Candidates: How to Hack Your Job Search

September 18th, 2018 by ifi-admin

Photo of a man optimizing his resume to help avoid applicant tracking system filters, leading to a more successful job search

Those in technological roles know that new technology can be a double-edged sword. While “Skynet” hasn’t completely commandeered job search, the phenomenon of using software to evaluate candidates for a position by filtering resumes against keywords has certainly created the possibility that a talented and tech-savvy candidate could get lost in a black hole.

The problem starts when hiring managers write job descriptions that include the “kitchen sink.” If HR then sets the Applicant Tracking System to score on the number of keyword matches and frequency of acronyms, less weight can be given to your resume, even though you may possess the core critical skill.

Another problem arises if they misapply acronyms and weight matches on those acronyms. For example, if you don’t have SIEM listed on your resume a certain number of times but have years of experience with Security Information and Event Management in cyber-security, human eyes may never see your resume.

It happens more than you think. “Resume robots” reject up to 75% of CVs before they even get to a human.

The first defense is to understand the ATS that is your Robot opponent. If you have the opportunity, review popular products such as Taleo or iCMS to understand the ways that HR staffing might use, and unwittingly abuse, the scoring methods.

The following tips will help you level the playing field with Applicant Tracking systems:

  • Keep a running list of keywords relevant to the jobs you’re seeking and include jargon, lingo and industry-specific language. Integrate the ones that most closely match the job description (provided you have experience in same) and place additional phrases at the bottom of your resume.
  • Pay special attention to verb phrases and skills written in the job description. These are very likely to be the same keywords and phrases the hiring manager has programmed the ATS to pick up.
  • One way you can figure out which keywords to focus on is to paste the job description in question into an online word-cloud generator (eg. in order to visually highlight the most frequently used words. Ensure those words are emphasized in your own resume. Tailor your resume and cover letter to match the job description language.
  • Use both the acronym and the spelled-out form of any given title, certification, or organization, so you’re set regardless of which format the ATS is looking for.
  • Keep it Clean – Avoid graphics, headers, tables and footers, all of which may not be read correctly by Applicant Tracking Software.

Additional Ways to Beat the Bots

The ubiquity of ATS use has changed the character of job searches, and not always in a good way. The best way to hack your job search beyond “keyword optimizing” your resume is to deploy some time-tested and true “human” tricks to infuse the process with personal contact:

  • Work with a recruiter in your field to leverage the human connection. Recruiters like Phoenix Partners have built relationships with prospective employers.
  • Network within your industry. It helps to have hiring managers on the lookout for your resume.
  • Be 3-dimensional in your resume – talk about self-study projects, types of technology you play with at home, and put it on the resume.
  • Always be updating your skills, through formal training, or using online tools such as Cybrary, YouTube, and podcasts. Include this information on your resume to personalize it.
  • Seek out and work with a mentor in your field. They’re a great resource for reference or network contacts when job searching.

If you’d like to add the human touch to your job search, talk to Phoenix Partners today.

Phoenix Partners, Inc. • 638 Overhill Road • Suite 200 • Ardmore, PA 19003 • Phone: (610) 649-1909
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