Conquering Algoriphobia: An Applicant’s Fear of Keyword-Based Algorithms

The first step toward getting a new job for many job seekers isn’t making it past the phone screening, it’s making it past the Applicant Tracking System. In the past decade, hiring managers have embraced the ATS, as it helps them easily pluck the most qualified candidates, as well as save time and money.

The ATS, however, is a thorn in the side of job searchers everywhere.

Technology isn’t flawless and it appears the ATS is no exception; even incredibly qualified job seekers are seeing their resumes dismissed. Why? Either their materials aren’t structured in a way the ATS can read, or they don’t contain the correct keywords. Bottom line: if the system doesn’t see the flags it’s programmed to look for, then the resume goes into the virtual trash bin.

This leaves otherwise strong candidates scratching their heads and wondering what went wrong. After it happens a few times, frustration and anger builds.

This common theme has caused a new condition to appear among job seekers: Algoriphobia. This is the applicant’s fear that keyword-based algorithms will always favor other applicants.

Because a job seeker never knows which keywords the software is searching for, it can feel like an endless game of cat and mouse. Not knowing how the algorithms work and thus not knowing how to optimize one’s profile, resume or application can be maddening.

As it turns out, there may be some validity to the existence of Algoriphobia. According to an article in CIO, the ATS “kills 75 percent of candidates’ chances of landing an interview as soon as they submit their resumes.”

So how can you help build your resume so it stays alive? Consider these 10 basic steps to get started. Then work with a resume expert at GetFive to fine tune the details so you can conquer the ATS and get the interviews you desire.

1. Use language from the job description within your resume.

2. Use industry keywords throughout your resume. Gather ideas from the company website or LinkedIn profiles of current employees.

3. When there is uncertainty about how an important term may be referenced, consider writing out the phrase and then use the acronym in parenthesis afterward. That way, you are covered no matter what the system is flagging.

5. Submit a PDF unless the application process says otherwise. Word docs can render differently on different devices, especially if fonts aren’t present locally. PDFs will lock in your formatting so that everyone will see your resume just as you see it. Modern ATSs have no problem readings PDFs.

6. Using a PDF solves other concerns as well, such as headers, footers and graphics. Keep in mind that the text within a graphical image is not readable, but the graphic is unlikely to interfere with the resume parsing process.

7. Use bolding to highlight key words or phrases. This will not bother the ATS and it will certainly help when an actual person is viewing your resume.

8. Avoid creative wording as the system won’t recognize it. This may not be the best place to coin a new term to describe your position.

9. The system may look for a geographic match. If you choose not to include your postal address, make sure that past employment shows city/state.

10. Length doesn’t matter to the ATS, so longer resumes are generally appropriate. Relevance is the key test.

With these tips and help from some experts, anyone can overcome Algoriphobia and become a master of the application process!


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