It’s frustrating – even insulting – to have your job application rejected by a machine. Yet that happens to thousands of candidates every day, as applicant screening and tracking software takes a cursory look at their application or CV and rejects them out of hand because some particular box is not ticked, or a keyword is missing. No human being ever looks at their carefully crafted CV – they just get an automatically-generated email that sounds polite but basically just says ‘No thanks’.
However there are ways to deal with applicant sifting software that could improve your chances of getting through it. After all, it’s just a computer program. Think like a computer and you can outwit it. Here are eight tactics that could improve your chances.
- Apply for jobs that closely match your skills and experience. The overall aim of the software is to identify people who most accurately fit the job description so the closer you come to it in the first place the more likely you are not to be screened out.
- Use words in your CV, covering letter or application form that are used in the vacancy and job description. The software is programmed to pick out words in CVs that exactly match the words used in the vacancy. Identify the keywords (usually referring to specific skills, experience and qualifications) and ensure you use them in your application.
- Try adding a short statement of ‘key skills’ or ‘core competences’ at the top of your CV that describes your skills and experience, using the same key words as those in the vacancy. Even if there are several commonly-used terms for these skills, use the ones included in the vacancy. Do not, however, just copy the job description or vacancy details and paste it into your CV – software can be programmed to detect this and reject you. Rewrite it to suit your own individual situation.
- What if your present employer and the new employer use different terms for the same role? It’s a common problem because many employers use their own particular job titles for generic jobs, and the mismatch can scupper your chances. If your target employer uses a different job title to those used for your role in your present company, use your current job title in the application but include the prospective employer’s title for the role in brackets immediately afterwards, eg: Software developer (programmer).
- Be flexible in the way you use words that define your skills. For instance, use ‘project management’, ‘project manager’ and ‘managing projects’ at different points, just in case the software has been programmed to pick up on one term but not the other.
- Mention particularly important skills and experience required by the vacancy several times in your application. Recruitment software is often programmed to pick up on the frequency with which the most important terms are used.
- Some software is set to search for skills that were used most recently, so if the vacancy calls for some skills that you gained years ago, consider rewriting you CV in a non-chronological way, otherwise you may be rejected. You can do this by listing your skills at the start of your CV and then listing your employment history chronologically, or you could abandon the chronological approach altogether and list the most relevant jobs first.
- If all else fails, abandon online applications systems and try to network your way into a job. Ideally find someone who already works for the company and get them to hand your CV in to the hiring manager or HR department. This bypasses the software altogether – and as many companies pay referral bonuses to employees who source new staff, could also pay off for the person who helped you get the job.
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