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Who Do You Want To Read Your Resume: A Robot, Or A Human?

I stumbled upon this article on Mashable today, which talks about how most job hunters will at some stage encounter an Automated Tracking System (or ATS) that will ‘read’ their resume in order to screen or rank it.

Apparently 95% of large companies and 50% of medium size companies in the US now use this technology, which has become vastly more sophisticated in the last couple of years in response to huge numbers of applicants for job advertisements. The percentage of companies in New Zealand who use ATS software to screen resumes is smaller (and most use the technology to sort and rank resumes, rather than to screen them out entirely), but will no doubt continue to grow.

The article includes a great infographic on how you can write a ‘robot-friendly resume’ to increase the chances of your resume getting in front of a human.  Sure, you should probably optimise your resume for robots – most active job seekers are going to encounter an ATS at some point. But that’s not what this post is about.

Much has been made of the predicted demise of the agency recruiter, and I’d agree that the days of the large, generalist ‘resume houses’ are drawing to a close. But the Mashable article just underlined for me the value of a good specialist recruitment consultant, both for candidates and companies. As one of our industry gurus, Greg Savage, puts it so well here, a good recruiter ‘acts as an advocate for a great candidate who may never even get to interview stage, based solely on their resume.’

I’d struggle to count how many people I’ve placed who would never even have had a look-in based on their resume. A robot would have screened them out, but I didn’t: Perhaps they came recommended to me by someone in my network whose opinion I value. Maybe they’d worked for a company that I happen to know only hires superstars, or I could see they’d pulled off a huge project, but didn’t explain it so well on paper. Maybe their CV was really great, but just didn’t fit into the boxes demanded by an ATS.

Whatever the reason, I met them, and was able to get them in front of a hiring manager who ultimately reached the same conclusion.  

The percentage of people applying for jobs directly with businesses via their ATS’s (rather than to agency recruiters) has been rising throughout the recession. But in the future, savvy candidates will spend more time connecting directly with businesses via social media (which after all, is just another form of networking – and good job hunters have always been good at that).

They’ll also increasingly see the value of working with good specialist recruiters, who understand they’re more than just a bunch of key words on a resume. 

About the author

Angela Cameron - CA, CPA

Executive Director

A chartered accountant by qualification, she is a recruitment leader by nature.


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