A few week’s ago, I wrote a blog post titled How to Break the Rules when You Job Search. One of those rules addressed dodging the dreaded Applicant Tracking System.

I wanted to dive a bit deeper into this issue because it plagues virtually every job seeker who applies online for a position. Let’s take a look at the best way to unlock applicant tracking systems to get noticed!

I’d be candidate number…whaaaa?

Let’s ignore for a moment applicant tracking systems (ATS) are cumbersome and time consuming. They require you to dismantle your beautifully crafted resume, cut it into pieces, and type it into boxes. All the while you’re praying the employer’s website doesn’t burp or cough and cause you to lose the information you’ve already typed.

The issue with these systems is every other job applicant is stuffing his or her information into them. The employer, if they actually take time to parse through them, rarely notices your awesomeness. Needle meet haystack and all that.

Wait. There’s more bad news. Some of these systems are kind enough to show you the number of applicants who’ve applied for the job position. That’s right. Candidate number 8943! Step on up! Demoralizing. Now you question whether you should bother applying.

You need to stand out. How? Get the right person to notice you.

Oh. Now I understand why I was supposed to start networking years ago.

I’m assuming you’ve already tried the back door, side door, and any other door you can find to get into the employer’s building. You’ve contacted your network, their network, and so on. You simply haven’t found anyone who can hand-walk your resume to the recruitment department or hiring official.

If that’s the case, you need to use the front door—the ATS. When I refer to the ATS, I mean any vehicle that routes you into the employer’s ATS.

For most employers, you access their ATS from their corporate website. Most employers, however, also use Job Boards such as Indeed.com or The Ladders or networking sites such as LinkedIn. All of these sites dump you into the haystack.

Sure, some sites are less cumbersome, but they all contribute to the same problem, which is keeping you unnoticed. That’s what I want to help you overcome. You need to get noticed!

Does anyone know a good tailor?

To give yourself a leg up, you need to avoid the websites and ATS. You need to get directly to the right person’s inbox with a tailored message. I want to stress the word tailored.

This person, whether an HR resource, recruiter, administrator or whomever, is managing an ATS and an email inbox flooded with alerts or standard emails. These alerts and emails come from whichever sites the company is leveraging. The email box looks like this except it runs on for pages and pages.

From              Subject
Indeed.com    Applicant for Position: Jane Doe
Indeed.com    Applicant for Position: Jim Doe
Indeed.com    Applicant for Position: John Doe
LinkedIn         Applicant for Position: Jerry Doe
LinkedIn         Applicant for Position: Jenny Doe

You get the picture.

Sadly, the Doe brothers and sisters are the fortunate ones. At least their applications made it into her email box. They could be sitting in the ATS waiting for her find them.

It’s easier to be noticed if you get an email into her inbox with your name in the From field, a tailored subject line, a well-crafted body in the message, and an attached, formatted resume.


Why can’t I just text them?

One of the best ways to do this is by calling the company directly. If you know the person responsible for recruitment or hiring for that particular position, ask for him or her.

If you’re not sure who that person is, ask the operator for the person in charge of recruitment.

Operator: “I can’t give you her name.”

You: “Can you give me her email address or a general email address so I can send my information? I’m having trouble entering my information into your website. You have a job available for which I’m a great match.”

Operator: “I’ll transfer you.”

You: “Hi! This is so and so. I noticed you have a position available for a blah blah. I was trying to enter my information into your site, but seem to be having difficulty. I’m happy to do it, but would you mind if I simply emailed my information directly to you?”

Operator: “What’s this regarding?”

You: Use a combination of the previous two responses to explain to the operator you have located a position for which you want to apply, but are having trouble.”

Whew. I thought I was gonna have to actually use a phone!

If using the phone makes you sweat, I have an alternative provided you have some insight regarding where to send your email.

You can craft an email as I suggested and send it to the recruiter (if known) or the general recruitment email box if cited on the website. Many companies will provide this in the Careers section on their website.

As always, I love to hear from you: What are your best ATS hacks?

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