Tag Archives: JobBots

How to Be the Hiring Manager’s Candidate of Choice

Speaking for a moment as a hiring manager, becoming my candidate of choice is not a matter of luck; it involves understanding my main motivation, which is to identify a candidate with a record of demonstrated—and where possible, quantified—accomplishments, which are strong indicators for future success in the position. It involves understanding that previous duties/responsibilities are of a lesser concern to me—unless those duties and responsibilities can be expressed as benefits of an expertise that led to valuable, higher-order strategic results for former employers. It means having some knowledge of my challenges, concerns, and expectations. And it means an awareness and understanding of my presuppositions, prejudices, and human factors that may come into play for evaluating potential short list candidates.

The job- or career-search strategy you employ must build on an existing professional brand that conveys to me an attitude of serving as my problem solver, solutions provider, and game changer who understands, anticipates, and responds to my business needs at every stage of the hiring process. In essence, the hiring process is always about me and what I (i.e., the team, the company) need, and never about you.

Becoming the hiring manager’s candidate of choice requires a basic understanding of an important marketing principle: What successfully connects the person with a need to the person who can fulfill that need is value. It’s the same whether you are selling vacuum cleaners, cars, or your professional expertise. If the person with the need perceives and believes that you offer real value, you have fulfilled that need and can make the sale.

The elements of the value you provide form a continuum of belief that strengthens your position as you move through the hiring process. As the hiring manager begins an assessment of your value through a cover letter and résumé, he or she begins the journey on the continuum of belief. Your value grows as you proceed to the interview stage and the hiring manager moves forward on the continuum of belief in that value you can provide.

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Rise of the Machines! “Job Bots” and Résumé Screening

Not all résumés get an initial screening by hiring managers or recruiters. Once the dumping ground for solicited and unsolicited résumés and job applications, many big company HR departments have been forced lately to devote more resources to employment law and related legislation, implementing the Affordable Care Act, and employee benefit packages. As a result, many HR departments are turning to résumé- and job application-screening software, thanks to the overwhelming number of such documents they receive. It’s a good idea to know how these systems (called Applicant Tracking System or ATS) work so you can make your résumé more relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Most of these systems incorporate a specific software application called a “bot.” A bot (Internet-speak for “robot”) is an automated application used to perform simple and repetitive tasks that would be time-consuming, mundane, or impossible for a human to perform. Bots can be used for productive tasks, but they are also frequently used for malicious purposes, such as identity theft or to launch denial of service attacks.

“Job bots” are software applications embedded in applicant tracking systems used by human resource departments or third-party providers since the late 1990s to screen pools of online applications and online résumé submissions. As far back as 2001, some job bots were able to search 300,000 résumés in 10 seconds. The Resumix system is used by the Federal Government to screen online applications and résumés. Resumix and other such job bots filter these documents through tens or hundreds of thousands of “Knowledge-Skill-Ability” terms (called KSAs) to determine whether an application or résumé meets the essential and preferable skills for a  particular job vacancy.

The automated application-résumé screening process is designed to reject as many unqualified applications as possible. If you’ve ever been surprised (or angry) when you received a rejection letter stating that you “did not have the required minimum experience,” even though you may have worked in an identical position for years, it’s likely you were the victim of a job bot. The job bot in the application tracking system is programmed to look for specific information (job title, functional skills, years of experience) and if your experience is not formatted in the expected manner, it doesn’t exist as far as the job bot is concerned.

How Job Bots Work

Here’s a brief overview of how the job bot software analyzes your résumé.

  1. HR receives your résumé (along with hundreds of others)
  2. Your résumé is run through a computer program called a parser, which removes styling and formatting (bold typeface, underlining, bullets, etc.), and separates text into recognizable strings of characters for additional analysis
  3. The parser assigns meaning and context to résumé content, separating phrases into information types, such as contact information, functional skills, experience, education, language skills, etc.
  4. Employer uses keywords to search candidates, matching terms are searched from the results collected in Step 3.
  5. Your résumé is scored based on relevancy, which is the semantic matching of employer search terms and your experience.
  6. (Optional): If it makes it this far, your résumé may be further “filtered” by persons who may or may not be familiar with your specific, unique knowledge or expertise. In such cases, they are instructed to forward to a higher-level reviewer  to determine whether it should be forwarded to a hiring manager. I don’t know about you, but leaving that decision in their hands makes me just a bit nervous.

Structuring your résumé really does require some forethought, the right experience, a distinctive writing style to overcome the barriers presented by these job bots. A résumé not optimized for these ATSs and job bots risks never being viewed by human eyes.

(More) Bad News About Job Bots

According to a 2012 CIO magazine article, job bots are error-prone apps that eliminate “75 percent of job-seekers’ chances of landing an interview as soon as they submit their résumés, no matter how qualified they may be.”  Peter Cappelli, author of Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs states that job bots are inexpensive but “not very effective in finding the people companies want.”

Job bot accuracy depends on the decision rules used in parsing applications and résumés, which in turn depends on the quality and extent of research performed to determine appropriate KSAs for a particular function or position.

While the “scrubbing” of applications and résumés by many ATSs can remove potential bias (age, gender, ethnicity for example), it’s possible that information linked to these factors may not be ignored.

Another problem is that humans can spot talent better than any software algorithm, and this is especially true as more fields become technology driven where the types and degrees of specialization require a trained eye to spot.  According to an HR acquaintance, “A great résumé gets noticed, but at most companies it’s about who referred you.”

