Job Searchers: Ditch the Bots

By Leah Modica

70 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in 2020. 70 million people questioning the fate of their careers with nothing but gloomy outlooks. With the job market being the most competitive on the applicant side and dead on the employers side – finding a job seems to be almost impossible. 

I experienced this nightmare for 6 unsuccessful months. 1,038 applications, 122 interviews, 35 unpaid application projects later – I finally landed a job. This journey has been surreal and has opened my eyes to how unethical the current job screenings are. Here is my only tip for those losing the job search battle: Don’t fall for the ATS trap.

ATS, Applicant Tracking System, is what a majority of companies are using to filter through their enormous pool of applications. ATS is run on “unique” algorithms that scan through applications and resumes to pull the best suited applicants. Sounds like a HR dream right? Well, this system may be easier, but it is highly flawed.

Since ATS uses keyword algorithms, only applicants that use those exact keywords will be selected. These words are intended to be unique to the job posting to highlight the necessary skills and traits these companies are looking for. ATS has multiple levels, so many applicants will have to be sifted through as many as 4 or 5 stages before they are actually in contact with a real person. With the unemployment rate still at a height in 2021, these applicants are starting to figure out how to override this simple system. 

These clever applicants adjust their resumes and applications with the companies desired keywords so they get selected to move to the next round. Not only do these “skilled” applicants include those that are truly qualified but they more likely have those who are simply skilled manipulators

For decades society was brought up on the understanding that being inherently different among the rest of job seekers is how to land any job. Standing out and being memorable to hiring managers is how the job process has successfully been for years. This is no longer the case in 2021. I know from my own experience, I started to play the algorithms game. What this did to me was make me less unique of a candidate and added me to a pool of candidates that all have the same qualities and experiences. Nothing to stand out, and no way to get in-touch with hiring managers to make an honest impression.

These companies claim to be searching for applicants that are personable with the common positive human traits, but their weeding out process is far from humain. These companies are trusting lifeless bots to sort through their potential employees, while claiming they have their dedicated HR teams on it. To them, all applicants are seen as numbers that can be categorized and discarded for improper keyword use. Uniqueness is shunned and not advisable. This is a foreign process that has companies hiring those less qualified but more clever. 

I landed my new job with a company that did not use bots to sort through applications. They put real employees on the task of sorting through their hundreds of applications to find the best suited. I was called in for in-person interviews to get the real experience rather than the anxiety of remote interviews. I was able to be myself and show my strong suits other than their sight for “keywords”, and I landed it. 

This is my advice: search for companies that do not use the ATS system. It is challenging to find companies that still stick to the tried and true human method, but they are out there. Job posters are able to require a more detailed and demanding application process since the unemployment market is highly competitive. 

For those who are in artistic fields that require application projects: make sure you speak with an actual company employee first. Many of these projects are unpaid and will take hours of your time to complete. Do not give a company hours of your time with your best work if they cannot spare five minutes to get to know you. 

Let me repeat that for all job seekers: Do not give a company hours of your time if they cannot spare five minutes to get to know you. If they cannot be personable in return from the very beginning, they are sure to not be personable and understanding throughout your career there. 

Ditch the flawed and biased system. Dedicate your search to finding companies that are humain and will not use you. They are out there, use your valuable time to find them.