Reverse Engineering the ATS for Results Part 2

EP 2145 Applicant tracking systems. The ATS. Defeating it. Reverse engineering it for results. That’s what my interview is about with Eleanor Meegoda from JobStep

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It's one thing to say I have live experience, whatever that means, with whatever the item is, but think in terms of what's defensible and don't BS people, people find that quickly enough. How many people do you know folks that get hired for all that bs that they put on their resume? It always comes back to the core stuff anyway.

Always and then the third tip, this is less ATS specific but going back to that second phase. So, you get through the ATF, you make sure that your resume is personable enough; it has enough of the keywords so that it gets through that search. So, it titles software and then the second part is getting to the recruiter, what you want to do, as you said, you want to make it super simple for someone to see how you are relevant to the job and making sure your language is everyday language as much as possible, it's easy to understand what it is you did because a recruiter is spending between six and 20 seconds on your resume. But they've just gone through 12 resumes before you and maybe 72 resumes after you and so, when they're skimming through it, it's not that they're looking for specific words, they are trying their best. People who become recruiters really do want to help people get jobs, they really do love interacting with potential team members and so, they're looking for, okay, is this person going to thrive in this role? Have they done something similar? What kind of impact have they done? Okay, let me see, my eyes are gonna go very quickly to numbers. So, if you have a metric put metrics, business related metrics into your resume, so that when you get to the second phase of this black hole, the recruiter section, the recruiter part, the recruiter can look and go, Okay, I can see the impact, I can see the title. I can see the skills that they've had, I see the software familiarity, got it, this person has what I has the basic requirements. Let's bring him in for an interview.

And folks, there's a difference between someone who's doing something that has a $20,000 impact, a $200,000 impact, 10 million, 20 million, 200 million to 2 billion and the numbers are really what spell out what your impact is. After all business is the language of money, money is numbers. So, make it clear, make it obvious to folks what your effect is unless of course, we're in the 20,000 categories where you might want to obfuscate that a little bit. So, you can qualify for the more experienced roles. But now they find out. You know that.

Yes, exactly. Because this phase, right, though ATS and that first recruiter review of your resume is just the first in many steps and what we are finding from our job seekers is that, for whatever reason employers are now it's not just three steps. It's not just the phone screen, the first interview and a final interview, it's oftentimes the recruiter screen, a phone screen, your first interview with the hiring manager, some sort of exercise, and then maybe one or two additional sets of interviews, you're going through five rounds and so, I think the other piece that people often forget when they're thinking about their resume. We've talked about the first two things that does, one is get through the ATSs, the second one is impress a recruiter enough within six seconds that they see what you've done. The third thing that a resume does is it sets the agenda for your interview.

Before any interview, your recruiter probably doesn't remember what they read, whether it's four days ago, or a week ago, and so 10 seconds before the interview, especially with zoom, 10 seconds before the interview, they pull up the resume, they quickly skim it again and they go, Hey, I want to talk about this point, this point at this point and so, when you were thinking about your resume, and you're thinking about gamifying it, this is really about communication. This is really about okay, let me make sure that the stories I'm most prepared to talk about, the stories that show that I, as you said, , understand the language of business, I had impact. Those are at the top of your resume or top of each section, so that your recruiter is most likely to skim and find those and say, yeah, let's talk about this in the interview and the same thing for a hiring manager, a hiring manager has often only heard what the recruiter has told them about you and I've only read the resume for the 10 seconds right before their interview with you. So, it's the same thing. It's functioning as part of your agenda for that interview that you have.

So, fascinating because I know, having worked in firms for as long as I did, maybe I read 10 seconds before the interview. I knew I want to talk to this person. I put them on my calendar for a reason and the phone call starts because I was presumed days. I got out before we all started working over zoom and I�m on the phone with someone I bring the resume up (inaudible). Oh, yeah, this is the person. That's how I got the reminder. Yeah, they were working for so and so. Yeah, okay and us, folks, you got to remember it, this is the most important thing in the world to you. But to them, it's one of 300 things they've had on their calendar, and that've been dropped in their lap, all that and you have to get their attention fast because if you don't get attention, you're lost, because you just become one of many, instead of being the standout.

