Sound familiar?  It should.  One of the most commonly searched words on Google is job, and “need a job” is up there in terms of phrases.   You’ve got company, in other words.  Likely this guy is one of them.

You’ve done what you think is the right thing: created a solid resume, and cover letter.  Used one of the job search engines (Indeed, SimplyHired, etc – blow off Monster, HotJobs, etc, the only jobs there are the ones that companies pay to put up, whereas the engines crawl employer sites, job boards, CraigsList, etc – everything in one spot, way easier).  Applied and applied and… oh wait: that’s where it seems to break down.  Nobody’s calling you back.

Don’t worry – the same people you’re competing with are having the same issues.  Here’s a tip: it’s likely no one even looks at your resume.  The reason comes down to resources on the hiring side.

Think of it this way: you see an interesting job at what seems like a great company.  You e-mail in your resume with cover letter as instructed (btw, copy and paste your resume into your e-mail – below the cover letter/ e-mail – as well as attaching it – trust me here).   Want to know how the sausage gets made from that point on?

  • Resume gets e-mailed into an applicant tracking system (ATS)
    • The ATS rips your resume apart (parses is a nicer way of saying that), looks for keywords, then reassembles it into a file in the ATS
    • (hopefully) a copy of your resume gets attached to the file
  • The recruiter logs into their ATS
    • They don’t look at every single applicant
      • Here’s why: they don’t have the time
      • Why? Simple math: if they’re working on 10 openings and doing their job right, they’re getting on average (and I’m making this average up, but it sounds right) 10 applicants per day
        • So, no big deal, right? That’s just 100 resumes to look through
          • Hmm – ‘k, so let’s say they give each resume an average of 5 minutes, which is a poor return on your investment of days and days of working on the thing, but so be it
          • 5 minutes X 100 resume = 500 minutes
          • 500 minutes = 8.3 hours
            • Per day
            • It’s not gonna happen
            • Whoever’s doing initial resume screens has meetings, coffee, interviews, lunch – hell, they might even go to the bathroom
  • Instead, the recruiter uses a nifty feature that every ATS comes with: a search box
    • Let’s say they’re looking for a Senior Software Engineer, and you have a couple of key requirements before somebody will even be considered
    • They type in things like J2EE, Hadoop, Spring, etc
      • The results get looked at – if you’re not one of ’em…

There’s a lot more beyond this, of course – the recruiter might find you, say “a-ha!” (I prefer shouting “excelsior!”).  Then, the manager might say “no, I don’t like that typo…” or “they change jobs every two years” or “who uses that font?”  and rule you out.  It’s a crappy world.   All that said: you need to at least get your resume looked at.

How? Keywords, keywords, keywords.  Don’t make things up or drone on and on, but think about how the search will operate: likely by somebody who doesn’t work intimately enough in your field to read between the lines and understand that when you say X, it also includes Y and Z.  It’s perfectly acceptable to add a technical skill-set to the resume, separate from your day-to-day job descriptions – if it’s a long one, you can add it at the end of the resume with a quick summary of your Core Skills at the top.

One caveat here: there’s a trick floating around where people add keywords in white font all over their resumes, in between sections, at the end, top, wherever.  The idea is that they can add every tech term in the book and the ATS will read it, but the naked eye won’t thereby making sure you get “found”.  Don’t do it: savvy recruiters will find the resume, wonder why the keywords they searched for aren’t there, drop a copy of the resume into a Word doc, hit “select all”, and change the font to black – et voila, all your keywords now belong to us.  And you don’t make it in.