I recently read an article that referred to the applicant tracking system, the automated process companies use to narrow down qualified candidates, as the resume black hole. These tracking systems are most commonly used to narrow down resumes that are uploaded on a company or job website. Employers receive such a high number of responses to any given job listing that it is simply not efficient or economical to have an actual person read through each and every resume. This is where the applicant tracking system comes in.
Applicant tracking systems are programs that allow companies to quickly weed out unqualified candidates while narrowing down the candidates that best meet the requirements of the position. An applicant tracking system program allows employers to specify parameters that candidates must meet which could include years of experience, schooling, training, or location. Any candidate not meeting these criteria is immediately eliminated from consideration. This means that you can be disqualified from a position before a living person even lays eyes on your resume. It is only after the applicant tracking system has identified the candidates that best meet the specifications set forth by the employer that an actual set of eyes will read over your resume and determine if you will be interviewed.
So, how can you make yourself visible to the applicant tracking system and increase your chances of becoming a desirable candidate? There are few things you can do.
Make sure that you use industry specific keywords throughout your resume. An easy way to do this is to look at the job description and use the same terminology in your resume. If the advertisement says they are looking for a sales executive with experience in sales force development don’t say you are a motivational leader with experience building teams. Use the same wording to increase your chances of being picked up by the tracking system.
If the job description is very specific in the requirements the company is looking for and you don’t meet those requirements, that may be all it takes to eliminate you. You may feel that you can do the job but the parameters of the applicant tracking system don’t take that into considerations. In a situation where you believe you would be able to do the job, such as a position that requires a degree, which you don’t have but you do have 10 years of experience, it would be a good idea to send a hard copy of your resume to the company. This increases the possibility that your resume will end up in front of someone who will be able to see the expertise you would bring to the position.
If you are uploading a generic resume for every position you apply to, you are almost guaranteeing silence as the response you will get. You must customize your resume for each position. This is true regardless of the method you are using to apply – online or by sending a hard copy. Yes, it takes more time to customize your resume but it will be worth it.
Every non-response to your resume can’t be blamed on the applicant tracking system; that is just one reason why you may not be getting a reply to your resume. It could be that your resume makes it through the applicant tracking system just fine but you are eliminated for another reason. It’s too bad that you rarely receive a response that you are not being considered for the position so you are left waiting and hoping that you have a chance. However, there are an abundance of applicants for every open position and a company cannot respond to every application. It is this silence that job seekers attribute to the resume black hole.
by Megan Koehler