Exactly, definitely

So, we've covered getting through machine part of this to the human being to the actual interview, and what they're trying to accomplish during this interview. What else goes into this? That's your secret sauce. Come on. You can just between us, come on.

So, one of the things I would say so going back to this metaphor of the black hole, why do we say it? Why does it resonate so close to home, when you're thinking, when you're a job seeker? And it's because you can apply to so many jobs and not hear back, right? And you're not entirely sure why that's happening, you may not get feedback, you may get a pretty generic piece of feedback. There's one other thing that I want to know is because there are two steps before you get called back into an interview. That adds a lot of what I call noise, right? So, for those of you who are statistics buff that's the kind of noise library but the distribution of the all the extra reasons that even if you're qualified might mean that that day, it wasn't your day, and you didn't get that interview.

So, we did a study last summer to understand on average, how many applications were people sending, and how many interviews were they're getting and so, at the height of COVID, this is across 600 job seekers, what we found the average job seeker is getting one interview for every 25 applications and so, what that means for job seekers is you're thinking about this (inaudible), think about it a little bit more like they're just a little bit more of a game of chance than you want it to be and so, what I like to kind of reiterate to our jobseekers is if you're applying on your own with a resume during COVID and you're getting one interview for every 25 applications you send out, that's a pretty good indication that you are targeting the right types of jobs and your resume is a good match for those types of jobs. If your response rate is higher, that means you're an above average candidate.

So even though it hurts because you did all that work, pat yourself on the back and go, yeah, I'm an above average candidate, I'm hearing back way more than most people during COVID and if you're a little below that, that's a good indication, okay, if I'm thinking about my strategy, what do I need to change, you need to change either your targeting, so which types of jobs you're targeting or you need to look at your resume and go, okay, am I putting in the skills that are required for this job? Am I putting in the right types of keywords again, so, those different types of software? Am I describing the type of impact and the type and the level of work that these job descriptions are looking for? And that's where I would start if you're saying, Oh, I'm not hearing back, and you're getting a lot of fewer responses than one interview for every 25 applications, go back to your resume. This is where I'd start to think about that game thing but that communication a little bit more, thinking about the skills and the matching and a level.

The number one is I hear a 4% success rate.


Sounds awful and historically, what I've told Job Hunters, if you're not getting interviews, and you're sending out resumes, it's for one of a couple of reasons. Number one, your resume sucks, your resume, and LinkedIn profile are not congruent because they don't have to be identical. They just have to be consistent with one another because every person in the process is going back to your profile to get to make sure that you're not lying, because I know this is a shock, folks, people lie. The third thing is your resume doesn't make a case for your candidacy because it doesn't demonstrate the fit. The fourth thing is you're kind of aspirational. I really like to do that job but I 've never done anything like that before. But I really want to be my favorite one is for why I still did search, there was the person who was a produced Chicken plucker who wanted to be a Java developer, and never taken a course knew nothing about Java; the word game didn�t even appear on there. But they wanted to be a Java developer. Even all they've done is pluck chickens for Purdue. So yeah, those are kind of consistent with the 4%

Four percent, yeah, for jobs steppers we are considerably higher, just because we can look at different numbers and we can figure out what are some of the implicit things that players are looking for that they may not put on the job descriptions and so, we are able to put in additional keywords that are not as obvious, and we are able to pull in better stories and better accomplishments and tell jobseekers here are the accomplishments that you should be putting in and then we do that for them. So, our response rate is actually closer to one out of 15, during COVID. Thank you.

That�s great and now that we're coming out as COVID, not completely out of the woods yet, but we've made a lot of progress and firms are back hiring and the stories are, I've seen is one out of two US employees are going to want to change jobs next year.

Yeah, it's really exciting. I think it is really exciting when jobseekers take their career in their own hands and say, yeah, you know what, I'm not happy here or let me explore. Let me see if there's a new career that I want to explore, a new skill that I want to build. I think that's fantastic and I think a lot of people say oh, you know, Bitcoin or real investment. Getting a better job is the most surefire way to make more money and so, I think that is very exciting that more people are going to be looking and then also as we come out of COVID, more employers are going to be looking for a new job seeker or for new hires.

