Beat the ‘bots when job hunting

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Many older jobseekers don’t know that ATS (Applicant Tracking System, defined here) software determines who sees their resume–if ever. Here’s how to beat the ‘bots.

Remember when you first started job hunting?  You had to copy a bunch of resumes, type individual cover letters and send them through the mail.   You sent the same resume to everyone and had no idea if anyone actually read  or even opened your application unless they called you and asked you come in for an interview.

It was a frustrating process.  It’s  certainly easier to send multiple job applications and cover letters with one click, use a mail tracking app to see if your application has been opened, and follow up by email.

Of course everyone had the same idea and big companies now get thousands of applications.  To sort them out they use an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) which screens out up to 75% of applications.

If you’re not getting any calls—or emails in this case–you may suspect age discrimination is at work. 

Feeling left out in the job hunt?

That ATS also screens for factors that determine your age, like length of employment. If you’re not getting any calls—or emails in this case–you may suspect age discrimination is at work.  And you would probably be right.   According to a survey by AARP  “76 percent of  older workers see age discrimination as a hurdle to finding a new job; another report found that more than half of these older workers are prematurely pushed out of longtime jobs and 90 percent of them never earn as much again.”

The good news is that there are ways to write an ATS friendly resume which de-emphasizes your age.

ATS works by scanning your submitted resume and cover letter to find keywords that match the job posting.  This means you can get booted out of the system before you ever get to impress a real human being with your skills and qualifications.  An ATS is more likely to submit your application to the hiring manager for review if you have optimized your resume and cover letter for the job you are specifically applying for.  The good news is that there are ways to write an ATS friendly resume  which de-emphasizes your age.

Do’s and Don’ts to beat the ATS

  • Do use keywords. That’s what an ATS scans for.  Here’s an article on how to generate them.
  • Don’t use graphics. Computers do not appreciate graphs, fancy fonts, tables or other eye-catching features that actual people might appreciate.  They use OCS (optical character recognition) to scan resumes and will scramble anything that isn’t easily readable.  Here’s more advice on formatting your resume.
  • Don’t use a PDF, stick to Word. It’s easier for an ATS to scan.
  • Do use Sans Serif That means a plain, blocky, no frills, font like Arial or Calibri–not Times New Roman.  Stick with the same font throughout.  You can use capitals and lower case for emphasis.
  • Don’t use acronyms. A BS should be spelled out: Bachelor of Science.
  • Do link to your LinkedIn Profile. You MUST have a LinkedIn profile for a professional job.  Here’s how to write one that de-emphasizes age.

Age-proofing your resume for the ATS

  • Lose your old AOL, Hotmail, or local cable company address.  It’s a dead giveaway that you’ve been around too long.  Come up with a Gmail address that uses your first and last name with a dot or dash or underline in between them if it’s taken.   Use it only for job hunting and keep AOL for personal mail.
  • Make sure you spellcheck and grammar check, but also check for two spaces between sentences. It’s a clue that you learned to type on a typewriter when two spaces after a period were the rule.   Now it’s just one space.
  • Keep your resume short. Everything on the Internet is short.  Including too much detail is a sign you’re over fifty.
  • Include your chronological job history, but just the last 10-15 years.  The ATS will search for it.  There’s no need to include every job you’ve ever had.
  • Read this article which goes into detail about the ways your resume may be making you look old. And this one about job hunting tips to beat ATS and ageism

Here is some additional guidance.

  • Leave off college graduation dates. This is becoming the default among job seekers of all ages so it’s not a giveaway of age anymore.
  • Read this article which goes into detail about the ways your resume may be making you look old.

Want more info?

Here are some more helpful articles to get you up to speed.

13 Best Practices to Beat the Applicant Tracking System.

How to Write a Resume to Beat the ATS

Job hunting Tips to beat ATS and Ageism

Other important Job Hunting Tips:

  • Watch out for scams. Scammers target vulnerable seniors looking for work online to get your personal info and deceive you into sending money.  Here’s how to spot them and  how to protect yourself.
  • Follow up. Once you’ve optimized your resume for the ATS you should follow up after about two weeks.   This article explains how to get through to a hiring manager.

Remember, there is currently a worker shortage so employers are looking for older workers.  If you were hesitant about getting into the job market, now is the time to go for it.

Good luck with your job search-happy hunting!

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Senior Planet often offers free talks via Zoom on hunting for a job online as well as classes on fitness, finance, tech and other topics. Check here for notices on all Senior Planet online classes and talks. 

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