Job Hunting Panel Recap
STC San Diego successfully hosted a Virtual Meeting last on August, 21st,2020. It was attended by more than 40 STC members and friends, from Silicon Valley to Seattle. The meeting was centered around a presentation by Pamela Paterson, BJ, MS, CBAP, about Applicant Tracking System s and their impact on the hiring process and how applicants can beat them and get hired.
She is a business consultant who provides strategic business analysis advice to Fortune 500 companies. Pamela is the author of the bestselling book “Get the Job: Optimize Your Resume for the Online Job Search”, which jumped to the #1 spot on the Amazon bestselling list of resume books.The book coincidentally teaches about how to beat HR robots and ATS’s.
So, what is an Applicant Tracking System?
If you’ve gotten this far, you probably have an idea about what it is, hence the interest. But just in case, Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS’s are programs which are used by hiring managers to filter out applicants according to certain customizable standards, like sieves of varying fineness.
They are very powerful tools that really changed the nature of the hiring process. They are a natural product of the inundation with resumes and applications that HR departments experience whenever hiring.
This means that an ATS are central to picking the initial pool of candidates, out of all the applicants, even before a hiring manager can choose from them.
Some ATS’s are also known to delete resumes, when it doesn’t like what it sees or the applicant answers incorrectly to certain questions. Thus, one could easily see the trouble with ATS’s, in the way that they reshape the hiring process, by changing the way that candidate selection occurs.
The speaker tells of stories of the employment miracles that she has witnessed. When people, who were unemployed for years, started optimizing their resumes for visibility through the ATS. Having done so, they got hired.
Nothing, Pamela says, has changed with those people. They did not get more education, their skills were virtually still the same. Other than how they were no longer subjected to the biases against headers and footers which are baked into Applicant Tracking Systems.
This means that it really pays when applicants know the ins and outs of the Applicant Tracking Systems and HR tools, because not knowing them costs you.
Bugs for Features
To my mind, this widespread phenomenon wherein capable applicants fall through the cracks because of ATS’s is a bug, because instead of selecting the best candidates for the job , Applicant Tracking System by default selects resumes that are most optimized for its filters. Thus potentially reducing the quality of the pool of applicants that Hiring managers can choose from.
The list of things that could trip up an ATS can be varied, and but they usually include: Applying through job hunting sites, absence of specific key-words, and the use of tables, colums and graphics of any kind.
And just as Applicants must reckon with and adjust to the tooling choices of HR Departments, Hiring Managers too must reckon with the trade-offs caused like the potential losses in talent it can create.
“ Tools are the most subtle form of enslavement”-Neil Gaiman, The Sandman
It’s bad for applicants, since they have little choice in this matter and worse, are at times unaware of these tooling choices. Whether the good brought by Applicant Tracking System can outweigh the bad, is really not the point, they are here to stay. And in spite, or perhaps because, of the inefficiencies in these tools, Hiring Managers and Applicants alike must reckon with it and adjust their selection and application strategies accordingly.
So, how do you adjust to it?
With everything that has been said about Applicant Tracking Systems, it’s understandable that many would come to fear it. There are essentially two ways of working with an ATS, it is either to go through it or to avoid it altogether.
How to Dodge the Applicant Tracking Systems
The most preferable option, as you may have guessed, is to avoid it completely.
This strategy actually carries a higher probability of getting hired, as trust is in short supply when intellectual property is involved. As such a referral from a trusted person on the inside, be it a LinkedIn Contact, a previous coworker, or someone from an organization that you’ve volunteered for, would count more than your placing in an Applicant Tracking System.
It might not be as easy as just shooting resumes and applications at job openings on Indeed, and you may need a network and some connections, but up to 40% of hiring happens through referrals. It certainly beats being squeezed through a series of ATS filters, with 300 or so other applicants for each of those 60% of openings that are made public.
Andrew Davis, in a previous talk about finding work as an API Tech Writer, said that Networking is likely to give you the best jobs you could find, especially if you are a contractor. Something which the Speaker and other members confirmed, during the Panel Discussion.
Roll with the Punches
If it cannot be avoided, there are means of increasing visibility and minimizing the harm that ATS’s can cause on your employment prospects.
Some of these means are ethical, others… less so. Understandably people will do what they can to get through the ATS, but it should also be remembered that a hiring manager will still have to view and like your resume, before you get considered.
One has to remember that going through an Applicant Tracking System means that you will have to fight to get in front of HR. It is not hopeless and there are means of increasing your chances of getting through the ATS.
There are many sites nowadays that, provide ATS friendliness ratings, using the job description and comparing to your resume, simply go on Google and search: “is my resume ATS friendly”.
In addition to avoiding the things that could trip up the ATS, some of Pamela’s recommendations include:
-Volunteering for the STC or a non-profit, to network and escape the “Experience Catch-22”.
-Apply via the company’s own website.
-Cite experience with a contractor that the company works with, when applicable.
-Keep Current with your industry and always have recent and relevant Experience.
-Copy the Keywords in the Job Description and use them multiple times in your resume and keep it verbatim.
-Make a longer resume.
-Make sure you speak to the hiring manager and signify interest, to increase the chances that your resume won’t fall through the cracks.
– Use the simplest possible format and avoid all graphics.
-Pass the ATS’s filtering questions, and answer them honestly.
You can connect with Pamela on LinkedIn at: Linkedin.com/in/pamelapaterson
Andrew Davis’ Talk: API Writing is a Job winning skill (stc-sd.org)
Listen to the Full Job Hunting Panel, complete with Comments, Additional Tips and some Scary Stories:
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