You’re probably aware of the general process employers follow when filling a position. First, they consider their own employees; next, they ask for referrals from their employees; third, they seek referrals from people they trust outside the company; fourth, they hire recruiters; and finally, they advertise the position if nothing else works. Sometimes, they’ll use a combination of some or all of these tactics at once.
There are many reasons why employers prefer not to advertise an open position, including the cost to advertise, having to deal with a deluge of resumes, and interviewing people they don’t know.
That said, advertising the position becomes unavoidable if all other methods have failed. When a position goes public, employers will use certain tools to make their lives a little easier. You need to be aware of these tools, as your chance of landing the job depends on your ability to successfully navigate them:
1. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs)
The ATS is exactly what it sounds like: A software platform that accepts applications, parses resumes, and organizes candidate information. The platform is designed to filter the qualified from the unqualified, and it is a godsend for HR pros and recruiters overburdened by resumes. An ATS can eliminate as many as 75 percent of applicants for a job.
To be among the 25 percent of applicants who make it through this first round of screening, you’ll have to write a resume that is rich in relevant keywords. After all, ATSs use keywords — or the lack thereof — to determine whether a candidate is worthy.
Unfortunately, many candidates don’t know about the ATS and aren’t optimizing their resumes accordingly. I’m astounded by the number of people who come through our career center unaware that ATSs exist.
Your best bet is to write keyword-rich resumes that are tailored to each individual job. Instead of using the spray and pray approach, focus on positions that are a fit for you. Dissect job descriptions to identify the most important skills and experiences required, and be sure your resume reflects these things.
2. Pre-Employment Assessments
Employers have come to rely on aptitude and personality tests that can determine candidate fit in terms of both hard skills and cultural factors. Some employers will swear by them, believing that the software can do a better job of screening individuals than HR pros and recruiters can.
Employers use pre-employment tests because they are objective and fair across the board. Each candidate answers the same questions, and the tests can be good indicators of job-related skills. These tests can also measure character traits like integrity, cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, etc.
Where these tests fail is in measuring candidates’ motivations to learn new job-related skills. This means if you aren’t proficient in a certain CRM software, for example, your ability to learn quickly isn’t factored into the assessment’s evaluation of your fit.
These tests can also encourage dishonesty. For example, you might get the sense that the test prefers outgoing, extraverted types, so you adjust your answers to make it seem like you are such a person. The results won’t truly reflect your personality.
Skype interviews are common these days. Employers use them to save time and money. They are akin to face-to-face interviews, save for the fact that candidates don’t have to show up in person. This means candidates must nail the following things to ace a Skype interview:
- Stellar answers in terms of both tone and content
- Enthusiastic and confident body language
- Professional attire
- Good lighting, sound, and background
- Eye contact — look at the webcam, not at the interviewers on screen
If an interviewer wants to conduct a Skype interview with you and you have never used the platform before, set up your account well in advance of the interview. Speaking from personal experience, it can be frustrating to get Skype up and running the first time you use it.
4. Pre-Recorded Video Interviews
Skype interviews are live video calls, but many employers these days are using video interview platforms that allow candidates to pre-record their answers to questions ahead of time. Then, the hiring team can review the candidate’s answers on their own schedule.
With these platforms, candidates are given a number of questions to answer. They then record short answers for each question, usually within a certain time limit. At no point does the candidate interact with the interviewer directly. My clients who have participated in such interviews say it is like talking to a wall.
This might be a bit unnerving, but don’t let it rattle you. Have you ever practiced answering interview questions while looking in the mirror? Approach the pre-recorded video interview the same way and you’ll be fine.
Just as you would for a Skype interview, look at your computer’s webcam while answering the questions, not at the screen!
No hiring tool is flawless, but employers use every option available to make the hiring process easier and more accurate. Educate yourself about the things you may have to deal with in order to come out on top.
A version of this article originally appeared on Things Career Related.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.