Without a doubt and what's very clear is now that we're coming out, we're almost at the other end of this, it's a time for you, for folks to recapture their careers, and take responsibility for them again. After all, you're the CEO of your life in your career. When you outsource responsibilities for career decisions to others, it puts yourself and your career in risk as your employer, and your interests are not always aligned.

That's so true.

You have a board of directors which can be your wife, husband, partner, kids, and dog. They're on your board, but you're ultimately the chairperson, you have to take these constituencies into consideration and giving it away, giving away your power to your employer is just foofy. It's ridiculous because they don't care. They say they care. They talk the language of care; they are so important to us. You never want them to leave. It feels like family around, all these kinds of seductions that are designed and you're shaking your head no (Inaudible).

Yeah, I think there are employers who are great. There are employers who realise that their most important asset, their best resource is their team, right? And so how I'm constantly thinking about, okay, I have these great people, how do I ensure that they are continuing to grow, if that's what they want to do? that they're continuing to have the work life balance that they want, so that they'll stay. Because if you think about, again, the language of business, they're thinking about revenue and costs and having to train a new person is a huge cost, losing someone who has all of this insider knowledge about customers and how the business works is a huge cost and so smart employers, I think, do think about this about how do I build good growth trajectories for my employees? How do I ensure that they're continuing to make the bare, they're contributing to the business in a way that I can also continue to pay them more? And how do I set them up for success.

But it is hard to do as a business owner, and it is very rare and so, I think you're right, as a job seeker, you are the CEO of your life, you are the CEO of your career and so, one of the best ways you can negotiate with an employer to say, hey, I deserve more is actually to get offers from the job market and say, yeah, I got an offer from someone else. I do love this place. I didn't look for another job to be deployed. I just wanted to see what was out there. What other kind of career opportunities there were for me? Can you match this? Can we talk about a way to make this growth opportunity work at this company? Or you see, you know, what, actually, oh, yeah, I can get paid 10, 15, 20k more from a different job and if you don't think about how do I set myself up so that I know the value of my skills and the kind of impact I can bring on the job market, you might be sitting on you might be letting 10k a year, 20k a year go by because as you said, you're giving control to your employer, when in fact that is something that they don't necessarily care about.

Most of you folks are not wealthy enough to leave that kind of money on the table because it's not just simply one year you are leaving five or 10,000 or $20,000 behind. But let's have it over five years, if it's $5,000, giving your measly 3% raises where you are, and the next firm is giving you $5,000 more and a minimum, the $25,000 that you've left behind, plus raises. But if you're like most people, you're changing jobs once more within that five years, no one stays for five years anymore. For two or three years you get another $5,000. It's $35,000. You were the loyal employee. Good for you.

Yeah, there was really interesting stat. The average employee stays in their job, I think it's two years and three months. So, if you've been there for longer than two and a half years, you are really in the minority of how long you've stayed at a job.

And what haven't we covered yet about the ATS system? Millions of things I know you know intuitively but what else haven't we spoken about?

Yeah. Let's go through my checklist. So, we've talked about the legacy systems, we've talked about new systems and how for new systems recruiters are choosing, do I set up a lever? Do I set up some filters? Or do I search manually? And then we talked about how after the ATS, they are now reading the resume, and then how you can use your resume not just for this kind of initial sales and then also as an agenda. Okay, so we've talked about the easy keywords, easy changes on your resume that you can make. So, those are the software skills as a title. Another way to get through the ATS if you really want to, this is for the people who love writing and crafting and problem solving. This is like a Sudoku kind of challenge and this is what our job coaches do for our job seekers, you look at what are the common responsibilities for this role that are on the job description.

