at job descriptions across a spectrum of companies knows, most jobs descriptions and requirements are a chaotic mixture of bad cut and paste, references to things that don’t exist, and vague Zen koan-like request such as “Must have flexibility of 8 or above.” (Is that temporal, physical, or moral flexibility?…and do I qualify if it averages 7.6 across those three?) These vagaries lead to more and more of unqualified candidates dropping off their resumes and growing the stuff pile further and further.

All company job postings are analog semantic text-based documents. Companies like Microsoft, or Oracle, or GDIT that have thousands of jobs postings…all analog. By definition analog systems don’t scale as they are not networked. (Think 1000 mail letters in a physical box vs. a 1000 emails in your inbox…which would you rather interrogate?) Because the ATS can’t network the information in the jobs posted or the resumes received, it is literally a bin of unconnected stuff. And the more jobs posted, the more resumes are stuffed in, the greater the scale of the issue. This is why large companies literally have hundreds of recruiters, but you still may never get a response from your ATS drop off. The ATS was supposed to free up recruiter’s time, now it consumes them with a Symphisian task of the analog ATS rock rolling down on them every day.

The other big irony is that because the ATS can’t automatically align a new candidate to the right jobs — literally can’t do Step 1 of its purpose — the company hired more recruiters. Instead of “data networking” all their jobs and resumes, they hired more analog eyeballs to clean out the analog stuff at a pace of ‘one ten second view’ at a time. Not being able to do Step 1 of its job, the ATS morphed into a system whose primary purpose it to now track and measure what recruiters do all day. Rather than to try to fix the Number 1 Problem by converting analog jobs and analog resumes into networked data, they hire more hands to clean out the stuff.

Luckily the answer is here: Oplign has solved the Number 1 Problem and is here to bring Theatre Air Dominance to every transitioning military, Veteran, and military spouse looking for a job, and every company that wants to hire them. Oplign turns all analog job and resume information into universally exchangeable, networked data, everywhere instantly. Using Oplign, and our Vetlign modules for Vets, candidates and companies can find and align to each other immediately. And not only does Oplign help the candidate immediately overcome the analog ATS perimeter defenses…we actually allow a company’s ATS to finally complete its Step 1 mission. As a SaaS platform, Oplign allows everyone to align and connect without having to change ANY OF THE PRESENT BEHAVIORS. Oplign’s SaaS capabilities allow it to be turned on instantly without the need for integration, installation, or configuration, turning any ATS into an AAS instantly.

How Oplign works for all the parties involved will be put out in the AAS Trilogy over the next couple of weeks:

Part I for Veterans: The ATS is the Pony Express, Oplign is the Network.

Part II for Recruiters: The ATS is the Pace Drummer on a Greek Trireme.

Part III for Ops Managers: The ATS is Brawndo…it’s what HR Craves.

About the Author: Mike Grow is the CEO and co-founder of Oplign. He was a peace-frog in the 90’s and has spent the last two decades in technology consulting, defense contracting, and AI development. He read a lot of history books on a lot of tarmacs, and watched a lot of movies on float, so we apologize in advance for any and all esoteric movie quotes or references to obscure battlefields that slip by the editors.