Can You Beat Keyword Scanners?

Keyword scanners. We hate them; you hate them. (And you tell us in the comments, really, you do.) But they aren’t going away, especially not when companies are getting 500 applicants for one position in one hour.

So we checked with some experts about how to beat the system.

Megan Pittsley
, a headhunter turned career advisor who works with all sorts of folks including us media people, reminds us that basically every company web site or job board is going to use a scanner. “[The sorter] assigns a % to each resume according to how much the resume matches the job description or keyword set used by the recruiter. If your resume is not hitting a huge %, it’s likely not even going to be viewed…

“You need to take the time to highlight as many key terms from the job description and weave those repeatedly and effortlessly into your cover letter as much as possible. You don’t want to put in a keyword section, as it takes up valuable space and doesn’t show your true value – just that you know how to work the system.”

But—as is so often true in the job market—the person looking at the scanner results isn’t really the person doing the hiring. And you can use this knowledge to your advantage.
guerrilla marketing 2.0
David Perry
‘s the coauthor of Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0. One of his favorite tips for jobseekers is the Coffee Cup Caper. Send a potential employer a registered package containing a coffee cup, a $5 Starbucks card, and a note that says “I’d like to get together and talk over coffee.” When you see they’ve signed for it, you call 20 minutes later. He claims it results in an interview 30% of the time. So, he says, “send HR your scannable resume they’ll never in a thousand years read AND pack it with every key word they put in their ad, including the acronyms, AND then pull the coffee cup caper. Seriously, you WIN both ways.

“You conform so HR can’t whine AND you reach out to the hiring manager
directly because they’re looking to hire someone NOW!!!…I have yet to have any of my creative techniques blow up in my or any job search boot campers’ faces.”

Course, the coffee cup caper gets a lot less creative-feeling if you’re a hiring manager who’s gotten the thing five times in a month, so use with caution. Anyway, don’t ignore those wretched computerized scanners. Just don’t do it.