Well, it has happened. The digital age has made a lasting effect on job searching, and not in a positive way. In the last few years, the number of companies using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), the software that reads and ranks resumes, has more than doubled. And according to Forbes, 75% of qualified candidates are being weeded out because of these systems. Related:3 Ways To Beat The Evil Applicant Tracking System (ATS) To deal with these systems, the first thing you should do is make sure your resume can be read by them. (See my article "Complying with the Applicant Tracking Systems" on how to do this.) But that does not solve the problem. I recently spoke to a hiring manager at a Fortune 500 firm and he said that, when he is looking for candidates, HR just gives him a list of the top 20 highest ranking candidates. That means the other 280+ people who replied to the ad, for whatever reason, are not even seen by the manager. It also means that, if you are not a perfect fit, you will probably not be noticed. For example, even though accountants are pretty much cross-industry, if you are trying to leave a telecom firm and move over to financial services, you may not be noticed because you do not have financial services industry experience.
Who is hurt by Applicant Tracking Systems?Here are the people who are most hurt by the Applicant Tracking Systems:
- People without a 4-year degree
- People with no experience in the industry
- Career changers
- People returning to work after taking care of their family or ill parents
- People who have been unemployed for more than one year
What can I do about it?The first tip I give my clients is to try NOT to apply over the Internet for a job. Whether it is through a job board, LinkedIn, or the company web site, when you submit your resume through these means, you are going into the ATS. Instead, when you see a job posting, go to LinkedIn, look up the company, and see if you know anyone who works there. No? Not a problem. See if someone you know has a contact there. In fact, most networking is not always a first degree connection and is two to three degrees away. Then, reach out through LinkedIn and ask for ADVICE - people respond much better when you ask for advice versus job search assistance.
How do I start the conversation?Here is a good example of how to do it:
“Susan, as we both know Peter Knox, I was wondering if, as a random act of kindness, you can share just a few minutes of your time to give me some advice regarding your industry/company. I am a senior accountant with over 15 years in the telecommunications industry and people are suggesting I move to financial services, but I am not sure. A brief conversation would be immensely helpful and of course we can schedule that for whenever is convenient for you. Thanks in advance.”Another thing you can do if you do not see contacts at 1-2-3 levels is find out the name of the name of the hiring manager. Do some research on their background and the company and then call saying:
“A friend said you might be interested in someone with my background. I am a senior accountant with more than 15 years of experience, particularly in the use of SAP ERP and Business Intelligence and, since it appears you are using those systems, he thought that we should talk.”The bottom line – those who are solely relying on the job boards and on-line submissions may be very frustrated in their job search. Remember that there are only three ways to get your resume in front of someone: job boards, recruiters, and direct contact. Direct contact or networking has always been the most effective (that’s why companies give bonuses to employees who refer people who are hired) so turn the job boards into a networking exercise and your results will be much better.