So, for customer success, it might be running quarterly business reviews, or it might be being the point person for a customer or escalating things, engineering and so now you have these phrases, these phrases probably aren't what the recruiter is going to search for. So, you really now you're optimizing for either for the legacy systems or for those auto filters and then the other thing you're doing is also, again, making it easy for when a recruiter is reading your resume, they can run for one. Oh, yeah, this phrase, this is the phrase that I'm looking for. This is the phrase at the end; the hiring manager told me that they want someone who's done this. Okay, so you have these phrases, job descriptions are written in a language of their own, they're not always clear. But now you've had these phrases and you go,

Okay, how do I get them into my resume, so that we can maybe get through the legacy systems, we can get through some of these auto filters and definitely we can help the recruiter pattern match when they're reading it. But what you don't want to do is just copy and pastes the description, those bullets from the job description into your resume, right so, why not? If you think about this, if everyone did this, everyone's resume would look the same, right? So, you don't want to look generic. You don't want to look like everyone else and so, there are a lot of automated resume writing tools out there that are just taking job descriptions, and then they are putting them onto your resume. Now you're like, Oh, yeah, that sounds fancy. That sounds like business language that sounds like professional. What it does is it sounds like gobbledygook. It sounds ridiculous and again, you're trying to get it personal by the resume, and then you're trying to make it human readable. It's not human readable. Someone reads that and go; I don't actually know what you did.

Okay, so yeah you know the job descriptions, you know you're not supposed to just copy and paste it. What you're supposed to do is take those resume bullets, and also take your accomplishments and go, Okay, how can I take my accomplishment, how can I rephrase it in a way that takes some of the elements of those phrases, that's why I said this is like a Sudoku problem, right? And this is really, for people who love crafting and tweaking, and you take your accomplishments you take, okay, here's the metric that you accomplished, here's a very short description of how you accomplish it, maybe one, maybe two facts about how you accomplish it. That's the way you start and now you want to pattern match it to what the recruiter is going to be looking for and so, you want to pull in the language, maybe the keywords, maybe some of these phrases like point person, or escalate or advocate on behalf of a customer or enterprise customer, right?

And so, you're just switching those out and that can help a little bit for getting through some of the crazy logic, the Blackbox logic. It might help with some of the auto filters. But really what this is doing the most, this is less on the technology and the gaming the so-called filters or robots. This is really about making that six second review that the recruiter is doing, making it easy for them to pattern match what you've done to what they know is required for this role.

Golden, this is absolutely golden. Thank you. How can people find out more about you, job step, if the universe and everything relates to you?

Yeah, easiest way is to find us on our website, We're also on LinkedIn, we're on Twitter. You can also email me, happy to chat. Yeah, I love what you do. , this is an amazing podcast, amazing YouTube channel, an amazing resource for people I love that you push your guests like me to really spill it all, be very clear. So, thank you for having me and, and excited to join you and help other job seekers land better paying jobs.

And that's five interviews, actually good quality interviews, in what amount of time?

So, we guarantee our job seekers, five plus interviews in six weeks and we do that by handling the almost all of the upfront work. So, we do interview coaching, we use the information we learned from coaching you on interviews to write you a really, really good resume and cover letter, sometimes multiple depending on how many jobs you're looking for and we then match you to high fit jobs that we're finding across job boards and then we find those jobs, you approve them. We apply on your behalf and then because we're playing this really smart, targeted numbers game, that's how we can guarantee our job seekers, five interviews in six weeks.

Excellent, thank you and folks, we'll be back soon with more I�m Jeff Altman, the big game hunter. Hope you enjoy today's show. If you didn't, you're watching on YouTube, click the like button, subscribe to the channel, do something that lets people know that it was worthwhile and I'll also mention connect with me on LinkedIn at Mention that you saw the video. I like knowing I'm helping folks and I also said my website has great information go to The blog has thousands of posts that you can watch, listen to, or read that are going to help you find work, but they're not customized for you and that's where I do the one-on-one coaching with you to help you perform at a higher level throughout your search. Lastly, new book out, the right answers to tough interview questions, available on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle book. It couples very, very well with my other book, the ultimate job interview framework. Between the two you have a model for interviewing and answering questions that will help you a lot. Hope you have a terrific day and most importantly, be great. Take care.


JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter
JeffAltman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2100 episodes.

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