Navigating the ATS Black Hole

Avoiding an employer’s ATS black hole when applying for a position is a dilemma of increasing concern to candidates. 

One of the best ways to avoid the dilemma entirely is having a recruiter represent you for the opportunity. That way, there’s virtually no ATS consideration on the front end. Your resume is simply emailed by the recruiter to the appropriate person at the facility, and worry is behind you. If you have a trusted recruiter you can call on, reach out and ask if they can represent you for the position.

Similarly, if you network with associates and colleagues (including via an employee referral program), your resume is represented by someone with a vested interest in having it read by an appropriate person with human eyes. ATS black hole averted once again.

Where there is an ATS consideration is if you self-submit to a company’s on-line job posting. Yet that’s still an opportunity to get your resume to a real person rather than go the ATS route. It takes more time and effort, but the ROI is exponentially greater.

To go this slower-but-better route, check the posting carefully. You’ll often see the name of the person who posted the position. If that’s the case, try submitting your resume (and cover letter if you have one) directly to that person by email, and follow up accordingly. 

You can discover email-finder tools online that give you a certain amount of free look ups per month. Sign up for several during your job search, as no one tool finds every address. An email finder is an invaluable addition to your job-search toolbox. 

If your LinkedIn profile looks great (if not, get r’ done!), you can apply on-line, then send the person who posted the position a connection request with a cordial note that you just submitted your resume and are looking forward to a conversation. It’s a great start. You’re communicating with a real person. That’s key!

If there’s no information about the poster in the posting, call the company and ask for the name of the department head of the open position, or use your LinkedIn search filters to scope out who that person is and other likely stakeholders. The closer you get to finding the assumed hiring manager, the better.

Once you’ve developed a target list, call those people or department and seek three pieces of contact information: the target’s name, title, e-mail address. You may end up in conversation if your target answers the phone (score!) or in their voice mail. In either case, your message is short and professional. You are interested in the posted position (cite title and source), and you’d like to submit your resume directly. 

If you end up talking with an Administrative Assistant, ask for the stakeholder’s info, and if they can’t provide, ask if you can send the material to them to forward to the hiring manager. That’s a decent avenue, and then follow up with the Administrative Assistant for status. 

The secret sauce is always being polite, gracious, and succinct. There’s no harm saying you saw a posting on-line that’s really gotten your attention, and you want to be sure your resume arrives safely for review. 

Don’t worry about penalties for being engaged and proactive in taking these actions. Aren’t these qualities for which you’d be hired? And don’t stop at one person. Try to get contact info for several people. You’re knocking on doors. Your goal is that one will open. It’s a start. Then follow up at respectful intervals. Three-day intervals are widely recommended for noninvasive but effective follow-up.One last strategy for sailing through the ATS includes hiring a professional resume writer. They know how to construct a resume acceptable to an ATS.