Nowadays, hiring managers at companies – as well as, more and more, recruiters – are using sophisticated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to “filter” job applicants. If you’re resume’s missing a keyword, or if there’s a piece of text or tables in the document that the system can’t parse, it will throw your resume in the dustbin without summary. This recent Inc. article is just another recent example of the kind of advice we give to candidates all the time about applying directly to jobs, as well as to certain recruiters: if you didn’t hear back from an opportunity, it’s quite possible that “you were eliminated by the ATS.”
Sounds like the terminator, doesn’t it?
We understand the necessity for some hiring managers, especially at multinational companies, to use ATS filtering systems – if you have a deluge of hundreds of resumes, it’s reasonable to need to filter them somehow. Hiring managers are under pressure and there are only so many hours in a day.
But should third party recruiters use an ATS to filter candidates automatically? Is that really how little we value a resume? When a successful placement can lead to thousands of dollars for a recruiter, and thousands of hours of productivity for a company?
We’ve written about Applicant Tracking Systems in hiring before. We’ve written about how recruiters should value – and sell themselves – based on long-term relationships with candidates instead of the size of their “database” of candidates. But for a candidate, it comes down to this:
Wouldn’t you rather send your resume to a recruiter who’s actually going to read it than one who’s going to let a computer decide whether you’re placeable?
By all means, recruiters don’t have a lot of time. We’re not trying to act holier-than-thou and claim we spend 20 minutes carefully perusing each resume we receive. We don’t. An often-quoted eye-tracking study from The Ladders found that recruiters and hiring managers spend, on average, 6 seconds reading a resume before deciding whether to reject it or pursue it further. We try to spend more time than that, but a great resume speaks to recruiters pretty quickly.
It should be a quantifiable fact sheet. It should have more white space than you think it needs. It should give us a sense of who you are by the end of the first paragraph. Because we are too busy to give each resu
me as much scrutiny as we’d like. But we also place too much stock in our candidates to outsource reading resumes to a computer.
As a candidate, you owe it to yourself to deal with a recruiter who’s going to take a more personalized approach. That doesn’t mean we work with every candidate who comes through our door (or, let’s be honest, our inbox more often these days). We’re a very niche firm, specializing in Supply Chain and Procurement. But if you are a candidate with lots of experience in this area, you’re worth a lot to us, so we make sure that an experienced recruiter has eyes on every resume that comes in. We provide resume and career advice. We’re a boutique company with a small staff, so we don’t have the time and resources to do this for everyone, but we’re willing to have a chat about how to make your resume stronger if we have the time. Because as a recruitment company, we’re not the only humans reading the resume. When we forward a great resume to one of our clients, it’s not going through their ATS filter with the possibility of being “eliminated.” It’s going to an HR or hiring manager who trusts us to pass along only qualified candidates. So it’s in our interest to make sure that the resume sings, and it’s in our interest to make sure that a computer doesn’t filter out the most qualified and relevant applicants.