Beating The Applicant Tracking System

I understand why companies use them and there is one small benefit to me but generally applicant tracking systems are horrible. They do track who submitted a resume firs but are often misused by employers to claim ownership of candiates in the future and use recruiters as free tickler systems.

By that I mean, in 2012, you are referred or apply for a position and are not hired; in 2017 you are referred by a recruiter for a job and suddenly the company says, “They are in our system,” or “We already know them.” Then, because they are too busy, they never contact you let alone accept the referral from the recruiter who started this off in the first place. Happens ll the time.

So let me teach you how to use these stupid systems to your advantage in order to get better results when you submit your resume.

1. Use the same language they use in their job description in your resume

Many employers use the systems for matching candidates with jobs. Generally they try to recognize key words and phrases. Using the same language as in the job description makes the basic matching easier for the system to recognize so that a human looks at your resume. The corrolary to this is:

2. Tailor your resume to every job you are submitting it for.

You’ve heard the old saying, “The broken watch is right twice a day.” Sending the same resume out over and over will get you some results but will not be as effective as tailoring your resume to the specific job.

3. Don’t cheat

Some people foolishly think that if they add a bunch of kewords in white type, systems will see them as keywords. In fact, most of these systems are designed to recognize this and reject someone. However, this does not man you shouldn’t . . .

4. Beef up your skills section

Using a skills section or accomplishments section at the beginning of a resume that utilizes keywords and phrases from the job description tricks the systems into believing it was recent work.

5. Stop embedding your contact information, using special characters and unusual fonts.

Embedding your contact info annoys both the system and the people who use them Most systems parse your name, address and phone numbers into fields. they either can’t read the embedded fields or do a poor job of reading them. They “mistakes” or failure to parse is kicked out to a human who is thrilled tofix a hundred of these a day.

The same thing happens with usual fonts, borders, shading or characters. Mistakes happen. People have to fix them. Sometimes, they will just hit <DELETE> rather than bother.

6. Spell check your resume

Every day, I read resumes with mistakes in them. That’s one level of problem–sloppiness. The other level is looking at someone who is misspelling keywords and causing systems to not respond to their resume.

7. Get rid of the irrelevant

Who cares what you did when Bill Clinton was fooling around? You probably will never get hired for things that you did 20 years ago and it gives them a way to descriminate. Best to just write, “Prior experience was with _____.”

We re not going to eliminate applicant tracking systems. Government reporting requirements and their connection with onboarding making them useful. We do need to understand how they function and use them to our benefit.

© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2010, 2015

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