Most large and some midsized companies, have an automatic sorting mechanism for scanning resumes for open positions. Simplistically, they use an algorithm that takes key words and phrases from the position description written by the hiring manager, and matches them to the words and phrases on the resumes from applicants. The words and phrases that match are sorted into a group of high potential resumes. Resumes are prioritized with the most matches at the top of the pile.
Key phrases might be: Masters of Business Administration (MBA), cost accounting supervisor, department head, Regional Sales Manager, or any other designation that the hiring manager wants in a candidate. A more sophisticated system might look for metrics, like 10% reduction of costs, or 8.5% increase in revenue. A key word might be: Salesman, Controller, Six-Sigma, or a word known only to professionals in a designated field of experience like Oracle, CMS Marketing, robotics, PCB, electro-mechanical, and so on. If you don’t match the key words and other resumes are a better match, you’re resume will be kicked out.
Once the computer has completed its task, a human being will take the “winners” and begin the telephone or Skype contact of the top candidates. Here are few issues you need to understand:
- Words used in your resume may be similar to the key words in the position description but be interpreted differently by the computer, i.e. Controller, Comptroller, Finance Manager.
- The quality of your work isn’t recognized by the computer, only the word or phrase
- The potential value of the applicant in the future can’t be gauged by an algorithm
- The effective “fit” into the work team isn’t a consideration.
So what do you do when applying to a larger company that uses a computer program? Play the game to your advantage:
- Key words are obvious in the position description. Make sure they are on the first page or top half of the first page of your resume. It will be noticed quicker and ranked higher.
- Critical key words should be repeated throughout the resume. Multiple uses of keywords increases the “hit”, especially when describing past jobs. Algorithms love repetition.
- Nouns are better than verbs. Words like energized, talented, accomplished, and so on are meaningless. Key words must be job specific to match the job descriptors.
- Similar words may not be recognized. Use the exact words from the position description. If the company is looking for a civil engineer, using the word engineer may not cut it.
- Usually there are 10 to 15 key words or phrases that revolve around: Job Titles, degrees, certifications, professional skills, job experiences, technical terms or buzzwords, company names, computer programs or applications, and so on.
However, you must have the experience with results that match the open position, not just words. If you don’t have the background you’ll have wasted everyone’s time and your own credibility.
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