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Recruiters Give Tips on How to Tackle a Job Search in the Age of AI

A person writing a resume in front of a laptop.

​Two executive recruiters are warning job candidates that artificial intelligence used in applicant tracking systems (ATSs) can sift through and reject resumes, thereby knocking candidates out of their opportunity to successfully gain employment. To tackle this problem, candidates should develop strategies to improve their ATS experience.

The two HR executives—Matty Ferguson, staff recruiting manager at Washington, D.C.-based law firm Covington and Burling LLP, and Bruce Pernell, talent acquisition senior associate at PwC—shared their views during a webinar hosted by the Professional Studies graduate program at American University. 

Candidates can develop approaches that will cause the AI-driven ATS software to improve the chances of generating the results they want, Ferguson said.

One way to do this is for candidates to carefully read the job post and make sure their top skills and qualifications match the requirements in the job description. She also noted candidates should add keywords to their resumes.

"A good rule of thumb for all applications is to include some of those keywords [from the job description] so you are not immediately cut out of the hiring process," Ferguson said.

Pernell said another way candidates can find keywords is to read material posted on the company's website and look at what its leaders say in their speeches and their public comments.

"That's where you would get some of those buzzwords to use in your resume," Pernell said.

As technology companies build more sophisticated platforms to simplify job hunting in the electronic age, Pernell and Ferguson suggested several strategies to improve a candidate's chances when searching for jobs online. They include the following:

  • Apply for a job within the first 24 hours of the job being posted.
  • Keep a log of the jobs you've applied for to prevent applying for the same job twice. Try not to send duplicate resumes to one company, even if you're applying for different jobs. 
  • Applying through jobs sites like Indeed and Monster is fine, but candidates should visit company websites to look for jobs, too. According to Ferguson, "Some organizations know that they are going to get a ton of traction on a specific role, and they may not post it to social media because they know they are going to get flooded with resumes."  
  • Once you've applied for a job, use LinkedIn to find a recruiter or talent acquisition manager from the company. Send them a message to let them know that you applied and are extremely interested in the position at their company.
  • Don't use charts or visual displays in your resumes—these don't work well on ATS platforms. Save your cover letter or resume as a Word document or PDF file so that recruiters can easily access it.
  • Do some research on the company. "Citing a little bit of the background that might be on the website can really help you out," Ferguson said. She added that recruiters appreciate candidates who have done their homework. 

ATS Investment and Growth

As ATS providers build more capabilities into their platforms, companies are expected to increase their investments in purchasing ATS software.

Data from show that the worldwide ATS market is estimated to be valued at $3.3 billion by 2027, rising at a compound annual growth rate of 7.1 percent during the forecast period.

Among the factors that are driving the adoption of ATS solutions are the increasing use of social media, as well as the substantial adoption of cloud services and security infrastructure, said in a statement.

On the venture capital front, ATS startups are also gaining traction. Fetcher, a talent acquisition platform formerly known as Scout, recently closed a $27 million Series B funding round. The money will fund international expansion as well as contribute to building new features on the Fetcher platform with new ATS integrations and customer relationship management capabilities. 

Fountain, a remote-first company that provides an ATS for hourly workers in the U.S., recently secured $85 million in Series C funding to help it build out its platform.

Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.


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