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How to beat applicant tracking systems

Sharon Florentine | Feb. 14, 2014
All's fair in love, war and job hunting. Learn how to use 'guerilla' job search tactics to use applicant tracking system technology to your advantage.

Because many recruiters and hiring managers are strapped for time, they'll often set the software to scan only the first page of your resume, so it's critical that all relevant keywords appear on that first page, Gillis says.

The best way to do this is to keep a running list of keywords relevant to the jobs you're seeking, and that include jargon, lingo and industry-specific language and add to those the keywords from the job to which you're applying, and place them in 8-point font at the bottom of your resume. That's all there is to it.

"Keep a running list of your generic keywords that you use with your peers," he says. "Whether you're a journalist, an attorney an IT professional or a plumber, there are terms and language that are specific to your industry that shows you're an 'insider'," he says.

"If the terms are not already on your resume, you must artificially insert them. The best way to do this is putting them all in a separate section at the bottom of the resume. Remember, you're not doing this for the humans, you're doing this for the machines that will 'see' your resume first," Gillis says.

If it sounds simple, that's because it is, Gillis says. Here's the logic behind it, and how you can set up your resumes -- yes, you should have multiple versions -- to best attract the attention of these ATSes.

"Look, I don't fault recruiters and hiring managers for using this technology; they are completely swamped," Gillis says. "From recruiters to large enterprises, there's so much information, so many applications and resumes coming in, they're overwhelmed. Google says they get something like 60,000 resumes each week. So, my clients need a way to swim to the top of this huge sea of information," Gillis says. And they need to be quick about it — the first application and resume comes in, on average, 3.5 minutes after a job opening is posted, he says. Being one of the first to apply can up your advantage, he says.

"I advise all of my clients to have a short-form and a long-form resume. The short-form resume is set up like a tree, with the 'keywords' section acting as the roots. That section is placed at the very bottom of the first page, and the rest of the resume grows up from there," he says.

The short-form resume should be an accomplishments-based resume, Gillis says. It should include a header, a "seeking statement," and, if possible, you should use the name of the company in this statement. Why? Because within Taleo, one of the most popular ATS packages, the solution automatically gives applicants points for using the company name in the application, Gillis says.


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