Did A Person See Your Resume? Maybe Not.

Simply getting an interview can be remarkably difficult, even if you’re a clear fit for the job. After numerous applications and time wasted, you’ve likely asked yourself “why can’t I get an interview?” Unexpectedly, it may be because your resume wasn’t even seen by a person at all, but simply scanned and dumped by a computer. So, this raises the question, can you hack resume scanners?

In the same way Google attempts to deliver search results you desire based on your criteria, recruiting systems use similar algorithms to hunt through applicant data and present the same results to recruiters. Jon Christensen, Ph.D., Chief Intelligence Officer of Sparks Research, explains this machine learning process uses what’s called natural language processing, looking for keywords and key phrases that are best aligned with the job posting. The goal is to get the best candidates in front of recruiters, but it’s not without error. If you’ve asked, “why can’t I get an interview?” here’s how it all works.

How Do Resume Scanners Work? – Jon Christensen, Ph.D.

Why Can’t I Get An Interview?

For those asking “why can’t I get an interview?” it’s vital to understand the inherent problem with recruiting systems. The systems are only as effective as the people inputting information in the software, so to borrow our Google comparison, if recruiters aren’t inputting the correct terms into the correct fields they won’t find the right candidates. It may be shocking to you, but hiring managers often don’t have a great understanding of the jobs they are hiring for.

It should be obvious if a hiring manager doesn’t understand the department they are hiring for they can’t know the best person for the job, and yet it happens frequently. You could document an incredible job experience, but the system won’t value your experience because it doesn’t know to look for it. Recruiters can easily overlook the best person for the job, simply because the recruiter or hiring manager filling in the job posting didn’t fully understand the nuances of the job or the future of the industry.

Dr. Christensen explains. “The hiring manager is the one that controls what those keywords are. So, if that hiring manager doesn’t build that script appropriately, then it’s garbage in garbage out. Anything you put in the program — that’s what you get. If you say you want one thousand hamburgers, you get one thousand hamburgers. That’s what we’re talking about, if you put criteria in that don’t match, of course, your going to lose high-quality candidates. Obviously, this can be a problem.

Hiring managers control keywords. And they can be wrong. – Jon Christensen, Ph.D.

Best Candidates Are Missed

Could these algorithms and scripts make it harder for companies to find the right people? Dr. Christensen says there is some good and some bad. If you are a candidate, for example, and you articulate something that is difficult to tag or hard to reduce to a simple keyword, your resume could end up in the application abyss. If you are a hiring manager or recruiter looking for an innovative leader and fail to predict the qualities, or don’t understand what you need in the first place, you are likely to lose out on a big opportunity.

On the flip side, Dr. Christensen explains that the resume scanners can be good for recruiters when hiring for jobs that have more general qualifications. In these cases, algorithms or automated systems may help defend against resume bombers. While one potential answer to the age-old question “why can’t I get an interview” may be, simply, because you aren’t qualified, your insight and uniqueness may very well hurt you as well.

Are resume scanners making it harder to find great people? – Jon Christensen, Ph.D.

To further distill this idea, for roles that require visionary leaders that need to solve problems, using AI or scanner tools will probably overlook great candidates, especially if those candidates have taken careful time to craft their resume with fresh language. Innovative people tend to do things differently than the pack, after all.

If it’s a role that is driven around process and repetition, with little to no room for creative output however, these resume scanners will likely help hiring managers filter through resumes a lot faster. So, if you are a creative person who finds a job application website standing between you and a dream job, what do you do? You design your application to hack resume scanners and win with the interview or cover letter.

How To Hack Resume Scanners

Jon Christensen, Ph.D. on how to hack resume scanners
Jon Christensen, Ph.D.

Dr. Christensen explains that it isn’t as hard as it might sound to hack resume scanners, “you absolutely could, all you need to do is write a resume that hits the tags.”

Simply look for descriptions in the actual job posting, and make sure you know the language of the industry your applying to. Look for words that indicate what the HR, hiring manager, or recruiter are really focused on. Words like “proficiency, mastery, significant, strong, compelling, successfully, etc.” are words to indicate how much emphasis the hiring manager has placed on those particular skills that follow. In order to hack resume scanners make sure these terms appear in your resume, worded the same exact way.

Yes. Applicants can hack resume scanners. – Jon Christensen, Ph.D.

Service level attributes, education backward, length of experience, and qualifications are obviously important to spell out very clearly in language everyone would understand. Don’t be creative with this stuff.  The trick to hack resume scanners is to look at the job description and the words used. The job description is pretty transparent once you understand the language that the company or hiring manager gravitates to.

A word to the wise, however, Dr. Christensen does caution potential application hackers to be aware they will eventually face a person and therefore they must be an honest match. If you’re not, that does not send a good first impression.

One BIG Hiring Trick

After you’ve written a resume to hack resume scanners, what’s the one big thing you absolutely must not forget? It’s very simple, Dr. Christensen details, “you have to write a resume to a job. You can’t write a boilerplate resume of your background and expect today, to get through to a hiring manager and be noticed.” If you want to creative and unique, save it for the cover letter.” Hopefully, you will never have to ask again “why can’t I get an interview?”

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10-day guide

How to become well-known in your industry.

My name is Justin Brady. Entrepreneurs, founders and business owners hire me to amplify their story to millions of people. Subscribe and I'll send a free PDF to grow your personal brand in 10 days.