What You Don’t Know About Resume Screening Software Could Be Sabotaging Your Job Search

Ten years ago, only large recruitment firms and big-budgeted corporations could afford to use resume screening software as part of their talent acquisition process. Job seekers who were applying to small-to-mid-sized companies were immune from the vagaries of these tools.

With the proliferation of the ‘software as service’ delivery model, this no longer holds true. Even fairly small companies can afford to adopt some kind of resume extraction, screening and management software, either directly or through a full-service hiring solutions firm such as Staffback Inc. This means that job seekers have to be much more savvy about the technology if they want to ensure that their resume gets noticed.

First of all, lets get the ‘Optical Character Recognition’ issues off the table. There are only a few companies who still scan paper versions of resumes, so if you are holding on to concerns about using italics, underlining, bolding and colour in your resume, you can let them go.

Today’s resume management tools are substantially more sophisticated than the OCR versions of old, and have the capacity to neatly handle a wide range of text-based formats and content. They typically include a module that extracts data from resumes, and an HR or talent management system that uses the extracted data to evaluate and rank qualified candidates.

The resume extraction tool uses advanced algorithms to scan your resume, identify text information, and categorize it using the rules of standard resume formatting. Data such as your name, address, telephone number, education, professional experience, years with each job, and keywords will be extracted and fed into an HR database such as Oracle, PeopleSoft, or SAP, or into a candidate tracking system such as Hire Desk.

The talent management database is the foundation tool for the candidate evaluation and qualification process, not your actual resume. Based on the criteria identified by the recruiter or hiring manager, each candidate that makes it into the talent management database is ranked in terms of how closely they match the parameters of the job. Factors that will go into this ranking include where the candidate lives, their years of experience, and most importantly, the appearance of specific keywords – the more keywords, the better the ranking.

In older versions of extraction and talent management tools, the keyword match had to be exact, and many candidates were inadvertently screened out because of spelling variations (AS400 versus AS/400, for example). Moreover, the software was fairly simplistic in its parsing capabilities – the keyword was either present or not present, there was no ability to judge the context in which the word was used. This meant that unqualified candidates were able to trick the system by loading their resume with keywords. Today’s advanced tools, such as Talent Technology’s Resume Mirror and HireDesk, have the capacity to parse and interpret meaning from entire sentences and phrases, which allows hiring manages to conduct contextual and parametric candidate searches.

Soon after the job is posted and applications begin to roll in, the hiring manager will generate a report with a list of applicants who meet a minimum ranking – the more applicants there are for a job, the more restrictive the hiring manager can be in setting the threshold for qualification. The report may contain small excerpts such as the summary from your original resume, but your actual resume may not get looked at in its entirety unless it makes it to the top of the ranking pool.

The Resumator, a new software suite launched early in 2009, cuts across the grain in this regard. Designed to meet the hiring needs of small to mid-sized companies, Resumator’s built-in logic mimics the way that resumes are read in real life, and the software has the ability to display the resume in its entirety. But it still uses data parsing and keyword recognition logic to identify qualified candidates.

Before I start this section, I want to state for the record that I am not an advocate of trying to beat the system. If you are applying for positions for which you are patently unqualified, I believe that you are doing a disservice both to your own job search strategy and to the people who are managing the hiring process. In fact it is largely because unqualified candidates keep applying in great numbers that companies of all sizes have been forced to resort to resume screening software.

Now, that being said, there are specific measures that qualified candidates should take to ensure that their resume gets scanned properly and makes it to the top of the candidate pool.

How to Stand Out in the Candidate Ranking Process

A Final Word on Job Search Strategy – Advice from Industry Insiders

While knowledge of resume extraction and candidate management software can give you a leg up, motivated job seekers should not rely exclusively on electronic submission of their resume to land their next great job. The laws of the hidden job market still apply, and candidates should be using a multi-pronged job search plan that includes direct applications, networking, cold calling, and relationship building.

Ken Winters advises candidates to make use of resources such as LinkedIn to create a network of contacts and referrals. Use your network to solicit recommendations where appropriate, it’s a great way of establishing credibility and letting people know that you are available for new opportunities.

Don Charlton, Founder & CEO of The Resumator describes a great job search strategy as one that uses best practices in relationship building and solution selling. A good salesman knows that there is a fine balance between being pushy and annoying, and creating positive connections. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to seek out the person who you will be making the final hiring decision. But be respectful of their time. You are offering a solution. Look, sound and most of all act like somebody who is solution-minded.