Sometimes a Robot Decides if You Get The Interview

Resume Robot

You probably don’t know this, but when you apply for a job online your CV sometimes goes through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that scans your CV for keywords to decide whether to put it through to the next stage. In fact a recent BBC survey of 20 of the world’s biggest organisations discovered that 18 of them used some type of electronic selection. Scary huh?

Although smaller companies have been slower to follow suit, Applicant Tracking Systems (also called Automated Resume Screeners)  are apparently a cost-effective way of processing a large amount of application forms so it’s entirely possible that more will jump on board at some point – because it seems that it’s all about the money rather than a personal service nowadays – so I reckon that the more you know about these applicant tracking systems the better.


The Good Things About Applicant Tracking Systems:

  • They’re objective so no-one can make judgements based on your sex or perceived ethnicity. Recruiters aren’t supposed to, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
  • They keep you on record and look back at previous applicants for new jobs – which means you might even be put forward for a job you didn’t apply for.
  • They’re mainly just being used by really large organisations.

Basically, they’re used because they’re financially viable for a big company. They focus on keyword recognition to make sure the applicant  has understood and reflected back the requirements needed to do the  job – which is essential to any recruiter whether they’re a computer or not. I’ve said a billion times that a generic CV does not get an interview and always needs to be tailored anyway.


How to Get Your CV Through an Applicant Tracking System:

  • Key words are the daddy so you need to make sure they match the industry you’re applying for and put the most important ones near the top of your CV - which you should already be doing frankly, unless you’ve ignored everything I’ve ever written! Make a note of the main keywords used in the job ad and made sure you reflect them back in your CV. You’ll probably be doing this anyway if you already work in the same industry.
  • Example: If you work in sales then some main keywords would be KPI’s, key account management, revenue growth, sales training, marketing/business development, positioning, negotiation etc. There should also be some specific industry-recognised products or brands,associations and training, and measurable sales figures in your CV as well of course.
  • Make your CV really clear. Give it distinct sections and don’t use any graphics or tables. Focus on clarity, key words and relevant content to get it past a resume robot.
  • When outlining your experience on your CV you need to include what skills you used as well as the outcome.
  • I’ve read ATS articles that say keep your CV to two pages and others that say it doesn’t matter, so it’s anyone’s guess I’m afraid – don’t shoot the messenger! I always try to keep a CV to two pages but if I feel that three pages is required to say everything that might get them the interview then I make it three pages.
  • Don’t upload your CV as a PDF because tracking systems lack a standard way to structure PDFs and can easily misread them apparently. Although I have to say that I find this slightly odd actually as most online systems always ask for a PDF so the formatting doesn’t go all squiffy.
  • Don’t lie by using key words where you don’t have the matching experience because you’ll certainly be found out once a ‘real’ person reads your CV.
  • I think it’s best to assume that your CV will go through a tracking system because then you cover all bases and give yourself a better chance of selection however your CV is assessed


EXTRAS:

  • Because I’m not an expert on tracking systems, here’s a more detailed article on the BBC website about getting your CV through.
  • Download some free CV examples from the Freebies Section to see how to format your CV. Although it’s not a table, maybe remove the box round the personal profile if you’re uploading it to an online job board just to be safe!
  • Buy the Anatomy of a CV to see exactly how to write a CV that gets interviews.

 

One Response to Sometimes a Robot Decides if You Get The Interview

  1. Rob Long says:

    I think this is a great article, really nice and objective over view of ATS and how they can be a benefit but also require candidates to think a bit differently when writing a CV these days. One point I might disagree with is that only large companies are using Applicant Tracking Systems. More and more small and medium sized business as using them as they come to realise that spreadsheets and shared folders aren’t a great way to organise such an important part of their businesses, hiring. The good news is that this should benefit candidates as one of the often forgotten advantages of an applicant tracking system is that it can assist companies to improve their communications with candidates. So applying for a job needn’t feel like you’re sending your CV into a black hole!

    I really like the “Extras” part of your article and would like to add a suggestion from Workable, an applicant tracking system used by hundreds of SMBs. Our Head Data Scientist (he builds the resume/CV parsing technology we use) wrote an article recently titled “The man with no name: how your CV is read by a computer” http://blog.workable.com/what-your-resume-looks-like-to-a-computer/ It’s a useful resource for anyone writing a CV. I hope you find that article interesting too!

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