Each day, I’ve been applying to hundreds of jobs in administration, bookkeeping and customer service. Most of my applications are online through websites such as Monster and Workopolis and all of the company websites. I tirelessly post my profile and resumes as requested by the various organizations. I follow the application instructions to the ninth degree.
How come I haven’t received one phone call for an interview? What am I doing wrong? I am completely qualified for the positions, and would at least be grateful for any feedback from those who are reading my resume. Any insights would be greatly appreciated. I’m desperate to find work. Nothing is working.
Signed: Online Applicant
Dear Online Applicant,
Applying for jobs online is definitely one strategy; although I would strongly recommend that you limit your web surfing and applying for jobs to less than 10 percent of your job search time.
Since you are spending so much time applying for work online, it’s important that you understand how the Internet job boards work, as well as how recruiters review your application through their “Applicant Tracking System” or ATS. This is a software system purchased by large companies and sites such as Monster. Employers use it to manage their job openings and screen incoming resumes from job seekers through keywords that could be qualifications, skills, experience and education required for their position. The problem with the ATS is that if job seeker’s resume is not formatted the right way and doesn’t contain the right keywords and phrases, the ATS will misread it and rank the resume and candidate as a bad match with the job opening, regardless of the candidate’s qualifications, explains Meridith Levinson in “5 Insider Secrets to Beating Applicant Tracking Systems”.
Nix Prabhu, is a Client Relations & Business Operations Specialist at CareerEdge, a national non-profit organisation which describes itself as facilitating “the creation of meaningful work experiences to achieve business objectives and launch careers”, by offering paid internships to diverse communities including people with disabilities and internationally trained newcomers, all through online applications, using ATS. She offers some critical recommendations for all online job seekers.
Analyse the job posting: Recruiters will distinguish between “must have” mandatory qualifications and “nice to have” assets. Identify the skills, qualifications, experience, education and requirements in the posting, and count how often those key words appear on your application. The more the word appears, the more likely your resume will be picked up by the ATS software and be sent to the pre-screening team of recruiters.
Customizing your resume: Use the exact words and language in the posting. Do not use your own words. Don’t try to be fancy. Save it for the interview. Don’t use synonyms or acronyms, use the same words and phrases from the job posting. For example, if you are applying for a “Business Development Specialist”, and phrases such as “relationship management”, “analytical skills” and a “bachelors degree”, appear in the job description, these are mandatory qualifications. If you have this experience and requirements, then make sure these exact words are in your resume. Don’t substitute “relationship manager” for “account executive” even though the essence of the role is the same. Put in your resume what the recruiters put in their job description. The hiring people have programmed the ATS to pick up those three keywords in their search. And if you want your resume to be considered, then make sure you have all (or at least 90%) of the mandatory qualifications in your resume, or you will be dropped from the competition.
Know the buzzwords. All organizations use different words to describe the same position or role. Each bank for example has their own keywords and will call a “teller” something different. So, if you are applying to a teller position at TD Bank – use the words and phrases from the TD posting, but DO NOT try to apply for a teller position at CIBC with the same application. You will NOT get past the ATS, because CIBC uses different and organization specific words in their postings. It is a skill to be able to understand what the keywords are and how they are used by the different companies.
Some other suggestions on how to make sure you leverage your applications online and with the ATS are presented by Levinson in her article. Often resumes are lost because the date was listed before the employer name. The ATS failed to read the educational degrees that the candidate held which was a requirement of the position. Needless to say, the resume never made it to the recruiter. Although there are plenty of weaknesses with the ATS, it does save recruiters lots of initial pre-screening time, especially when the competition is steep within certain industries. It helps the recruiter to narrow down the candidate pool to the top 10 candidates whose resumes the system ranks as the most relevant. Levinson warns that “as long as employers rely on the ATS to screen resumes, qualified job seekers’ only hope for passing through them successfully is to understand exactly how the system works”.
As highly recommended by Karin Lewis, The Editor of this blog and JVS Employment Counsellor and Social Media Specialist, in her recent blog, face to face contact remains the most effective job search activity. If an employer knows a candidate, or they have been referred by someone they know, the likelihood of that candidate being hired is much higher. A recent New York Times article stated that referrals are important both for being called for interviews as well as in making the ultimate hiring decision, suggesting that “Referred candidates are twice as likely to land an interview as other applicants (…) For those who make it to the interview stage, the referred candidates had a 40 percent better chance of being hired than other applicant.”
My advice to you is to limit your online applications, and start increasing your job search efforts by using the plenty of other effective tools out there, as described on this blog.