How to successfully bypass job applicant screening from an industry expert

December 22, 2015


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James Hu, Co-founder & CEO of Jobscan, talks about the tough world of online job search and how you can make your resume stand out among the hundreds of other applications and increase your interview chances.

It’s rare to hear that by making something more convenient and easier to use, you have caused a huge problem. But this is the case for online job search.

Applying for jobs online today is as straightforward as ordering delivery pizza, only less delicious. We have tools like LinkedIn, recruitment sites, and easy application forms that fill themselves with your data automatically. We can even apply on our mobile phones. We press send, and our details wing their way to an overflowing inbox somewhere.

However, by making something more efficient and user-friendly, we have opened the floodgates to mediocrity and created an unscalable wall of applications for Human Resources departments, making it less likely you will ever hear back from your applications. In this article, I’m going to discuss how you can stand out from the crowd, get yourself to the top of the pile, and start getting those interviews that you really deserve.

Aim for hire

There are 7.9 million unemployed job seekers in the United States and 45% of currently employed people would jump ship if a better opportunity presented itself, even if they are happy in their current position. The fact is, you need to think strategically about each application you make, or they are likely to fall at the first hurdle – the application form.

Even though you may be competing against people less suited to the role than you, it is imperative that you outline your skills in your resume explicitly. Those who apply for positions online are not necessarily the ideal candidates; perhaps they don’t have experience, or they’re missing vital pre-requisites and qualifications. But, because they can apply for 15 positions in an hour using simple form filling and automatic resume attachments, they are far less discerning.

By spamming the recruiters with their requests, they hope to get lucky with interview offers – but the reality is, they are diluting the talent pool and making it harder for everyone to stand out, and, most importantly, they’re wasting their own time.  

Global coffee chain Starbucks, for example, receives on average 7.6 million job applications for 65,000 corporate jobs a year. Although that may be extreme, it is symptomatic of a much wider problem: recruiters everywhere are receiving thousands of applications a week, far more than any human could reasonably get through. HR managers are not super humans. When they receive upwards of 118 applications for a particular post, it becomes harder and harder to separate the wheat from the chaff. As a result, only a small number of their applicants ever make it to interview.

Furthermore, according to reports from the Beyond National Survey, 75% of online applicants are not suited for the roles they are going for, and, not surprisingly, 55% say they feel they are competing against candidates with more qualifications than them.

So what can you do?

It was once sage advice to aim for higher and push for positions beyond your capabilities. Although it’s still true that job descriptions most often overreach – asking for more qualifications than are actually required – these days it’s probably wiser to try to match your skills with company requirements more closely. You should make sure, with each application, you are truly aiming to be hired and not just trying your luck.

Although HR managers value interpersonal skills over technical skills, with 56% saying the former is more valuable, it’s important that you focus on your hard skills in your resume. These are what the recruiter will be looking for when they are running through hundreds and hundreds of applications.

You can impress the hiring manager with your soft skills such as leadership abilities, communication skills, and, problem solving once you are in the interview – as well as outlining your technical abilities and qualifications, of course. Remember, all rounders go far!

It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that up to 80% of all resumes contain lies, according to Lansing business news. That doesn’t mean you should join in; it’s important to be honest, as lies on the resume are likely to come out. Little white lies cost employers up to $600 billion annually – and can ruin your professional reputation and have you looking for another job before you know it.

If you’re really interested in a position, send a follow up email or call in, explaining how interested you are in the position and have a list of well thought out questions at the ready. If anything, it may provoke HR into reviewing your resume sooner, and your enthusiasm might just set you apart from the competition.

A Keyword Culture

As a result of the huge influx of applicants, 90% of companies are now using an Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) – software that helps recruiters and HR departments search, rank, and track candidates. ATS not only helps them track candidates, but also ranks them in order of suitability.

The process works by allowing recruiters to scan resumes for keywords that match the job requirements and a given set of keywords and skills. The software then returns relevant candidates in the search results. HR managers can skim off the suitable applicants and can reduce their workload significantly.

So what can I do?

You have probably heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO); it’s the way companies populate their website content and page information with keywords that match with common search terms, so that they can rank higher in search engines like Google.

Well, that’s how you need to approach your resume. Look for the keywords in the job announcement. If you are applying for a managerial position, look at the skills they require and make sure that when you apply you effectively match their requirements word for word; if your resume or cover letter does not contain the target language, then you may not even show up.

It’s tough deciding which keywords to include, but it’s safe to say recruiters will be searching for particular skill sets, and these will be outlined in the job description. It’s your job to identify what they are looking for. For example:

  • Social media marketing
  • Google Analytics
  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Seattle, Washington

Then make sure to integrate these keywords in the resume, and see that they flow into comprehensible sentences, of course. Also try Googling for resume keyword tools to save you significant time and increase relevancy.

Unfortunately, if you don’t show up in the results, it’s very unlikely you will hear anything back from the company. Gone are the days when you would receive a stamped and sealed rejection letter, politely outlining the reasons why you were not selected for interview. Companies won’t trawl through each applicant one by one and give feedback. For one reason it’s time consuming, and for another, the company leaves itself legally liable.

Some final thoughts

From a recruiters’ and hiring manager’s perspective, it’s all about “fit.” So your goal is to come across as the most relevant “fit” for this job compared to other candidates. If you match your skills and experience to the job description and tick as many boxes as possible, without lying of course, then you are likely to see a much higher success rate. The competition is tough, but with the right skills and this knowledge to back you up, you will be well on your way to being the top competitor in your job search.


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