“Resume Oblivion” has been a hot topic in the news. The Wall Street Journal published an article, Your Resume vs. Oblivion, reporting that the percentage of large companies using computerized Applicant Tracking Systems to screen candidates is in the high 90%; almost all Fortune 500 companies rely on these programs.Resume Oblivion

The article points out that “the systems, which can cost from $5,000 to millions of dollars, are efficient, but not foolproof.”  Specifically, “Tracking software …  may miss the most-qualified applicant if that person doesn’t game the system by larding [sic – I think they mean loading] his or her résumé with keywords from the job description.”

The article offers advice, which I recommend reading, on “How to Beat the ‘Black Hole.'” However, the advice is not comprehensive.  The first item, for instance, instructs job seekers to “mimic the keywords in the job description as closely as possible. If you’re applying to be a sales manager, make sure your résumé includes the words ‘sales’ and ‘manage’ (assuming you’ve done both!).”

Pardon me for saying so, but the above advice is 1) rudimentary, 2) a no-brainer and 3) limited in its value. The problem is that 99% of the people applying for a sales manager job are going to have the words “sales” and “manage”  in their resumes! Therefore, you will not get higher on any list by including these keywords. The same goes for most of the keywords in the job description, since many job seekers are getting savvy about matching their resumes to the posting.

The Wall Street Journal is not the only major news provider who delivered misleading or incomplete information on this topic. Take NPR’s 16-minute segment entitled Keeping Your Resume Out of Online Oblivion, where callers related stories of how they got interviews despite the reign of Applicant Tracking Systems.  View it here:

You will hear some creative solutions in this spot on how to make it past the computers. You will also hear something misleading:  that hiring managers (i.e., human beings) program the ATS software to screen for certain terms.

Do you really think that a company like Google or Starbucks is going to have a human being sit there and punch keywords into a computer for each of the thousands of jobs they post every day? Think again.

No, human beings do not program these systems — the systems program themselves! The keywords the computers are looking for are determined by the computers. And this is why qualified candidates are so often overlooked.

Leave a Reply