Resume screeners, also called applicant tracking systems (ATS), get a bad rap among job seekers. That's because many job seekers see resume screeners are black holes that rarely yield responses or interviews.
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However, it's Thanksgiving season, a time to find things to be thankful for! Believe it or not, if you know a little bit more about ATSs, you'll find that they actually aren't so bad. Check out these four reasons to be thankful for resume screeners:
1. They Don't Have Anything to Hide
ATSs are robots, which means they can't exactly pull a fast one on you. The way that they operate is technical and follows a set of rules. Simply educating yourself on the ways of the ATS – such as keyword search, resume parsing, and word tenses – can help you crack all of their secrets. The scariest part of ATS is not knowing how they work. Take the time to make the best possible ATS-optimized resume, you'll find that resume screeners can actually help you get the job.
2. They Can Help You Put Your Best Foot Forward
When your resume is submitted through an ATS, it enters a pool with all of the other applications for that same job. Hiring managers then search the database by keyword to find the best matches. The trick is to customize your resume with keywords listed in the job description. Just by doing this one simple thing, you will automatically be putting your best foot forward. Before the hiring manager sees any gaps in employment or sub-par work experience, they will see that you have skills matching the ones they are looking for in a candidate. That's a great start!
3. It Gets Ride of the Competition
The goal of an ATS is to eliminate candidates in order to shorten and organize the list of qualified applicants. One way in which the software does this is by using "knockout questions." Knockout questions are the series of yes/no or multiple-choice questions asked during the application process. They are meant to immediately eliminate any candidate who is missing vital experience. For example, the job description might ask for someone with three years of experience or more. The knockout question could say, "Do you have three or more years experience?" Anyone who answers "no" will have their application sent to the bottom of the pile right then and there.
Knockout questions are good news for anyone who takes the time to read the job description. If you actually qualify for the position (never lie when answering a knockout question!), these questions simply eliminate your competition and send you higher on the list. A shorter list means a better chance at an interview!
4. They Save Your Resume for Later
Many applicant tracking systems save resumes of candidates in their systems for later. You might not have gotten the job you applied for, but when a position opens up at that company in the future, the hiring manager could search a keyword that sends your resume to the top of their list. Just because you haven't heard back about a job after a couple of weeks (or even months), that doesn't mean you will never hear from the company again. A bigger, better position that fits you better could be waiting for you down the line.
This Thanksgiving season, find reasons to be thankful in your job search. When you find yourself getting discouraged, try to see things from a different perspective. You'll be surprised! After all, even applicant tracking systems can be positive when you see them in a different light.
James Hu is the founder and CEO of Jobscan.