Applicant tracking system

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Career Advice Q and A

High School #2 My Desk

High School #2 My Desk (Photo credit: osanpo)

// Vacation Edition

I’m back..sort of. I am taking time off this week, but, it is also the first time in a while I have the time to write a new blog post. And…I have had so many questions in the past month….so I’ll jump right in. Here is the number one question I receive:

Q. I have sent out hundreds of resumes to online jobs that I feel are really good fit for me. It’s been months, and I’ve had no replies (other than confirmation emails) and no interviews. What am I doing wrong?

A. Many people are in the same boat. There was a time that the online job boards worked, and a recent survey of top US companies confirmed that many of them do use the job boards to hire employees. It is not the number one way, however. That remains “referrals” as it always has, and always will.

Here’s the problem: the sheer numbers of competitors makes it unlikely that you’ll get a job that way. There are millions of unemployed, and employed, people – worldwide – that can, and do, apply to any and every job online, whether they are qualified or not.

Companies have responded with software called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that severely limited the number of resumes that are approved for further review. (Less than 3% in some cases!)

If your resume is not perfect – according to an ATS software – it will live forever in the black hole of cyberspace. You need a flawless, customized for each position, keyword loaded, accomplishment based resume that can survive approximately four different gatekeepers!

This is the hardest way to get a job. If this makes up the majority of your job searching strategy…perpare for a long stretch of unemployment.

Remedy: The number one way companies hire is through referrals. You need to be on the right side of a referral, so spend time on that instead! (read: networking)

Q. I don’t have a lot of money or time, and I really need a job (income) ASAP. Is a career coach or a professional resume worth it?

A. Yes! Okay, I may be a little biased..but let’s look at this logically. In the big scheme of things, a job is a critical part of your life. You may have gone to college – a substantial investment for sure – but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a job or career. Here is a great article from USA Today, from 2011.

Today’s labor market has an excess of qualified talent, and the competition for limited jobs is fierce. The one thing you need to know is that you are in competition – The Job Games – and you need to be in fighting shape. You need sharp career tools – including your resume and online social media brand; and your networking and interviewing skills must be top-notch. If any of these career tools are not well-done, you chance being screened out – fast!

Ask yourself: is it worth the money and time to invest in career coaching services to get into great career shape? Look at the reality of your situation: if you have been job hunting for more than 3 months, and the results are not where you need them to be, can you afford not to seek professional career help? It is definitely worth your time and money to increase your chances of getting hired – sooner than later!


Hiring is Complicated!

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Image via Wikipedia


A few things job seekers need more info about is how companies recruit and hire.  I used to recruit and hire employees for a variety of firms nationwide and internationally. There are several factors that regulate the way companies hire – and I am considering companies of over 50 professional employees for the sake of this blog post. Most companies have a Human Resource office or Personnel Department. While many employees are familiar with the some of the functions of the HR office — recruiting, payroll, benefits and terminations — HR also plays a critical role in the overall business strategy of the company. There are two major functions that the HR office does that job seekers would benefit from knowing.

1. Talent Acquisition

HR is responsible for budgeting, recruiting and filling all the positions in the company. They create budgets based on labor and burden costs, recruiting, training, taxes, etc. They analyze work flow, anticipate work, and contribute to strategic planning to meet company growth goals (or plan targeted reductions). Talent Acquisition goals are to fill high-level positions with top candidates; often they are “poached” from other companies, and have associated costs of signing bonuses and premium benefit packages. Poaching is labor intensive. Cheap? No. Necessary? Mostly. Typically, companies do not hire their top talent from job boards.

So, what does this mean to the job seeker? Unless you are in the fortunate “poached” category, you are trying to get a job by traditional methods, including applying online. Companies save substantial amounts of money in the recruiting process by using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to filter out 95% of the resumes they receive. Otherwise, they would have to pay an employee to MANUALLY sort through 1,000’s of resumes per year. Once the software filter identifies 20 good matches, the search is almost over. So, you can see the odds are against you for obtaining employment via the ATS. Spending an hour filling out your life-story on an automated applicant system is a BIG WASTE OF TIME!

2. Legal Compliance

One of the major functions of HR is to provide legal advice and enforcement in employment law for the company. There are many, many Federal and State employment laws, and International employment laws protecting “foreign skilled workers”. Lawmakers write the laws, and HR monitors and enforces the law! In hiring, companies are not allowed to discriminate based on race, religion, age, gender, ability, etc. Read more on the Title VII,  in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  It is an amazing piece of legislation, and trust me, most countries have no such thing. In the US, there are also sexual and hostile workplace harassment laws, and laws for hiring minorities, vets and women if the company receives Federal or State funding.

LAWS dictate hiring. Companies need to comply, so they implement screening methods as a way to eliminate any possible discrimination in hiring lawsuits. If you have a picture of yourself on your résumé (for the US), most likely, it goes straight into the “no” pile because could be a possible source of discrimination by the company.

If you’re spending your job search time endlessly uploading your photo résumé into Applicant Tracking Systems, the longer it will take to find a job. Try Linked In, or the phone instead.

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