Job Applicants: How to Game Resume Scanners

More and more companies are relying on technology to weed out job applicants at the initial stage of the hiring process – using software that scans and screens resumes in what has become a multi-billion dollar industry.  

Applicant tracking systems are a boon for overloaded human resource departments at large companies, but can be a hazard for job hunters who don’t know how to tailor their resumes to ensure they aren’t tossed out of the applicant pool.

Recruiting software purchase totaled  almost $4 billion last year, according to the research firm Gartner. 

Peter Cappelli, the Director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Human Resources, said if you apply for a job through a company’s website, then it’s likely to be filtered through one of these systems.

“I’d say anybody with more than a thousand employees is probably using it.” Cappelli says. “And, increasingly these systems are getting cheaper so even smaller companies can use them.”

In general, the software will scan information and download it into a database. It looks through for certain keywords or phrases set by the employer—things like years of experience in a field or particular skills. Then, it grades, ranks or screens the resumes, so recruiters only spend time on the best fits. The more advanced the tracking system, the better it can parse what you’ve written.

But, if your resume has the wrong format or lacks the specific keywords an employer has entered, your application might never make it to a real person.

Better your odds by looking at Jane Doe’s resume below and see exactly what not to do.


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