Your Resume Will Not Find You a Job

Last Updated Nov 3, 2010 7:29 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady,

Initially, I was just curious if the people involved in the recruitment process do get more from a resume than what is clearly stated. To my surprise when I have asked this questions on an HR forum I was told they actually do not read the resume itself, but scan it automatically for specific words. Then they complained that they cannot find good employees.

Yeah, you would think that the recruiters would be reading the actual resumes, and they do--once the computer has spit out the resumes with the right key words.

Most big companies use computer programs to handle their resumes. You e-mail your resume, or enter the data on the company's website, and it all goes into a big computer file. (Or, hard copy resumes are scanned in, but really, that's a pain, so unless the company asks for it specifically, bring hard copies to your interview, but use e-mail when you're applying.)

Once it's in the big computer file, and the recruiter has a position to fill, she'll type in key words and the computer does its magic and spits back resumes that meet those criteria. Yippee!

Except if you didn't pick the right key words, or she didn't pick the right key words, then even though you would be wonderful in the job, you don't even appear on the radar. For instance, let's say you have 10 years of experience and know [industry computer program A], but the recruiter only searches for people for with experience and who know [industry computer program B]. Even though someone with experience in A could learn B really rapidly, your resume will never see the light of day.

It seems really stupid, doesn't it? (Of course, a good recruiter will know this and will search for people who fit this criteria, but clearly not all do.) Now, to defend the recruiters (because, after all, one day I'll want a new job and I'll need their help), they get so many resumes that it would be impossible to stay on top of everyone's resume. You may get literally hundreds of resume for any given position (if not thousands) and if you had to thoroughly read each one you'd never have time to actually hire anyone. This software is absolutely critical to filling a posted position.

And it's also why you need to skip this process altogether.

You want a job? Find it through networking. That way you have a conversation with someone familiar with the job who can then advocate for you. This allows you to be considered for jobs that you wouldn't otherwise be called in for.

Recruiters may complain about the lack of qualified candidates (and in some cases there really is a lack of qualified candidates), but in most cases, there are plenty of qualified candidates, but the keywords aren't matching them up.

Some jobs lend themselves well to keywords. There are computer programs you need to know, certifications you need to have, etc. However, other jobs don't work as well for key word searches. You need someone with project management experience. Well, what in the heck does that mean? I have project management experience, but is it related to the projects you need managed? It's not easy for the candidate to predict the key words the recruiter will use, nor is it easy for the recruiter. So, here are 5 tips for getting the computer to spit your resume out at the recruiter, who can then look at it and evaluate your fit for the position:
  • Customize your resume. Yes, it's a pain to customize your resume. Do it anyway. Why? You want to be selected for this job, not for a similar job. Customize.
  • Steal the keywords from the job posting. The recruiter has already given you a big hint as to her key word choices when you read the job description. If it says "support talent strategies" then for heaven's sake, don't write that you have experience with "talent management." Yes, a logical person would say, talent strategies/talent management, it's all the same. But, if you put the phrase "talent strategies" into your resume, the computer is more likely to find you, because that is what they are looking for.
  • Write a unique cover letter. A cover letter is not just a restating of your resume. It's got different information in it. And that information can include some additional key words. For instance, "While my experience is in [industry specific computer program A], this is similar to [industry specific computer program B]." Ta-da! A new keyword.
  • Check your spelling. Duh. Yes, some of the recruiting software is smart and can guess what you really meant, but don't count on it. You write that you have experience with Microsfot Ecxel instead of Microsoft Excel and your resume is never seeing the light of day.
  • Take the time to fill out the form completely. If there is an online application, I realize it's a pain in the patootie to fill out the form. Why can't you just copy and paste the text of your resume into the little boxes? Because the computer is set up to scan through their format. You add in unnecessary bullet points and you'll confuse the poor computer. It asks for dates in your past jobs because it will use that to calculate your years of experience. Check the box that says you have a bachelor's degree, don't just include it on the resume you attach.
But, remember, your resume is not going to jump off the computer screen and get yourself a job. Most jobs are found through networking. Do that and you won't have to worry about key words. And, surprisingly enough, the recruiters won't have to worry about finding enough qualified candidates, because you'll already have your foot in the door.
Photo by SOCIALisBETTER, Flick cc 2.0

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