Applicant Tracking Systems – what not to do when you apply online

Apply-OnlineWe all do it… we see what looks like a really cool job and we think “why not apply?”  Then the pain begins…  You start the online application process.  Here are a few don’ts to pay attention to in the process.

Don’t skip steps: Most ATSs ask (require) you to create a profile.  The guise is you can be notified of future openings.  The real reason is so they can screen you out or in for this and possibly future openings.  I am not saying this is a bad thing, just that you need to pay attention from the beginning because one slip-up and the recruiter never sees your information.

Don’t rush through it:  Yes, I realize that it takes upwards of an hour to fill out just one online application.  But remember, the ATS is created for the employer, not for you.  Be sure you fill out all the areas.  Pay close attention to spelling and grammar.  Some people still think that a spelling error is a sign of a bad candidate/employee.

Don’t apply angry:  While you are completing an online application you will probably utter these words: “why do I need to type this in again?  I just uploaded my resume that includes that!”  Again, remember, the ATS is created for the employer, not for you.   That is why most ATSs want a separate field for each job (they can measure your tenure at each position), education, skills, etc…  It makes it easier for the Big Data people to turn your information in to 1s and 0s to be analyzed.  I do find it funny that the word “anal” is in analyzed 🙂

Don’t forget to save often:  If you are able to periodically save your work then do so.  If you think you are frustrated filling out an online application just wait till you get a power flash or you get a 404 error.  Then you get the pleasure of starting all over again.  Another trick is to type the information in Word and then paste it into the ATS.

Don’t trust spellcheck:  At the very least read everything you write out loud.  It is also a good idea to have someone else spellcheck it.

Don’t just apply and pray:  You want to network and try to get in front of the hiring manager or HR person at that company.  The only thing better than having your information show up in a company’s ATS search is to have the hiring manager or recruiter go looking for your information by name.  Most companies LOVE employee referrals, so try to connect to their employees directly or through social media.

It is true that only about 20% of people find their jobs through applying online.  But if you are part of that 20% do you really care?  Just allocate your job search time effectively.  Only spend about 20% of your time on job boards.


The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.
Charles R. Swindoll

Employment testing

testingI listened to another great Freakanomics podcast this morning.  It was The Maddest Men of All.  In this podcast Michael Housman, chief analytics officer for Cornerstone OnDemand, talks about employment testing.  It seems that about 2/3rds of employers use some type of assessment in the hiring process.

First I want to come right out and say that I do not believe in testing.  Sure, some tests may be valid in assessing current skill levels (typing, programs, etc…) but they do not predict potential.  GPA’s sure don’t.  Thank goodness for some of us, me included.

But if you are in a job search, you need to be aware that often times what you think they are testing is not the thing they are testing.  Housman talks about how they have measured honesty in the past.  Just asking people if they are honest does not seem to work well, shock!  But Housman goes on to say that asking an applicant to rank their skill level and then later in the process test their skill level to compare the two worked very well to check for honesty.  Or at the very least it tests self-awareness, in my opinion.

So if you are confronted with a pre-employment survey, answer as honestly as possible.  Just remember, you don’t have to be little-kid honest.


Testing is overrated.
Jeff Rich

Speak Greek? Fraternities and Sororities on your resume

Greek LifeIn the spirit of full disclosure I was in a fraternity in college.   I cannot imagine my college years without being in the fraternity and I am not sure who I would be today without it.  But I also realize that a lot of negatives come out of fraternities so I realize that membership has its issues.  One of those come into play in your job search.  Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to put your Greek associations on your resume:

Did you hold an office?  If you were one of the leaders in your organization then it may benefit you to list it on your resume.  If you were just a dues paying member, maybe not.

Do you have other examples of leadership?  Resumes are all about relevancy and recency.  If you can show the same KSAs in other ways you may want to leave it off.

Has it been a few years?  I you are like me and you have lived more years after college than you did before college then all of your college organizations loose relevancy and they are not very recent, you probably want to leave it off.

Research who you will be interviewing with.  If they were in a Greek organization, especially if it was yours, list it.  It may not be right but there is a certain bond that lingers long after graduation, use it to your advantage.

