Recruiting Software: 10 Ways Job Seekers Can Beat the System

Employers are increasingly using recruiting software or applicant tracking systems to pre-screen job seekers' resumes. Resume writers and career coaches offer 10 tips for ensuring that these applicant tracking systems don't erroneously screen out your resume.

Mon, October 26, 2009
Page 3
6. Don't use any fancy formatting or fonts.
Depending on the recruiting software an employer may be using, its system might scan your résumé into a back-end database. To ease scanning, format your résumé as simply as possible, say Martin Buckland, principal of Elite Résumés, a résumé writing service, and Praj Patel, executive vice president of Talent Technology, which makes recruiting software. Don't include graphics, pictures or tables, says Patel, because they won't scan. For the same reason, Buckland says to limit the amount of bold, italics and underlining, and to use a single font that scans easily, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, Century, Century Gothic, Bookman, Garamond or Trebuchet.

7. Emphasize relevant accomplishments.
If an applicant tracking system flags your résumé for the hiring manager, the hiring manager isn't going to spend much more than 10 seconds sizing it up, says Piotrowski. During that 10 seconds, the hiring manager is looking to see if your work experience relates to the job she's trying to fill, she adds. If your résumé doesn't communicate your accomplishments that are relevant to the job you're applying for, the hiring manager will quickly move on to the next résumé. So prominently displaying the accomplishments an employer seeks is critical, says Piotrowski.

8. Mail a hard copy of your résumé.
After you've submitted your résumé electronically, Piotrowski advises job seekers to send a hard copy of their résumé to prospective employers with a note saying that this is their second submission and that they're very interested in the job. She says this makes job seekers stand out.

"When I talk to HR managers or hiring coordinators about having candidates do this, they say it's great because they rarely see paper and because it's nice to get something tangible," Piotrowski says, adding that a client successfully scored two interviews after following up on three electronic submissions with paper copies.

If you don't know the name of the employer (as is sometimes the case when you're applying for a job through a recruiter), Piotrowski says you might be able to find out the name of the company if you know the industry and location. For example, she says, if you know the employer is a widget manufacturer in Cleveland, you can enter those terms in a search engine and you'll likely get a list of companies that make widgets in Cleveland.

"In addition to sending your résumé to HR, I recommend researching the name of the person you would report to and sending a hard copy of your résumé directly to them," says Piotrowski. "It's not hard to get that information. You might be able to find it on the Internet or by calling the company and asking who's in charge of the IT function."

9. Follow-up with a phone call.
Another way job seekers can distinguish themselves is by calling employers to confirm that they've received the job seekers' résumé and cover letter, says Piotrowski.

"Most hiring coordinators are happy to take a minute to look in their database to see if your materials were received," she says. "When they do, they have a chance to look at your materials. I also recommend you ask about the next step in the process and if it would make sense to set up an interview while you've got them on the phone."

Though HR people can be tough to get on the phone, job seekers shouldn't worry about appearing pushy by calling them. "My experience is that only 10 to 20 percent of job seekers do any follow-up," says Piotrowski. "There may be more people now who are calling employers and asking if they received their résumé, but if you don't follow-up, you really limit your chances of being noticed. It's better to come across as a slightly squeaky wheel who's interested in the position. If you want an interview, you have to push yourself."

10. Don't spend all your time on your résumé or trying to game the system.
Kursmark warns job seekers against getting hung up on their résumés and trying to match their qualifications with a job description. "Even if [you think] you're a perfect match, there's a very good chance you'll never hear back from the majority of employers, and you'll become very discouraged after putting so much effort into your résumé," she says. "Networking is still the best use of your time."

Follow Meridith Levinson on Twitter at @meridith.

Our Commenting Policies