Applying for jobs used to mean driving, walking, or taking public transportation all over town dropping off resumes and filling out applications. These days, you can apply for hundreds of jobs a day from your computer, as you have an internet connection. In the process of transitioning online, many businesses have automated the first few steps of the application process, and, just like any other automated process, you can game the system if you’re smart about it.
If you need help getting past the resume filter in the job application process, here’s what you need to do:
1. Read the Job Description
It sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many people just read the job posting title, scan over the requisition, and go immediately to apply. This is how you end up at a job you don’t like. As much as you need money, you don’t want a job you completely hate. You will inevitably loathe certain aspects of your job, so don’t make it harder on yourself. Read the job description and make sure it’s something that: a) you want to do, and b) you’re able to do, competently. If you’ve only had a paper route and a McJob in high school, you have no business applying to be the Vice President of anything. Read the job description so you understand completely before applying.
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2. Identify Required Qualifications
When reading the job description, check out the qualifications. Employers will list the minimum requirements that they’re looking for. These qualifications ARE the resume filters, so if you don’t meet these qualifications, you’ll be filtered out.
It literally works like this: if I’m only looking for people with a Bachelor’s degree, my resume filter will only show me applicants who have a Bachelor’s degree listed on their resume. Think of it as a multiple choice scantron – if the answer is C and you filled in A, you got the question wrong. There are no second chances with automation; if anything is listed as “required” or “qualifications,” you won’t get past the filter without it. It is very black and white, with no gray areas.
3. Identify Desired Skills
Many jobs list desired skills, as well. That’s letting you know that once your resume meets the minimum requirements to move past the resume filter and be shown to a human being, they’re going to show preference to applicants with the desired skills. A Bachelor’s degree may be the barrier to entry, but they’d love to see a Master’s degree. The Master’s degree is only “desired” and not “required” though, so make up for it in other ways. Companies are willing to train the right person.
4. Be Sure Your Resume and LinkedIn Profile Show Qualifications
I know this sounds obvious, but it’s shocking how many people think certain skills are assumed. Just because you have prior sales experience, it doesn’t mean you know Salesforce. If I’m asking for a job related to Salesforce, you need to have Salesforce listed on your resume, and you should probably have your experience level listed, as well. There’s a chance I’ll have a Salesforce test in the interview, so don’t list it unless you are sure you can pass that test, however. Also, don’t just list your work history–make it meaningful.
You’ll do yourself a favor by updating your LinkedIn profile to match your resume. Also, make a quick scan of your social media presence. The time between interviewing and hiring you is normally when an employer does a background check online. Discrepancies will be noted, and you will be questioned on them, so don’t list something on your resume that contradicts your public LinkedIn profile.
5. Upload a Resume and/or Connect to LinkedIn to Extract Data
It’s time to upload your resume. This sounds easy, but it takes vigilance. In most cases, data from your resume (or LinkedIn profile) will be used to populate a web form. Double-check that each field is filled out correctly. Some optical character recognition (OCR) and data extraction programs have trouble compiling info, so you may have your email address listed as a former employer, or other such oddities. Pay special attention to any fields with an asterisk next to them, as these are required fields, and you won’t make it past the resume filter without these.
6. If You Want It, Then You Better Put a Spin on It
It’s never a good idea to lie on a job resume. Lying about a qualification will get you past the resume filter, but you’ll eventually get caught (most likely in the interview). Telling someone you have $100k in sales looks great, but you’ll eventually have to back that up, and if you’ve never sold so much as a cup of lemonade as a kid, you have no idea what it takes to make $100k in sales. You may know all the terminology, but if you can’t close the sales and meet your numbers, you won’t last at that job, and you’ll be worse off than you were before.
However, don’t be afraid to talk yourself up; you likely have more skills than you realize. If you’re tech-savvy, computer skills beef up your resume and can set you apart from the crowd – just don’t claim any certifications you don’t have unless you’re sure you can obtain them prior to employment (and understand those certifications cost time and money you may not have). I once told a hiring manager I was an expert with MS Access, even though I’d only touched the program twice in my life. Although I didn’t actually know Access at the time, I knew Excel, and picked it up successfully before anyone noticed.
7. Email the Hiring Manager
Despite all our technological advances, there’s still no replacement for good old human contact. If you can find a name of the person hiring, or you know anyone on the inside, email them. They may be able to pull your resume out the bunch, even though it wouldn’t normally have made it past the resume filter. Nepotism, cronyism, and favoritism are very much alive and well in the world, and you shouldn’t be afraid to use them to your advantage. At the very least, sending the email may make the person like you enough to overlook a few shortcomings that the machines would not have. You have nothing to lose by trying.
As you can see, a little experience and a lot of common sense can go a long way to securing employment. With so many HR processes being automated by machines, you can easily navigate through a large volume of job applications. The more jobs you apply for, the more likely you are to get hired. Incorporating the above steps into your daily job search routine will ensure you spend as little time as possible looking for a job.
If you made it past the application stage and scored an interview, make sure you look your best. Check out: How to Tie a Tie like an Expert
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