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Applicant Prescreening

Technologies used and how to work with them

If you are job hunting, you might not like the company I work for. My company, HELPUHIRE Solutions, provides an applicant prescreening service for hiring companies. We sort through the applicants to determine who meets the job requirements, and screen out those who donít.

Now, before you start thinking that my company is starting something aimed at ruining your chances to get a job, you should realize that there are many different prescreening products and services that help hiring companies manage the applicant load. One of the major challenges that hiring firms have been dealing with is how to handle "resume overload" - the overload of applicants to job postings Ė and an industry has sprung up to fix this.

So, given that companies are using systems to review your application, it would be advantageous for you to understand these systems and how to work with them. You may be the perfect candidate for a particular job, but if you donít make it past their screening process, you wonít have the chance to show how you are the right candidate.

To help you with this, I will provide an insiderís view to the major recruiting automation technologies in use.

Note Ė I am giving this information so you can show your skills and experiences in the format that works with the screening systems. But if you add a keyword for a skill you donít have or add a few years to your experience when answering a questionnaire, you may be able get your resume viewed even though your skills and experiences donít justify it. With so much competition for a position, this sure could be tempting. But it is also not something you should do. In talking with hiring managers, ethics is a very important trait for applicants. They will discard your application if they find that you lied anywhere in the application process.

Key word searches

What are key word searches? Key word searches are when resumes and cover letters are stored in a database, and the hiring manager then searches this database for applicants with the right "key words". If you donít have the right key words, your resume doesnít get viewed.

How do you know is they are using keywords? Usually you will not know if the firm is using key word searches, as the resumes can be added to databases through many ways (including scanning in hard copies). If in the application process you need to set up an account with that company, then it is very likely they will be using keyword searches. This includes the main job boards - Hotjobs, Monster, etc. all sell the ability for hiring firms to perform key word searches on their databases of resumes.

How do you ensure that you work best when key word searches are being used? The first step is to find the key words that are important for you. One way is to review job ads from different companies for positions you are interested in. Make a list of which words they use to describe job duties and requirements. Pay attention to different spellings - if they want someone with an MBA, do they type "MBA", "M.B.A.", or "Master of Business Administration"?

Now, you want to have all the different versions of the key words in your resume. In Microsoft Word, there is a trick to do this and not have your resume look bad. At the bottom of your resume, create a section called ďKeywordsĒ. Right after that, list your key words separated by commas. Then, highlight the entire section and change the font to white. The words will not appear when the resume is viewed or printed, but they are still there when someone searches electronically for the words.


What are questionnaires? If you answer questions about your skills or experiences as part of the application process, you are using a questionnaire. These questions are used to draw out from you how you meet the hiring managerís requirements, and the answers allow them to quickly understand if you are worth interviewing.

How to know when a questionnaire is being used? Usually you will know when you see that they are asking questions, but you are also using questionnaires when signing up for some large job boards, such as the detailed questions you fill in when registering with

How do you ensure that you work best when questionnaires are being used? It is easy (yet surprisingly not always done) - take the time to read and accurately answer the questions. In areas where you get to write a descriptive answer, use complete answers (donít just write "see resume").

Old fashion read the resume

Reading the resume is just what it sounds like. This is when someone has to read each resume and cover letter to screen applicants.

How to know when your resume is being read? Generally you wonít know if this is the primary method used to screen applicants. This method is generally used by smaller companies and companies who donít hire many employees. But whether they are screening on this method or not, you should always prepare your resume so that it is easy to read.

How to ensure that you work best when they are screening resumes by reading them? First, make sure your resume looks good and has the key information in the top third of the first page. Your resume will likely only be quickly scanned from the top down. You need the top third of the page to give enough key skills, experiences, and accomplishments to capture their interest.

If possible, be one of the first resumes submitted to the position. Resumes are often read as they are received. If you are the 100th applicant, they may have already found enough qualified applicants and have stopped reviewing any additional applicants.


If you havenít prepared your resume so that it can make it through the various screening processes, you may get screened out of a job that are qualified for. It is best to try to make your resume and cover letter work with the screening system that may be used by hiring managers.

-Peter Donohue

Peter Donohue is the Business Development Manager for HELPUHIRE Solutions ( HELPUHIRE Solutions develops and hosts applicant prescreen questionnaires, so that company can easily and inexpensively determine which applicants are worth interviewing for their open positions.
Peter holds an MBA from State University of New York at Buffalo and has experience on both sides of the staffing table through his 12 years experience with various companies (along with all too much time job hunting). He has always been interested in understanding how things work, and while job hunting, started delving into understanding the process and tools used by hiring managers.