Just remember that Fraternities and Sororities have gotten a bad reputation.  But so have bankers and I don’t see people leaving that off their resume.


It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.
Benjamin Franklin

Do you have access to your resume… Right now!

cloud storageNetworking should be an ongoing process.  Because of that you should keep your resume handy.  We are lucky.  Not that many years ago that would mean carrying around a hard copy with you.  Today you just need access to your Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, etc…  That is IF your resume is there AND it is up to date.

Keep it up to date.  Recently I have interviewed several candidates with outdated resumes.  I usually start off the phone interview going over their resume with them.  I even tell candidates my first two questions ahead of time!  It is not uncommon for the most recent part of their resume to be a little out of date.  I hear “Oh, I am no longer there” a lot.  I can handle that, although for many employers that is a BIG RED FLAG.  But, like I have said before, I am flexible.

What is less excusable is two weeks and two interviews later when we have our final interview, the exact same resume is provided with the same incorrect information.  I tell candidates to bring an updated version of their resume with them to the interview.  About 60% of the people who come to the final interview bring their resume with them.  Of those, about 50% of them have changed their resume.

Your resume should be a living thing.  You should update it regularly just as you do your LinkedIn profile.  You should also be able to access it and send it to someone when you need to.  Come to think of it, mine needs a little more work, if I can find it. 🙂


I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.  
Mohandas Gandhi

What to do when you get Ghosted by a recruiter

Pac-man-ghostsThis happens to everyone.  You apply for a job and nothing.  You might get the “don’t call us, we’ll call you email” still, nothing… crickets.  You feel like you are back in high school and everyone breaks up with you by not calling.  Or maybe you are playing golf with a buddy and at the turn he asks “When did you and Caroline break up?”  My answer “We haven’t.” (OK, I should let that one go)

Many of us go through the job search like this.  We think we are out of the running for a job but we are actually still being considered.  Or more frequently we are counting on the company contacting us but they no intention of doing so.  First, I will talk about the why people get ghosted then what to do about it.


Recruiters are like the rest of us.  They have jobs. They usually have more work than they have time for and if they don’t get their job done the company will find someone else who will get it done.  People tend  to focus on what is measured, and candidate satisfaction is usually NOT a metric for recruiters.  Compound that with the fact that most companies do not care about the candidate experience because you are not their customer.

Some companies receive 100’s or 1000’s of applicants, many of whom are not even close to being qualified for the position.  Imagine trying to drive down a freeway if they let everyone on freeways; pedestrians, bicycles, horses, etc… it would be a MESS!  That is why most freeways have a minimum speed and only allow motorized vehicles.  Unfortunately there is nothing preventing unqualified people from applying.  To fix this companies run algorithms in their ATS to select the “most qualified” candidates.  If you do not have the right keywords then you may be out of luck.

Another way recruiters handle a large number of applicants is to just take a chunk at a time to work with.  If they do not find anyone in that group then they grab another chunk.  Maybe you applied at the wrong time.

But there are some of us who do care but remember no good deed goes unpunished.  I have followed up with people to let them know they did not make the cut and received emails like this:

Why did you email me to tell me I wasn't being considered for the job?  Thank you for wasting my time.
Your company is full of idiots, I wouldn't want to work there anyway.

After a while these “Ricky Bobbys” wear you down and you stop replying to everyone that applies.


First, DO NOT just apply, Apply and Adjure.  You need to be you own advocate.  Remember the dating analogy?  You want to show interest but you don’t want them asking about restraining orders. Don’t be a stalker.  It is a fine line and it is different for everyone so you need to pay attention to the signs.

Be patently persistent.  Since you ALWAYS ask what the next step is in the process and when you should hear from them, you know when to follow-up.  If they said you should hear something by Friday, then I feel it is a good idea to follow-up Saturday if you have not heard anything.  When following up always assume the best and be understanding.  Here are some BAD examples that I have received with my unwritten response below each one:

You said I would hear by Friday, it is now Saturday.

This is a statement, not a question.  No response necessary 🙂

Did you receive my previous email with my questions???

The excessive use of “?” is the main issue here.

I am assuming that you have hired someone else since I have not heard from you.

