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How to Avoid the Job-Search Black Hole

If applying for a job through an automated system, make sure to follow the exact formatting guidelines to ensure your documents reach their destination. iStockPhoto

If you’re looking for work, you’re probably familiar with this scenario: you submit your resume online to a recruiter or employer, and then you wait. And wait. And nothing happens. Weeks and then months pass with no acknowledgment of receiving your application, no word about whether or not the job was filled, no communication with you at all. This situation is recognized among candidates as the job-search black hole, otherwise known as the “spray and pray” approach to seeking employment.

[See: 10 Ways Social Media Can Help You Land a Job.]

Just how common is it for job seekers to send their resume into this disappointing void? According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, the recruiting consulting firm CareerXroads conducted a test that revealed only two recruiters out of 100 companies read beyond the first three paragraphs in a fake resume they sent out. The firm also found that when submitting a fake resume through the corporate websites of companies in Fortune magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work for list, close to two-thirds of employers (64 companies) did not send a notification that they were no longer a candidate for the position they applied for. Clearly, the job-search black hole is alive and well in America.

While it may not be possible in all circumstances to avoid these outcomes, here are a few strategies that may help your resume circumvent the black hole and find its way to an interested employer or recruiter.

Follow the Rules

If you’re submitting a resume online, you’re likely doing so via an applicant tracking system (ATS). These systems make it easier for companies to collect and compile candidate data and resumes, as well as to post job opportunities online. These systems are often what job seekers complain about when submitting materials that receive no response.

While each employer will have its own process for vetting resumes and responding (or not responding) to applicants, it’s important to follow the formatting guidelines exactly as noted in the employer’s ATS before uploading your documents. Extra bells and whistles on your resume like logos, charts and shading are a bad idea with an electronic system, since the ATS may not be able to register them. You also might need to use Microsoft Word files rather than PDFs, avoid headers and footers and stick to standard fonts. As a rule of thumb, read the requirements carefully and follow them to the letter when applying.

[See: The 8 Stages of a Winning Job Search.]

Remember Your Keywords

Online applications should always include relevant professional keywords to help an ATS rank your application for a particular role based on your skill set. Online systems are generally programmed to scan for keywords in your resume and cover letter to determine your fit for the position or industry in question.

You can often glean clues about which keywords a particular organization prefers by looking through their job description. You can also do an online search for other job listings by title and scan for commonly used jargon, certifications and acronyms.

Use an AI platform

New tools are starting to emerge that specifically address the black hole problem for job seekers and employers alike. One recent development is using artificial intelligence (AI) to automate the recruiting process. For example, there’s Mya, an AI recruiting assistant from the human resources technology company FirstJob. According to the Mya website, the platform automates up to 75 percent of the recruiting process, including qualifying candidates.

Mya is free for job seekers. Users can simply log into Mya, peruse active job listings, select from positions and instant message with a “chatbot” avatar that asks questions and allows job seekers to expand on their qualifications. If you aren’t a fit, Mya will notify you – and if you are, you’ll move onto the next phase of the process.

[See: 8 Things That Are More Productive Than Staring at a Job Board.]

Rely on Your Network

Personal and professional contacts are always the best way to get a foot in the door with a potential employer. Tap into your network to explore which relationships might be helpful to you in your current job search.

Having an insider at your target company deliver your resume right to the hiring manager is a much clearer path to ensure that someone actually reads your resume. And if you’re worried that your application has been sucked into the black hole, you can work back through your connection for feedback rather than waiting indefinitely for something that may never come.

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