Applicant Tracking Software is your Enemy

Frequently a customized resume and blind application are attractive.  It’s easy to fill in the blanks and cross our fingers.

The numbers don’t lie, the blind application is a losing proposition.  However, supply and demand can prevail for the job seeking professional.  Learn some additional tactics to get from the round file to the short pile.

“I’ve filled out 40 applications and had 2 phone screens, what am I doing wrong?”

Therein lies the rub. For a single requisition, only one will be hired, but which one?

This has got to be the most common question I get.  Applying for 4, 5, 6 jobs per day and not getting any solid interviews or offers.  First..this is totally normal.  You aren’t having a dialog with a person, it’s a computer.  The dreaded applicant tracking system software is literally NOT your friend.  In the “old” days, applicants would mail–yes mail–their applications to the company.  What to do with 100+ paper copies of a resume and perhaps cover letter?  This ushered in the idea that the copmany could scan these documents into a computer system for archival storage.

Once the resumes were in that storage system, computer software could use OCR (optical character recognition) to find keywords on resumes.  Now-days that system still exists but has the form of an applicant tracking software that you can fill in blanks, upload resume, or even sync with your LinkedIN profile–all with varying results of accuracy.

I see what you’re saying Andrew, you’re saying I should spend hours customizing my resume and spend hundres of dollars on resume writers so the computer can read it, right?

Not exactly.  Brace yourself. Your resume is likely never to be read.  If it is read, it’s likely a 30 second investment by a corporate recruiter vetting a short list that was spit out by the ATS (applicant tracking system). The methods of advertising and processing your applications has changed, from manual to automated, so what can we do to increase our chances of success?

Talk to People at the Company

Since your blind application has a 3-5% chance of success, the next best action is to reach out to people at the company.  This requires some reverse engineering and effort. If you know someone there already, doing what ever you can to get your application and resume in front of the hiring team will increase your chances of getting an interview.  The bonus here is that many companies have a stipend, spiff or bonus for referring candidates that get hired.

Participate in Organic Networking

Whether there is an opportunity or not, show interest in the company by learning from those on the inside. There is an internal process in most companies that will take place prior to public advertising of a requisition.  Take advantage of the time lag to build credibility for your skills with key hiring managers.

I know it Says Don’t Call, But…

Call the company to validate if a requisition is even active and unfilled. Many times we go through the aplication process not knowing the status.  Could someone have already been offered? Is the budget still there for the position? Has interviewing started? Is it possible that the internet is advertising something that doesn’t exist?

Who Has or Used to Have this Job Title?

A quick search on Linkedin can sometimes reveal who is in this job now.  In any event, sending them a direct request to connect with your transparent interest in learning more about their experience can prove invaluable.  This will help you with the application process–resume and cover letter–as well as interview preparations. Is it also possible that this person may be the hiring manager or part of the hiring team?

Who Could the Hiring Manager Be?

Similar to the current person holding a job, you can deduce who the hiring manager is for virtually any requisition.  As Territory Sales Representative I frequently had a “Regional Sales Manager”.  It’s using common sense to figure out who the 2-3 people at a company would manage or be your boss. This idea is gold. No only do you get your information to the right person, you also get the chance to know what kind of working relationship you might have, saving you both a whole lot of time.

It sounds easy Andrew, but how do I reach out to these people without putting my foot in my mouth?

This is where you  need help.  Many of us don’t have a clue how to create a sales script. If you don’t come from sales, this process can feel daunting and uncomfortable.  However, it’s not as uncomfortable as hearing nothing from an application, or for that matter, not having a great job when finances start getting tight.

A Simple Process

  1. Act as if there’s no requistion or application submitted
  2. Find the People
  3. Send People a Message you will be calling to schedule a meeting
  4. Call the People to schedule a meeting
  5. Meet the people
  6. Ask questions, show interest, and demonstrate your competence when asked
  7. Wait for the ask: “It sounds like your experience matches a current need I have in my department, can I get your resume?”
  8. Customize your resume for what you learned in this meeting and email to the hiring person directly

Tell me, what happened when you tried it?

I would like to hear from you.  When you use this information to help your situation, please leave a comment or send me an email to [email protected]

Andrew Beach

Andrew Beach

Branding Specialist | Executive Career Coach | Teaching Self-Awareness

I help take the mystery out of finding your dream job. Through a direct and pragmatic process, we will guide you to the path. One step at a time, just a little bit closer to your passion.  It's through my personal story of finding meaningful work that I can share with you what I've learned.

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