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Tricking the applicant tracking systems

The job application process is shifting due to applicant tracking systems, online résumé aggregators that companies use to weed through candidates.

It worked in 1995, and it just might work today. It worked in 1995, and it just might work today. Send a fax.

The job application process is shifting due to applicant tracking systems, which are online résumé aggregators that most midsize to large nonprofit and corporate entities use to weed through candidates. Trudy Steinfeld, assistant vice president and executive director of the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development, helps you navigate the new system.

Talk to the robots (mostly)

Do: Maximize keyword searching
“Say they’re looking for a candidate who’s detailed, can communicate and is a good editor,” Steinfeld says. “When they get résumés, they’ll search the system for those keywords. If you don’t have those words on your résumé, even if those skills are displayed differently, your résumé is likely not to be identified.”
Don’t: Go overboard
“I recently heard an interesting story: There were 10 openings in this company and one person’s résumé was identified with every keyword search, though the jobs were completely different. The candidate included keywords for every job, made the text white [so it was disguised] and put the résumé over [that text]. They tossed the résumé when they learned of the stunt.

Numbers game: quantify your results
“If you’ve worked on a project and there are quantifiable results, provide the numbers,” she says. “Employers are into analytics; having an actual measure of your success can really help. Say you want to be a fundraiser. If the organization that currently employs you was taking in $1 million a year when you arrived, and now brings in $1.5 million a year, say that. People are results-oriented.

Old is new: Send a fax
“Especially when applying to small organizations, fax your résumé. Most offices still have a machine and — guess what? — it never rings,” Steinfeld says. “I’ve noticed that in my own office, when the fax machine rings, people wonder, ‘What could that be?’ It could be your résumé. It sounds crazy, but the reality is, I test this out all the time with employers and they say, ‘Yeah, if I get a résumé over the fax machine, I’m curious.’ Say, ‘I also sent this online, but I wanted to make sure it got into your hands.’”

 
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