I will now.

Here are some much better responses that I have received:

You had mentioned that you would touch base with me Friday.   I know the week can get away from you but I want to make sure I have not missed your call or email.
I am still very excited about the opportunity.  Please let me know if you need any additional information.

You also want to follow-up with anyone you know that is an employee at the company you are interviewing with.  They may be able to nudge a decision maker in your favor if they are on the fence.  An employee may also have inside information on the position that they can provide.  If your contact at the company is a friend of yours you can ask detailed information but if it is an acquaintance, you may want to keep things more general:

I interviewed last week and I hope to have an opportunity to make it to the next round of interviews.
I feel like my interview went well.  They mentioned that they were making a decision last week but I have not heard anything, keep your fingers crossed.

So don’t assume you have been ghosted until you do your due diligence.  They may have not seen your information at all.  Your goal is to have the hiring manager or recruiter to reach into the black hole, that is their ATS, and pull your information out.  There is no ONE right way to get this done but you want to work as many avenues as possible.

Do your best to stay positive in your job search.  Negativity is no bueno.


Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.
Bill Bradley

Become a Nowist in your job search

I just watched a great 13 minute TED Talk from Joi Ito: Want to innovate? Become a “now-ist.”  He is speaking about innovation, but this applies to all parts of our lives, including your job search.  Don’t plan, do!

  • Don’t spend time worrying about what are you going to do when the recruiter calls, start applying for jobs.
  • Don’t worry about how someone will respond when you ask for an informational interview, call or email them now.
  • Don’t spend 50 hours on your resume, start asking for feedback from others.
  • Don’t focus on what you don’t have, can’t do or don’t know… focus on what you do have, can do and what you know.

Don’t worry about the HOW, do the NOW.

Joi Ito lays out a great argument for a few things that will make us successful in the PI (post-internet) era:

be CONNECTED: Why do we continue to try to do things alone?  As humans we are made to work together and we usually do it very well.  Find others to connect with where you can help them and they can help you.  I think we use to call that synergy.  LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media can be utilized for way more than just learning new recipes and who is doing what with whom.  These are your social networks, invest in expanding and contributing to them.

always LEARNING: I love that he says “Learn over Education.”  I totally admit that I have skin in this one.  My 2.48 BA in Criminal Justice did not open many doors for me.  GPAs do not predict long-term performance.  They do however, predict what college you will get into, so don’t ignore them.  You do not need to pay a fee, fill out an application, make a request or join a group to learn.  Innovators like MIT,, Coursera, and many others have made learning fun, easy and cheap.  One question many interviewers ask is “How do you/have you improved professionally?”  Life is not static, you are either moving forward or you are being left behind.

be fully AWARE: This includes being self-aware.  If we do not see the opportunities for us to improve or make a change, nothing will happen.  Think of the TV show Fear the Walking Dead (Yes, I am a Dead-Head) Travis, his family and the Salazars have figured out what is happening so they are leaving their neighborhood.  As they drive by we see  other families having a quiet dinner, unaware of the real situation.  Many times we see the sign posts in life but do we pay attention.  Many of us do not move over when the road sign says “lane ending.”  We drive until we run out of road.  What do you need to do today?

be super PRESENT:  Stop worrying about that will happen tomorrow, next week, or next year: What if I lose my job? What will we do when the kids grow up? How will we pay tuition next year?  I am not saying don’t plan at all, but don’t prioritize planning over action.  Here is an example from Beth Moore of what happens when we keep thinking “if this happens, then what?”  Start living in the now and making things happen.  You can fall into analysis paralysis very easily in life and your job search.  I’ll throw another one at you: how do you eat an elephant?…  yep, one bite at a time.  Won’t worry about eating the whole elephant, start taking bites.

have a COMPASS:  We need to know where we are going but we don’t need to have the entire route planned out.  “Compass over Maps” lets us move and figure it out along the way.  You rarely find yourself without resources along the way to somewhere so don’t worry about what will happen, get busy making it happen.  You hear about a moral compass but I have never heard of a moral map.  We need a job search, career and personal compass.

