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Do robots really review my resume and how can I get past them?

Have you ever found your dream job, spent hours perfecting your resume, only to apply and never hear about the opportunity ever again?

This is a frustrating experience that many job seekers face, especially with how digital the hiring process has become in the last few years.

But, when your resume falls into this “black hole”, and you’re left wondering why you never heard back, it’s often because it never even made it to the recruiter or employer.

In fact, 53% of Australian job seekers think the digital nature of the job search journey has resulted in them never hearing back about their application,

 

How is that possible? Well that’s where an applicant tracking system comes into play.

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What is an applicant tracking system and how does it work?

Believe it or not, when you submit your resume it is reviewed by robots—or an application tracking system (ATS)—first before even making it to an actual person. This software is used because often recruiters and employers receive an overwhelming number of resumes for an application, and can’t possibly sift through all of them. As a result, an ATS will gather the resumes, scan them for relevant keywords and then rank them for the recruiter or hiring manager to review.

In other words, if your resume doesn’t include keywords from the job description that the employer has identified as crucial to the role, then there’s a good possibility your resume won’t even make it past the ATS.  

This is the point in the job search journey that your resume would fall into the “black hole”, as a hiring manager or recruiter would never even see your resume to be able to respond to your application. Thus, leaving you to wonder what happened to your dream job days, weeks and sometimes even months after submitting your resume.

How to ensure your resume passes the bots:

But don’t worry, the robots won’t always get in the way of your dream job! By creating an ATS-friendly resume, you can ensure it gets past the robots and to an actual person.

Here are three tips you can follow the next time you find a job you want to apply for.

  1. Make sure your name and contact info is easy to find

 While it may seem like a good idea to put your contact info in the header of your resume, especially if you want to keep it under two pages, many application tracking systems actually can’t properly read information in the header or footer sections. As a result, if you are putting important information such as your name, phone number or email address in the header or footer, it could unfortunately be the reason why your resume is falling into the “black hole”.

Instead, keep your contact information at the top of your resume, and use these tips to cut down some of your sentences to help keep your resume under two pages.

  1. Customise your resume

The next step to creating an ATS-friendly resume is always customising your resume for each job you want to apply for. Since an ATS is programmed to look for certain keywords in the job description when scanning your resume, it’s important to tailor your resume to include those keywords.

For example, if the job requires someone with five years of experience with Photoshop, and you have that experience,

 

However, it’s equally important to not lie about your skills, credentials or experience when tailoring your resume to the role. For example, if you only have three years of experience with Photoshop, customising your resume to say five years instead could put you at an extreme disadvantage should you make it to the interview stage of the hiring process.

Another red flag you to be aware of when customising your resume is over-optimising it for the role. Many applicant tracking systems have safeguards in place where they can identify resumes that are too similar to the job description, and will flag the resume with the recruiter or hiring manager, potentially resulting in getting yourself blacklisted with the company.

  1. Use a standard resume format

If you do regularly customise your resume for each job, but still suspect it’s going into the dreaded “black hole”, then consider revising the formatting of your resume. If your resume has elaborate designs or uncommon formatting, it’s likely the ATS will not be able to properly read it, thus resulting in your resume never passing the initial screening.

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So consider using a standard resume format instead to help increase the chances of the ATS being able to read,

 

So consider using a standard resume format instead to help increase the chances of the ATS being able to read, scan and file your resume accurately. For example, stick to using simple bullets to list your experience and accomplishments in each role as they’re most likely to be able to be read by an ATS. Also, avoid adding any kind of images or graphs in your resume as the ATS could get confused by them when scanning your resume.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, there may be times that your ATS-friendly resume still disappears into the “black hole”. But it’s important to remember that there are many reasons why you may still not be hearing back from the company, and not all of them are personal.  

For example, the job may have received an unusual amount of applicants, and it’s taking the hiring manager or recruiter longer than anticipated to go through them all, even with the help of an ATS. There is also the possibility that the role could be momentarily cancelled, put on hold or even filled internally.

Fortunately, if you aren’t hearing back from companies after submitting an ATS-friendly resume, here are some tips on what you can do to open up a line of communication with the hiring manager or recruiter. After all, if it’s your dream job you’re waiting to hear back on, it pays to be proactive and put the effort in to ensure your enthusiasm for the role is apparent.

1Methodology: This survey was conducted by Decipher/FocusVision on behalf of Indeed and surveyed 1,000 currently employed Australians in June-July 2016.

Next up: The Things AI Can’t Do — Future-Proof Your Career With These Soft Skills

The Future of Work series is brought to you by Indeed.

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