Resume Software: 8 Tips to Help You Beat the System

Do you ever wonder if all those resumes you’ve submitted are being held hostage in a virtual prison never to be seen by human eyes? If so, your suspicions are partly right.

The down economy has given birth to a unique scenario: companies have gone from complaining about talent shortages to receiving a record number of resumes for a single job opening. In other words, there are too many people applying and not enough time for hiring managers to review every submission. Therefore, employers have turned to technology in an effort to reduce their applicant pool and make the hiring process more manageable. Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) and other tracking systems serve as electronic gatekeepers, sifting through tons of resumes and leaving behind only the “good stuff.”

Essentially, resume software scans your submission for keywords. If your resume does not contain enough relevant keywords, it is automatically declined. The software may also consider your former employers and years of experience. All of this information allows the system to give you a score. The lower your score, the less likely you are to make it to the next step. Let’s say you are applying to a customer service job that requires three years of experience, but you only have one. Your resume may be screened out for this reason alone. Every system is programmed to search for specific requirements as indicated by the job description, making it a game of chance and strategy. If you manage to include a healthy combination of winning words, your application will be forwarded to the hiring manager. This person reviews applications that get past the screen machine and determines who will be invited to interview.

  1. The online application process sounds tricky and can definitely make for a frustrating ordeal. But before you rage against the machine, here are a few tips to help you beat the system—without a bat:
    Take an honest assessment of your skill set. – Seek and apply to job postings that contain descriptions most closely aligned with your experience. According to hiring managers, 50% of job seekers are not qualified for the positions they express interest in.
  2. Create two versions of your resume. – Experts recommend an SEO optimized resume (plain, no fancy graphics) and a regular one you can hand out. Resume software could care less about how cool your resume looks. By design, it is more concerned with the content of your characters.
  3. Study the job description. – Pull key phrases and required skills that reflect your experience and incorporate these terms into your resume.
  4. Remember questionnaires count. – Those screening questions (you so desperately want to skip) provide an opportunity to describe your experience in greater detail and really stand out from the other applications. Make sure you answer each question in the allotted space and include keywords in your responses.
  5. Customize your resume. – Be sure to craft a resume that’s based on the position you are applying for. Not all job descriptions are the same. Review the job posting thoroughly and tailor your cover letter and resume to show you are the person the company is looking for.
  6. Review your application for accuracy. – Double-check every submission (before you hit the send button!) for spelling and content. Misspelled words or incorrect dates could result in your application being rejected.
  7. Confirm receipt of your application. – Ever had problems with your cell phone or email account? That’s because technology is not perfect; it malfunctions sometimes. Following up with the hiring manager to ensure he or she received your submission, gives you peace of mind and reinforces your interest in the position.
  8. Don’t rely on technology alone. – It may be easier to apply to jobs online and wait for a favorable response, but there are other ways to find a job. Attend networking events, job fairs and informational interviews. Tell family and friends about your job search. You never know who can help.

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