For the last three years, the biggest complaint I hear is, “I’m frustrated. I’m still putting out resumes daily with no response.”

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Are job seekers insane? Of course not. So why do they keep sending in their resumes, expecting different results?

For one answer, look a few years back. In 2006, you could upload your resume to any job board, have a dozen phone screens that would lead to multiple interviews and — “voila!” — you’d get multiple job offers. Some people haven’t caught up to today’s reality and continue to proceed with that mindset.

Another reason people regularly send in resumes today is to satisfy the state’s unemployment insurance requirements: They must apply to at least three jobs per week in order to continue receiving their benefits.

A third reason is because most career books, career coaches, articles and advice on the Internet tell you to send in your resume. It’s how we’ve always found a job. So, why would it be any other way?

In today’s hiring climate, if you don’t understand how resumes are being treated, you will continue to drive yourself insane. Here’s what you need to know before you send in your next resume:

These are different times

Sheer volume of applications. The companies I interview get, on average, between 300 to 1,600 applications per opening. Blogger Trish Kinney writes on the Huffington Post about the frustrations hiring managers are experiencing today. For a junior manager role, her company got over 900 applicants, most of whom weren’t qualified for the opening.

Reduced hiring staff. If you look at LinkedIn during the years of 2008 and 2009, you’ll notice how many human resources professionals and recruiters lost their jobs and were added to the applicant pool. When companies aren’t hiring, they don’t need what’s considered “overhead.”

With lots of applicants — but not enough staff to process the information — most resumes don’t stand the chance of being seen. Companies that are hiring have to rely on new applicant tracking systems (ATS) to solve this problem.

Technology has changed the game

Resume scoring. Applicant tracking systems today are vastly different than they were three years ago. These systems used to primarily store candidate information and manage the workflow between an advertised opening and a job offer. Today however, these systems are doing what most recruiters used to do — screen resumes.

As I’ve discussed in previous posts, the ATS today is equipped with a resume-scoring engine — known as the Hiring Management System (HMS) — that processes the resume and gives it a score between 0 and 10. It does this by comparing your resume to the job description using some common algorithms such as:

  • Keywords – match between the job description and the resume keywords
  • Frequency of appearance – number of times the keywords appear in the resume
  • Phrases – Do the phrases on the job description match the resume (i.e. does the entire phrase “Software Development Life Cycle” appear vs. just the keywords)?
  • Acronyms – Is the applicant using the acronyms identified on the job description?
  • Order of appearance – Where are these keywords appearing on the applicant’s resume?

Applicant profiling. These days an ATS is so sophisticated that it can actually look up your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles. It will even look to Zillow to find information about your home ownership (are you upside down on your mortgage and asking for a high salary? Will you be facing a long commute? The hiring company will look for reasons to second-guess your application).

Job descriptions may be leading you astray. A good number of job descriptions written today aren’t reflecting the accurate needs of the employer. Most hiring managers — including myself when I was working for companies such as Microsoft or Expedia — were never trained on how to write a good job description. Therefore you have two outcomes:

  • Poorly written job descriptions
  • Templated job descriptions

A client of mine brought me three different advertisements from Starbucks with titles such as: Program Manager, International Project Manager and Partner Program Manager. Each one had the exact same description, word for word, sentence for sentence.

The best applicants will attempt to optimize their resume to the job description, but even if they get a high score in the HMS, they usually won’t get a phone screen because they aren’t addressing the true needs of the hiring manager (which are stored inside his or her head).

What a nightmare, huh? At this point you’ve probably either given up altogether or you want me to wave a magic wand and make all this disappear.

I wish I had that power. However, I can suggest that you learn more about the technology behind resume screening and that you make a few phone calls before sending in your resume so you can understand the true needs of the hiring manager. Once you do these things, you’ll have much better success when you do take the time to send that perfectly targeted resume.

Live Seminars in December

The Career Search Excellence seminar is packed with only the hottest tips and tricks for professionals seeking a new opportunity – giving you a competitive edge over the competition. The seminar is free (sponsored) and there are three dates to choose from in December.
  • December 5 (Bellevue, WA)
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