How To Get Your Resume Past Computer Screening Tactics

by Beth Connolly on January 30, 2012

How to Get Past Automated Robot Resume ScreenersToday’s technologically sophisticated job applications often leave applicants wondering where their information ends up. As an unopened e-mail, buried at the bottom of a hiring manager’s overflowing inbox? As “new submission” entry #578 in an internal online database? Or perhaps as a bulletpoint on a low-level employee or intern’s to-do list: “Print and screen job applications.”

The answer to this question, it turns out, is even more disturbing, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Recruiters and hiring managers are overwhelmed by the volume of résumés pouring in, thanks to the weak job market and new tools that let applicants apply for a job with as little as one mouse click. The professional networking website LinkedIn recently introduced an “apply now” button on its job postings that sends the data in a job seeker’s profile directly to a potential employer.

While job boards and networking websites help companies broadcast openings to a wide audience, potentially increasing the chance the perfect candidate will reply, the resulting flood of applications tends to include a lot of duds. Most recruiters report that at least 50% of job hunters don’t possess the basic qualifications for the jobs they are pursuing.

To cut through the clutter, many large and midsize companies have turned to applicant-tracking systems to search résumés for the right skills and experience. The systems, which can cost from $5,000 to millions of dollars, are efficient, but not foolproof.

“I kind of wonder if some of the jobs I’m applying to even exist,” one Nevada-based software programmer said after a four-month job search. I felt the same way when I was searching for a job last year. The tracking systems may eliminate resumes based on criteria as irrelevant as the order in which you list data points, such as your former employer’s names and the dates of your employment there.

Despite their flaws, though, companies continue to be drawn to the systems because they provide a cost-efficient solution to dealing with the overwhelming volume of submissions for online job postings, which often draw hundreds or thousands of responses within just 24 hours.

Here are the WSJ’s tips for getting around the screens:

  • 1. Forget about being creative. Instead, mimic the keywords in the job description as closely as possible. If you’re applying to be a sales manager, make sure your résumé includes the words “sales” and “manage” (assuming you’ve done both!).
  • 2. Visit the prospective employer’s website to get a sense of the corporate culture. Do they use certain words to describe their values? If a firm has a professed interest in environmental sustainability, include relevant volunteer work or memberships on your résumé. The company may have programmed related keywords into its resume screening software.
  • 3. Keep the formatting on your résumé simple and streamlined—you don’t want to perplex the software. With a past position, the system “sometimes gets confused about which is the company, which is the position, and which are the dates you worked there,” especially if they’re all on a single line, says Mr. Bersin. To make sure you hit all the categories, put them on separate lines. And “don’t get cute with graphics and layout,” says Mr. Rueff.
  • 4. Some screening systems assign higher scores to elite schools. You may not have gotten your B.A. from a top-tier university, but if you attended a continuing-education class at one, include such qualifications on your résumé.
  • 5. But don’t ever lie or exaggerate just to get through the screening process. Recruiters and ATSs are savvy about tricks jobseekers use (such as typing false qualifications in white font). “You don’t want to get through the black hole and find out it’s a worse hole you got yourself into,” Mr. Rueff says.

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9 comments

Seems like another game to play just to get in the door!

by Larry Culver on February 12, 2012 at 9:20 pm. Reply #

Well thank you very much for clearing up this mystery. I have noticed how certain fields in the online applications are automatically populated esp the xxperience/past employmet sections. That’s not to say, they are correctly populated in the order presented on the Resume or with the dates and companies as accurate. Often, the data transfers are scrambled.

Talk about downsizing! Computers, rather than actual HR depts are pre-screening applicants. Think, of how many people have been cut from the job market based on just this technology. One less HR job function, a position eliminated. There is no corporate courtesy extended to anyone these days. Since bots are being employed to triage Resumes, could corporations possibly consider spending a half penny by sending a courtesy reply, even a generic one paragraph would suffice, that a candidates Resume was received and reviewed?

After reading this article it’s much easier to understand how the publics perception of ever growing corporate greed and callousness originated and sustains itself.