We need to work on being NOWISTs.  I know that investors, banks, boards of directors and other “business” people do not like going without a plan, but some of the biggest and best results are from being a Nowist.

One example of this was during Katrina.  The Coast Guard did not wait around making plans like the Federal Government did.  They headed to New Orleans and made things happen.  They saved more than 33,500 people including rescuing from peril 24,135 lives and evacuating 9,409 medical patients to safety.  This was from action, not planning.  They were able to do this because they stayed connected, had learned through cross-training, they were aware of the issues, and they were super-present in the moment.

What are going to do today as a Nowist?


P.S. This article may not be the best-written, most grammatically correct written piece but I got my butt out of bed at 6am on Saturday, made my coffee, turned on the computer, started reading my Twitter feed, watched Joi Ito's Ted Talk, and started writing.

Doing what needs to be done may not make you happy, but it will make you great.
George Bernard Shaw

Focus on the positive in your jobsearch

think positiveMuch of what I read about the employment market is negative. Here are some not-so positive quotes from the web:

  • More Americans than ever before are not working with 92 MILLION people out of the workforce.
  • Job-seekers are taught to grovel and beg for a job.
  • How to deal with job search pain points.

Let’s face it, looking for a job can really suck.  Interviewing CAN be fun but the job search, I don’t think so.  So you need to stay positive and not have a bunch of pity-parties.   There are several ways to do this during your job search.

  • Do at least one fun thing a day, but have a time limit.  When I say something fun, I mean something positive.  Yes, drinking 6-12 beers may be fun but there is a heavy price to pay for that.  Maybe sit outside and drink a cup of coffee or meet a friend for lunch.
  • Surround yourself with positive people, online and in person.  You may need to block some people’s news feeds for a while.
  • Work on some professional development.  I find that if I am learning something new I am in a much better mood.
  • Laugh.  If you look at YouTube videos or The Chive be sure to laugh.

Yes, you need to plan your fun when you are in a job search.  Set time aside for yourself but limit it.


I am being positive… I am positive that you are an idiot.
Al’s wife

Think like a recruiter

recruiterOne of the tips I give people in their job search is that if they want a recruiter to find them, they need to think like a recruiter.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to participate in some of the free webinars that are offered online.  Many companies including LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Electronic Recruiting Exchange and offer periodic webinars to help recruiters source candidates.

You can also go on Twitter and other social media sites to follow these companies and learn from the tips they give recruiters.  Google searches are also helpful with things like “How to recruit Java programmers.”  Think to yourself “if I were a recruiter and I wanted to find candidates for the position I want to have, where and how would I look?  Also look up recruiter events and organizations.  Follow them on Twitter and other social media to see what people learned at these events.

All of this is also a great way to find out who the recruiters are in specific industries and companies.

Just remember, you just need one job and the next one you apply for might be the one.


People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.
John C. Maxwell

What is your job search kryptonite?

kryptoniteYou have probably heard it before: “The job search is a marathon, not a sprint race” but that saying sucks and lands flat with me.  I was in the middle of an eight month job search a couple of years ago.  I won’t go into details but is sucked.  Most people who spout off about how you should do this or do that in your job search probably have little to no idea what it is like.

I was listening to the @Gimletmedia  show @podcaststartup when they mentioned the “trough of sorrow” that start-up founders go through.  It is also easy to also fall into the trough of sorrow in your job search.  I blame it on your job search kryptonite.

Everyone has job search kryptonite but it can be different for each person.  For most people it is a rejection email.  For others it can be hearing about a friend got that promotion they wanted.  Or for many it is the “encouragement” from others that sounded more like platitudes:

  • You’ll find something at the right time.
  • The right job is out there for you.
  • If they would just interview you they would see how great you are.

I know they mean well but you know what they say… “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

So if you get hit with job search kryptonite you need to have some “power-ups” ready to counteract them and get you back on track.  Game designer Jane McGonigal developed a real life game called SuperBetter.  You need to see the job search for what it is… a game.  A very serious game with very serious consequences, but a game none the less.

So take stock in you job search.  Figure out what your kryptonite is and what your power-ups are and get back in the game!


The best people are always terrified they’re about to be fired while the mediocre ones are always shocked when they are.