Resume Hack: This Technology Might Be Blocking You From Getting an Interview

Time for a reality check. Not only are you competing with hundreds of other candidates for a job, there’s a good chance that employers won’t ever see the resume you submitted. That’s thanks to resume scanners.

“What the hell is a resume scanner?” That should probably be your first question.  An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is generally where your resume lands when you apply for a job online. A resume scanner sorts it based on its keyword relevancy, and then it sits in a database with hundreds — sometimes thousands of other resumes.

Employers then search the ATS for resumes with the best keyword match to the job description, before evaluating them for a possible interview.

The reality of this can be daunting and disheartening. Not only are you already made to scrap it out with hundreds of other candidates, but simply having a good looking resume or even being the best actual fit for the position probably won’t be enough to guarantee that your resume makes it in front of an actual human being with the ability to hire you.

So how do you gain a competitive edge against resume scanners?

JobScan is one option. The service takes your resume and matches it against a job description, before giving you a detailed breakdown, as well as an overall score of how well the two match up.

James Hu, CEO and co-founder of JobScan, was on the job hunt back in 2013 and found that this was a service that he needed for himself. Since then, he’s been doing a lot of research on ATS’ and just how synonymous they’ve become.

“About 90% of fortune 500 companies are using an ATS of some kind.” Said Hu “ Which is out of necessity. If you’re Microsoft, for example, you’re going to receive at least 500 resumes for a position. But what we’re finding is that ATS companies are now targeting mid-sized and small companies for their services.”

So if you do use JobScan, how high of a match score should you shoot for before applying for a job? Hu offered his advice, “We find that an 80% match or higher improves your chances for an interview. But at the end of the day, it really is about your skill set and if you’re the right fit for the position.”

Right. JobScan is just about helping you navigate past the initial digital barriers. Hu cautions that the human element has not been completely lost. “Recruiters search with an ATS for resumes, this is just a way to be found, but ultimately [recruiters] have to decide whether to call you. You have to be ready to address the machine and human elements.” Said Hu.

Bruce MacEachren, a headhunter at Summit Search Group, a national employment agency, offers some different insight into defeating resume scanners — not seeing resume submissions as the be-all end-all to job searching.

“If you’re only sending resumes out, you’re going to have a very long job search.” Says MacEachren. “The mindset of the student population is, “I’ll send out a bunch of resumes and get a job.” That’s just not the reality.”

MacEachren instead recommends that students step outside their comfort zones and begin networking as soon and as much as possible.

“80% of jobs are gained through your own networking.” Says MacEachren “If it were me, I’d be talking to family, friends — looking for opportunities. I’d make a list of companies that I wanted to work at and I’d get to know the CEOs. Seriously. I’d chase them down anyway I could.”

MacEachren recommends that students not be so concerned with just adding keywords on their resume, and instead begin filling it with valuable experience.

“The keyword thing is a non-factor. Employers want to know where you worked, if you worked or volunteered during school. Were you on business council? Even if you were a student athlete. It shows employers you’re competitive and committed. Employers want candidates who are hungry and motivated.”

Have you heard of resume scanners? Got any job hunt horror stories? Share them with us. We want to hear them.

*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.
Chris D’Alessandro

Chris D’Alessandro

Chris D’Alessandro is a writer and content strategist living in Toronto. He also has more cover-up tattoos than he'd care to admit.