Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Don’t Fall Into the Black Hole
How to avoid getting lost in the applicant tracking system

By Annette Richmond 

Among jobseekers there’s a lot of talk, actually a lot of complaining, about the black hole. It’s faraway place where resumes go when they’re posted to the ATS (applicant tracking system) on a company website.  Many jobseekers blame the black hole as the reason they don’t get called for an interview.

Well, in some respect this is true. The ATS systems are designed to filter resumes so that only the most qualified applicants are forwarded to recruiters. It’s a great idea in theory but not always in practice. However with hundreds, maybe thousands, of people applying for one position employers often don’t have a choice.

The idea of the black hole has spawned a ton of articles on how to beat the ATS system. Some suggest packing your resume with keywords found in the job description. Other’s recommend choosing software-friendly fonts like Verdana or Arial. The list goes on and on.

The very best way to not fall into the clutches of the ATS system, aka the black hole, is to avoid the system completely. How can you do that? By working directly with a recruiter (in-house or contract) or hiring manager who will actually look at your resume to see if you’re qualified. Here are six ways to do that.

Target companies not jobs. If you have a list of target companies you have a better chance of networking your way in. Some have Facebook pages where you can meet and interact with recruiters. That way you can bypass the ATS system when you see jobs posted on the company website. You’ll be able to go straight to the recruiter.

Develop relationships. The best time to meet recruiters is before you need a job. So if one contacts you respond even if you’re not looking.  If the job isn’t right for you tell them what you are looking for or suggest someone else for the role. The purpose is to keep the dialog going so when you are looking they will remember you. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

Apply online strategically. When searching job boards look for jobs that include the company name (so you can network your way in) or have been posted by recruiters. You also can go directly to sites like BullhornReach where many recruiters post open positions. The key is to connect with an actual person.

Network online and off. Many industries have local chapters which meet monthly. Often the meetings consist of dinner and a speaker which gives you time to network and the added bonus of something to talk about. A great way to meet people online is by joining LinkedIn groups and participating in the discussions. You’ll find recruiters in LinkedIn groups that focus on their industry. You can also meet them on Twitter chats.

Utilize your Alumni association. Many colleges and universities have alumni groups which are happy to help you in any way they can. Sometimes that means holding alumni networking events. However, that can also mean making introductions to other alumni who are working at one, or more, of your target companies.

Contact friends and family. You never know who knows who – that includes friends and family. The best way to find out if they know someone who works in your industry or at one of your target companies is to ask them. Folks who are outside of your immediate circle are more likely to know people you don’t. That makes them the best source of new connections.

Getting your resume in front of a recruiter or hiring manager doesn't ensure that you’ll get the job, or even an interview.  There’s no substitute for having the skills and experience the employer is seeking. Still, having a pair of eyes instead of a software application review your resume can increase your chances. Having a personal relationship with the reader is better yet.

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