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The likely reason your résumé got rejected

Job seekers at a job fair are standing in a line
Software isn't necessarily the reason your résumé got rejected.
  • Job seekers often look for ways to slip past the software many companies use to collect résumés.
  • Yet it's often recruiters, not bots, that reject applicants for a role.
  • A recruitment firm found that applications lead to "meaningful conversations" only 3% of the time.

Melissa Weaver was recruiting for a tech consulting company when she spotted something promising on a man's résumé: He'd worked at a pizza shop all four years of college.

"He had started as a dishwasher and, by the end, he was a manager," she told Business Insider.

Although the recent grad didn't have tech experience, to Weaver, he'd shown longevity with a company and a desire to take on more responsibility.

"That's definitely worth a conversation," Weaver said. The man eventually got the job and has since been promoted multiple times, she said.

It's the kind of feel-good story that seems impossible to repeat in a job market that can unfold like an obstacle course — one where the obstacles are the technologies that many companies use to filter and reject résumés.

Yet, for all the fear of so-called applicant-tracking systems, often, it's not a bot that's doing the booting — it's still people.

'The ATS doesn't care'

Mark Jensen, a recruiter with Upswing Talent Acquisition, told BI that job seekers often focus too much on sneaking past an ATS to get seen.

"They all think that the applicant-tracking system is some magical technology that screens people out on its own," he said. "The ATS doesn't care. It's just a repository."

Instead, recruiters often filter with keywords and other variables to reduce stacks of résumés, Jensen said. So, it's a good idea to tailor yours and your cover letter to ensure they're a good fit for a job description.

That's because, like many others who feel overworked, recruiters often are, too, he said.

"They don't have time to really parse through a résumé and think if someone may or may not be a fit. They need that résumé to jump off the page," Jensen said.

Weaver agreed. She recommends people list specific achievements and skills and not just focus on key words contained in a job description.

"Put any specific stats that show, 'I know what I'm talking about,'" she said. "That's really important in terms of catching the human eye."

Weaver said taking these steps makes it less likely that a résumé will be set aside when a recruiter sorts for certain attributes.

Don't fear the ether

It's understandable why people would stress over whether an ATS would block their résumé. Nearly all Fortune 500 companies, for example, deploy systems for ingesting résumés.

And the only thing worse than having a recruiter spend only six or seven seconds scanning your résumé is having no one read it. Online, people debate strategies for getting past an ATS. People and companies have even made businesses of creating ATS-friendly résumés.

Weaver sees value in using tech to filter candidates but worries about those who could get overlooked — like the pizza guy — because they don't have the experience that's in direct alignment with a job posting.

"Do they have relevant experience? Not in a way that an applicant-tracking system would tell you that they do. But their experience that may not be related to your field can still apply," she said.

Fear of getting ghosted by an ATS is why some people resort to what recruiters call "spray and pray." It's essentially applying to as many jobs as possible to break through somewhere. Artificial intelligence tools can now also help make you a serial applier.

A 3% ROI

Yet even though it's easier than ever to apply for jobs, that doesn't mean you should go wild. Applying to more than 1,000 roles, for example, doesn't guarantee success.

Aaron Cleavinger, a managing partner at Murdoch Mason Executive Search Group, told BI that his firm's research shows that when applicants apply for positions, that effort turns into "meaningful conversations" only about 3% of the time. He said that doesn't mean people shouldn't go for jobs, but they likely need to limit how often they focus on clicking that submit button.

"If it's 3% value, perhaps you should only spend 3% of your time doing it," he said.

So, what else should job seekers do? Cleavinger said it's about constantly challenging yourself to appear different from other candidates who are equally or more qualified than you.

"How do you stand out so that when there's a big pile of résumés or a giant list of LinkedIn profiles to look through that you'd be the one to come on top?" he said.

Jensen, the recruiter with Upswing Talent Acquisition, said the power also rests with those doing the hiring to make wise decisions about how to use an ATS.

"It's the recruiter and how they choose to filter to make hopefully the most relevant candidates bubble up to the top, so they don't have to review all 400 or 1,000 résumés," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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