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Why you are not getting an interview call?

A lot of friends and family members call me to help them from resume building to interview coaching.

One of their top complaints is “I applied to 100+ jobs and not a single one called me”. What a bummer!!!

My first advice to them is NOT to apply directly on company career portals or jobs sites. Rather find a referral and go through him/her. In a vast number of cases, this is perfectly possible, i.e. If you do your homework.

So why don’t they get an interview call in spite of being very deserving candidates? The answer lies in sneaky tools companies use called ATS( Application Tracking System). Almost all big companies I worked for e.g Wipro, Infosys, Cognizant, use an ATS. 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS.

Here is what happens when you submit a resume on a company job portal. Even when you apply on Monster, Indeed, Naukri, these portals, in turn, submit the resumes to an ATS.

Step 1. Strips your resume of keywords

Step 2. Matches your keywords against job description keywords

Step 3. Creates a relevancy score based on what % matches

Step 4. Ranks your profile

At this point, your resume is just a row entry in a table where you are ranked against 1000s of other resumes. Recruiter is going to look into the top 5–7% profiles (where the keywords have matched >80%), which means if your resume is not in the top 50–70 rows(assuming 1000 resumes have been submitted) the recruiter or for that matter, no human even saw your resume. In a nutshell, ATS is apt to toss the least-qualified candidates, rather than identify the applicants who are the best fit. If your resume is not optimized for ATS (which they rarely are) you are never going to hear from anyone.

So what does ATS optimization mean and how do you get past this brutal process to get a higher rank and a subsequent call from the recruiter?

  1. Strictly use the file format mentioned in the job application. 9 out of 10 times it will be *.doc. Most ATS cannot parse PDF which means it will dump your beautiful & painstakingly crafted resume without you even knowing.

  2. Use simple fonts like Arial. ATS can’t read many a fancy font.

  3. Ditch any Tables, text boxes, and columns. ATS doesn’t read anything in them.

  4. Ditch any graphics. ATS doesn’t read them either

  5. Ditch header and footer. Many people put contact info in them, ATS doesn’t read them. So the contact info never gets recorded.

  6. Ditch Borders, lines, and symbols.

  7. Ditch special characters.

  8. Spell check like your life depends on it!!! Because ATS is not intelligent enough to decipher your spelling mistakes.

Now let’s talk about the most important thing you can do to outrank others to be among the top 5–7%. You will have to adopt the mindset of a teenager who needs to bypass a teenage daughter’s dad to get her to go out with you.

Keyword research.

  1. Your starting point would be the job description. Take a careful look at it and extract a list of as many keywords as possible. You can do this manually or use a tool like

  2. Use the exact keywords in your resume. DO NOT use synonyms, abbreviations, or similar skills. Remember you are out to beat a brainless & heartless machine here, not impress the recruiter( at-least at this stage). Hence match them verbatim. e.g ‘Adobe Creative Suite’ & ‘Adobe Creative Cloud’ are the same thing. But if the JD says ‘Adobe Creative Suite’ use that instead of ‘Adobe Creative Cloud’

  3. Match the exact Job Title. e.g. If the JD says ‘Blogger’ don’t use ‘Content Creator ‘ even though its the same thing. If the JD asked for ‘Senior Web Developer II’ use the same in your resume instead of something like ‘Developer Lead’ Even though that was your role in the past. Similarly a ‘Developer Lead’ is not the same as ‘Lead Developer’ to the ATS

  4. Match for order, frequency, count. e.g If Adobe Photoshop has been used 6 times before MS Word has been used 3 times then use the same order frequency and count in your resume. Dumb but who cares!

  5. Do not overstuff or falsify Keywords. You might beat the ATS but when it gets to the recruiter or hiring manager you will be busted.

Resume Summary Section.

I have seen so many Career Objectives in my life and the shocking copy-paste that sometimes I wanted to pluck my eyes out. I don’t know who reads stuff like “To secure a challenging position in a reputable organization to expand my learnings, knowledge, and skills”

Better use of the summary section to fill up keywords as much as possible. Use bullet points to mention skills. This bodes well with the ATS and also the hiring manager who can quickly grasp what your skills are without having to read the whole document.

So that pretty much covers it. ATS is here to stay. Like it or not. Do let me know if the above process helps you get an interview call or if you have any questions.

Once you get a call I strongly suggest sending across a more ‘human’ resume written in a story like fashion to increase your chances of impressing the hiring manager. I will cover this in a later post.

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