Getting Past the Job Bots

The goal is to get your résumé past the job-bot gatekeepers and low-level human screeners, and into the hands of a hiring manager. Here are some suggestions for getting your résumé past ATS and job bots:

  1. Don’t just focus on words in the job description. Read it carefully to identify themes, repeated phrases, and jargon, but key words are not always obvious. Without the right key words (or enough of them), your résumé will likely be rejected. Also important: proper key word placement and frequency to maximize their value, proper hierarchy arrangement of paragraphs.
  2. As I consistently counsel ACFE members, stay focused on what’s important to the person reviewing the résumé or the job bot scanning it–avoid additional irrelevant information that can distract from the position requirements as it could result in a rejection.
  3. Prioritize the words on résumé. The Résumé Help blog recommends auditing the job description to build a list of priority and secondary words. Priority résumé key words are those used in the job title, description headlines, or used more than twice. Secondary résumé key words make mention of competitor companies or brand name experience, keyword phrases, and notable industry qualifications (special certifications, designations).
  4. Consult an insider for help finding relevant words for a position of interest. Use your LinkedIn network to find (or connect) with someone in an industry group forum who can help with this.
  5. Pepper all job-related words across your résumé. Screeners factor in depth of expertise (years experience); use the same job-related words for all job positions. Order bullets in descending order of relevancy to the job description (same advice applies for human screeners, such as hiring managers).
  6. Create a relevant category expertise section, near the top 1/3 of the first page of the résumé. Similar to a functional skills table, populate this table with relevant generic category expertise, such as Finance, Accounting, Operations, Audit, Investigation, etc. Specific category expertise would include Risk Management, Financial transactions and fraud schemes, Fraud Prevention and deterrence, Construction Fraud, Medicare/Medicaid Fraud, Data Analytics.

One Last Tip

So, what are the chances your résumé will be evaluated by a job bot? That depends on the size of the company with the open position, whether that company is using a third-party agency to screen résumés, and the specific position for which you are applying. It’s important to understand that making it past the job-bot gauntlet only gets you to the next step in the hiring process: The job interview. That’s it. The skill needed for the job interview, and ultimately receiving a job offer, is what I call the “Likeability Factor,” which is beyond the scope of this post.

If you receive an email response immediately after submitting your résumé, then it’s likely it’s already been rejected. Continue tweaking your résumé and resubmitting until the autoresponses stop. When that happens, there’s a good chance that your résumé made it past the first hurdle and may be in the hands a human being and not a software “Terminator.”

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24th Annual ACFE Fraud Conference, JobBots, and Mock Interviews

I just returned from speaking at the 24th Annual Conference of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Quite an impressive organization, with 2,500+ anti-fraud experts in attendance at the conference, which was held at the magnificent Aria Resort and Casino.

My three 15-minute “Makeover” presentations (cover letter, résume, and interview strategies) on the exhibit hall stage were very well attended and received, and my 80-minute breakout session, “Stacking the Deck: Make Yourself the Hiring Manager’s Candidate of Choice” was even filmed (in part) by a crew from CNBC, perhaps for a future program on the world’s largest anti-fraud organization. I’m sure the footage of my presentation will end up on the cutting room floor since there were far more stellar personalities lined up to speak (Actor Stacy Keach, narrator of CNBC’s American Greed; former Enron CFO, Andy Fastow; and Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York).

It appears that my message hit all the right interest levels according to the speaker evaluations, though I am perplexed as to why each year in the “Constructive Changes for Making the Presentation More Effective” field on the form, one or two people blame me for such things as “the room is too cold/too hot”, “we need tables to write on”, or “there should be a handout” (even though I emphasized at the onset of my presentation that the conference paper–included in everyone’s registration packet–had all the details of the presentation).

JobBots: Why You Probably Didn’t Get that Job You Were Highly Qualified For

I came across an article in a magazine on the flight out to Las Vegas for the ACFE Conference that described how “JobBots”– software embedded in many applicant tracking systems–are used to screen pools of online applications and online résumé submissions. According to a 2012 CIO magazine article, JobBots are error-prone apps that eliminate “75 percent of job-seekers’ chances of landing an interview as soon as they submit their résumés, no matter how qualified they may be.”  Peter Cappelli, author of Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs stated that JobBots are “really cheap but not very effective in finding the people companies want.”

The best use of JobBots is as an initial filter to screen out applicants who fail to meet minimum job requirements. At that point, skilled recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers should take over. However, with the advent of job boards and other online job sites, thousands of résumés now flood HR departments. With the human resource function now having to shift more emphasis on federal and state compliance with all types of legislation, and toward more comprehensive strategic corporate objectives, increasingly the applicant screening function is being turned over to JobBots.

The problem is that humans can spot talent better than any software algorithm, and this is especially true in the high-tech world where increasingly the types and degrees of specialization require a trained eye to spot. One HR representative affirmed what I’ve been preaching in my presentations for a few years now, that “A great résumé gets noticed, but at most companies it’s about who referred you.”

Mock Interviews

I participated in several mock interviews with ACFE attendees, hoping to coach them in ways that would improve their interview skills. Everyone I worked with was intelligent, articulate, personable, and had impressive expertise. Yet, nearly everyone missed the chance to sell me on who they are (not what they are) when asked: “So, tell me about yourself.” Invariably, each person launched into a verbal narrative about their experience, expertise, and previous positions. They missed a golden opportunity to wax eloquent (within reason) about who they are as a person. When I brought this to their attention and gave them a “retry”, nearly everyone got it.

However, in an interview, there are no second chances to get it right!

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