This country is in some serious trouble as growth and prosperity does not shine like the sun on the populace. Any rays of hope are singularily focused like a laser on nothing but corporate profits.

by Jacks on March 1, 2012 at 10:06 am. Reply #

Hello, this is terrible to know that our resumes are being scanned by technology and not a pair of human eyes. This is why all of us cannot find jobs. I bet if companies went back to the old fashioned way of manually looking at resumes, so many people would find jobs. I know they are overwhelmed with application, and they are tying to save time; but in my opinion, in reality, it is NOT AN EFFICIENT WAY TO GO THROUGH THE HIRING PROCESS. (sorry for the caps but I feel strongly about this)

I think companies all around the country should put aside this resume scanning technology for three months, and go back to the “old school” way of actually looking at resumes, not let a computer do it. We will then see all the people that will find jobs.

by Judy Intindola on March 5, 2012 at 9:17 am. Reply #

If all you are doing is roaming around on the internet and submitting job applications, it’s no wonder you haven’t gotten any interviews. I love the way the comments blame the greedy corporations for using resume screening systems. How about blaming all of the idiots out there who submit hundreds of applications for job where they aren’t even remotely qualified? This is usually done in an effort to satisfy Dept. of Labor requirements about applying for X number of jobs per week in order to qualify for unemployment.

When I post a job and get over 1,000 applications for every position, most of which are from people who aren’t even remotely qualified; when I have to hire two people whose full-time jobs are to go through the thousands of applications to find the few people who might be a good fit; when I have to pay those people salary and benefits adding up to a couple of hundred thousand dollars per year, then you bet I’m going to buy a resume screening system for $100K.

Bottom line, kids, at our company, we receive a minimum of 1,000 resumes/online applications for every position we have open. We generally narrow that pile down to 5 – 6 people who are actually qualified, and we interview those people. Normally one of them gets hired. Sometimes those 5 – 6 (or at least one of them) did NOT come to my attention because they did the minimum effort of applying online. Most often, they make the top cut because another employee of ours emailed their resume to me or to the hiring manager.

So get out of the basement, off the computer and NETWORK!!! Get out and meet people! Ask for help with your job search. A job seeker who only does the bare minimum in their job search, is likely to only do the bare minimum at work.

by HRMASTER on April 10, 2012 at 5:39 pm. Reply #

This article certainly solved the mystery of why after a year and a half that I have not been able to at least get a reply let alone an interview. I have submitted hundreds of applications over this time period and have only received five replies stating that my resume and application was recieved.

by Yoletta on March 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm. Reply #

Let’s not forget the carefully drafted, specifically addressed, cover letter! What happens to those with these computerized systems? Are they a waste of time or are they looked at after the computer sorts the approved from the rest? Another come-to-reality moment from the Brave New World.

by AJ on March 9, 2012 at 3:28 pm. Reply #

[...] HRMASTER wrote, in response to an article about how some companies use computer scanning software to screen out resumes, that companies are justified in doing so. How else can a company handle the virtually overwhelming number of applicants for every job opening, many of whom are unqualified for?  HRMASTER said: “If all you are doing is roaming around on the internet and submitting job applications, it’s no wonder you haven’t gotten any interviews. I love the way the comments blame the greedy corporations for using resume screening systems. How about blaming all of the idiots out there who submit hundreds of applications for job where they aren’t even remotely qualified? This is usually done in an effort to satisfy Dept. of Labor requirements about applying for X number of jobs per week in order to qualify for unemployment.” [...]

by Are the Unemployed Applying too Many Jobs? | The Wall Street Job Report on April 16, 2012 at 4:18 pm. Reply #

Are you serious HR master!? if you really were a master and not some lazy turd who hires someone’s friend even though they aren’t qualified maybe the job market would be better!!! and you don’t have any right to criticize those who are job hunting because you obviously are old and have not been in the job market since the 1960′s and have probably only held one position which was handed to you by your daddy. Get your but out and do some job hunting! and when you do then and only then can you judge someone else!

by rodney on May 11, 2012 at 10:04 pm. Reply #

‘Structural Unemployment’ my foot!

If the data mining software isn’t bad enough, here’s another reason to despair: the s/w matches your resume to the keywords in the JOB DESCRIPTION, but your resume lists your JOB ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Think practically about how the two are different and you’ll see why this kind of screening software is actually CAUSING the right people to be missed.

For example: If an employer is looking for a sales wiz, the job description will list things like ‘busines development’ or ‘relationship management’ in the requirements, while you’ll list all the deals you’ve closed, but may not ever actually use the phrase ‘business development’ or ‘relationship management’ in your CV. You could be the hottest sales executive in the world, but your online app. will get filed in the cylindrical file – like, literally, millions of other qualified applicants are.

by Lucy Honeychurch on July 18, 2012 at 11:43 pm. Reply #

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