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Over 80% of ATS Hiring Software has an Auto-reject Feature Stopping You from Getting Hired

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

Employers today, including 99% of fortune 500 companies, are using some form of Applicant Tracking System (ATS) for employee recruiting purposes. This software is designed to create ease, efficiency, and shorten the hiring process for recruiters and employers. One of the ways the ATS, also referred to as “HR bots”, accomplishes this goal is by eliminating applicants in mass so that recruiters and hiring managers can focus on what the system triggers as more qualified candidates. RCF Resume examined the ATS systems with the top market share within North America to research which ATS Software included an auto-reject feature. Although RCF Resume was not able to research them all, they found that at least 80% of the top North American companies' market share is using Applicant Tracking Systems with some form of the auto-reject feature.

What is the Auto-Reject Function and How does it Work?

The auto-reject function included with the most widely used Applicant Tracking Systems used today is known as “knock-out” or prescreening questions. There are many types of auto-reject questions and they often are used to test or confirm legal requirements, skills, and qualifications, or company culture fit. The questions can be as simple as yes/no questions, have a rating scale, or be undefined short-answer open-ended questions.

Basic legal questions

Basic legal questions are designed to eliminate ineligible candidates very quickly. If you answer negatively to these types of questions, there is almost certainly no reason to continue your application. The ATS legal questions are usually in the format of yes/no questions. Examples include:

  • Are you legally able to work in the US?

  • Are you willing to submit to a drug test?

  • Are you currently working under a non-compete agreement?

Keep in mind that all legal questions are not simply “Knock-out” questions, some also act as ATS ranking questions. For instance, the question:

  • Are you legally able to work in the US or do you need a visa to work?

In this instance the options will be “Yes, can work in the US”; “No, not able to work in the US”; or “I need a visa to work”. In instances like this, the company may be willing to hire a candidate in need of a work visa however if this candidate has the same qualifications as a candidate already eligible to work in the US, many Applicant Tracking System will rank that candidate higher.

When it comes to company culture it’s better to fit in than stand out./ Photo by Olia Gozha on Unsplash

Company Culture Questions:

Company culture questions determine if you will “fit in” at the company which in turn can mean greater job satisfaction and longevity. These questions are generally in the format of yes/no, multiple-choice, or short answers. The short answer open-ended questions may seem subjective, but there ARE “wrong answers” and these questions should be handled with prudence. Remember, the ATS auto-reject questions are generally designed to eliminate candidates. Examples include:

  • Can you work in an open environment or do you need an enclosed office?

  • Provide an example of a time you didn’t meet a work challenge and how it turned out.

  • Do you work better alone or in teams?

Qualification Questions

ATS qualification questions come in all formats, Yes/No, short-answer open-ended, and scale questions. Scale questions are generally designed to both rank and eliminate candidates because often a portion of the scale may eliminate a candidate. As one of the top ATS market leaders, Taleo by Oracle points out, a solution-driven ATS “automates pre-interview skill assessments”. The following type of ATS knock-out questions seek to assess skill level:

  • On a scale of 1 –10, 10 being expert, how skilled are you with Microsoft Excel?

  • Do you have a bachelor’s degree?

  • Describe a time you disagreed with a manager:

In the first example, “On a scale of 1 –10”. The ATS software may auto-reject or eliminate any candidate whose rating falls between 1 – 5 and then rank candidates who rank their skills as 6 – 10. The most widely used ATS systems have a lot of customization options and therefore the scale and how it ranks or eliminates applicants might change based on the company or based on the position. These questions typically require an answer to progress and fully apply for the job.

Who Does ATS Pre-Screening Effect?

On average over 75% of candidates are eliminated from the candidate pool by ATS software and never seen by hiring managers. The software is designed to screen thousands of applicants within seconds. Everyone who applies for a job online is subject to the screening process and their auto-reject functions. Whether job seekers apply through online applications via the company itself or through online job search sites such as or which frequently integrate with Applicant Tracking Systems, they are all subject to the ATS screening process.

Though ATS are adept at eliminating candidates quickly there are ways to combat them with ATS-optimized resumes and strategies geared to helping jobseekers beat the auto-reject function. Once you learn to navigate Applicant Tracking Systems they will work to your benefit and help you get hired faster.


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