The Job Hunt

What to Do When Robots are Eating Your Job Applications

Isaac Morehouse
December 2019

“Job seekers often spend hours online researching employers and polishing their applications and resumes. Then they hit send.

“And they hear nothing. Ever.

“Looking for a job is hard enough without being rejected by a robot. But applicant-screening and tracking systems are increasingly powerful job-market gatekeepers. After scanning resumes, they hurl most applicants into a digital black hole.”

This, from a recent Wall Street Journal article, perfectly nails the problem with clunky, automated mass job application systems.

It goes on to describe these systems as flawed. 60% of employers say these systems have caused them to overlook the best talent. Yikes.

So why do employers keep using them? Because they get hundreds of resumes that all look the same, and they need some way to cut through the noise quick and get to a handful of people worth interviewing.

Where You Can Take Control

The problem comes from both sides of the market. Hirers keep posting the same generic applications, and applicants keep sending the same generic resumes. The technology is involved only as a mass quantity reduction mechanism.

That’s where you, the job seeker, can take control. Don’t wait for employers to rethink the process. Hiring is something most aren’t experts in, and they just want to get it done. Don’t wait for them when you can cut through the noise now without asking anyone for permission!

The article ended in a depressing way. Check out this list of recommendations:

  • Network to build contacts inside the company who will put in a good word for you.
  • Use a text-based app like Word for your online application, rather than a PDF or other format.
  • Include in your resume keywords and phrases from the employer’s job posting.
  • Quantify past results, citing dollars earned or other stats.
  • Camouflage brief gaps in work history by listing years only, rather than years and months.
  • List job titles in a way that shows increasing responsibility and status.

Besides the suggestion to get to know people at the company, the rest of these are tiny tweaks to the format of your resume. This is a losing arms race of further efforts to game automated resume bots.

Changing the Game

But you can rise above all of it and crash the career party.

Don’t apply.

Don’t send a resume.

Don’t send a cover letter.

Don’t be like everyone else.

Do this instead:

  • Research the company to learn about their products, customers, roles, brand, tone, software tools used, and history.
  • Pick a role you think you can do (whether or not they have a job posting for it) and decide what you’d need to show them to prove you could do it.
  • Find the name and email of the person who would be your boss in that role. And the name and email of another person in the company who does the role.
  • Create a tailored video pitch just for the hiring manager where you share three things you love about the company, three things you’d do in the role, and how to contact you for more.
  • End with a link to a pitch or personal website where they can learn more about you if they want.
  • Email it to the hiring manager.
  • Then email the other person in the company in that role and say, “I just applied to work in this role. I’d love to learn more about what you do, what you think would help someone succeed in the role, and your favorite parts.”
  • Send followup emails in a few days if you hear nothing.

This will take a few hours the first time. But after you get the hang of it, you can probably do this in 20-30 minutes.

It sounds like a lot of work, but here’s the secret: you’ll get more interviews with less total time spent than the typical approach. And it’s way more fun!

Do this for five companies you really love, and the results will be better than 500 resumes blasted into black-box autobot scanners. Bonus: you’ll become more employable and valuable just by doing it.

When a hiring manager gets a tailored pitch, it blows them away. It moves ahead of the pile of apps.

You wouldn’t try to get a date by blasting out a list of your attributes to hundreds of people. You’d get to know one person and show them you care.

Getting an interview is no different.

Career Crashers Podcast

A show all about creating a career outside the boring, debt-laden, conveyor belt humdrum.

Career Launch Guides

Make a Great ResumeCustomer SuccessOperationsSoftware EngineeringMarketingSalesDesign

Copyright 2020 Crash, Inc. All Rights Reserved