What are resume screening systems and why are they bad for job seekers?
Automated resume screening systems became popular during the late 1990s, into the early 2000s and now almost any sizeable company uses one. If you’ve ever uploaded your resume online, or filled in an online application form, you’ve encountered one.
These screening systems remove the need for a human being to review every single resume that comes in. So for recruiters and HR folks, they’re a lifesaver. But for you, they’re a real problem.
That’s because a computer can never be as good as a human at spotting the best applicants. So unless you are savvy about getting around them, these systems can steal opportunities from you – even when you have the perfect qualifications.
Here are the top 3 ways to beat the resume screening systems and ensure you get as many interviews as you can.
Resume screening system hack #1: Use the right file format
If the company is asking for your resume in Word format, you must follow the instruction. If they want text-only, that’s what you must provide.
But no company who uses a resume screening system will ever ask for your resume in a different format. You’ll never be asked to upload your resume in Mac Pages, for example, or as a jpeg, or in MS Works format. I’ve received resumes created in all these formats, and none of them can be used properly by automated scanning systems.
So, to beat the screening systems, the first step is to upload your resume in either MS Word or text-only format.
Resume screening system hack #2: Optimize for keywords
Resume screening systems are quite simple when you understand how they work. The recruiter or HR professional has programmed the system to check for crucial qualifications. If the software scans your resume and finds what it’s looking for, you have a good chance of getting it read by a human. But if the scan doesn’t show what they need, your resume will be siphoned off into the ‘no’ pile.
But how do you know what keywords the system is looking for? In most cases, the clues will be right in the job posting. Go through the posting with a highlighter pen and mark any required skills, experiences or qualifications. Then check your resume to make sure you have mentioned all the ones you have. Often you’ll find missing keywords that can easily be added to improve your odds of passing the first screen.
Resume screening system hack #3: Avoid them
The best way to beat the resume screening system is to avoid it altogether. Or at least, submit your resume through the system, but then go the extra mile and find a way to circumvent it.
In most cases, you can use the Internet to find out the name of someone within the company. For example, you could check your LinkedIn network to see if you have any contacts with friends at the company. If so, ask for an introduction and then find out the name of the hiring manager.
Alternatively, you could use Google to research the company and see if you can find the name of an executive or manager within the department you’re targeting. Let’s say you’re applying for a marketing assistant position, you could search for the company’s marketing manager, marketing director or even marketing VP.
Finally, there’s the good old-fashioned telephone. Just call reception and ask for the name of the marketing manager or VP.
Once you have a name, you can submit your resume directly to that person.
I recommend doing this by snail mail. (People receive so few letters these days, that most will open them). These are just a couple of ideas. Once you start thinking about it, you’ll come up with others. The key is to think creatively rather than just accepting the rules.
You may be wondering if doing this will annoy some hiring managers. To which I say: it’s possible. Some people don’t like creative applications, but most will admire your initiative and determination – and wouldn’t you rather work for a company like that?
The bottom line
Despite their failings, resume screening systems are here to stay, which means that you have to work out a way to beat them. These three strategies will put you head and shoulders above most other job seekers.