Job Search Strategies for the Age of AI

Jessica Greene
Jessica Greene / November 1, 2018

In recent years, technology companies have set their sights on improving the recruiting process for employers, and it's resulting in many changes to how job candidates are sourced, reviewed, and considered. Today, companies look at fewer resumes than ever, and some never even post their open positions to job boards.

As a modern job seeker, it's crucial to understand the technologies companies are using in their hiring processes today. By familiarizing yourself with the new rules of recruitment, you'll be in a much better position to get your resume in front of a real person—and much more likely to make it past the layers of technology that stand between you and your dream job.

The Evolution of Job Hunting

hiring sign

When I set out in search of my first job as a 15-year-old, there were three ways to find a job. You could scan through the classifieds section of the newspaper, drive around your neighborhood looking for "Now Hiring" signs, or ask your friends and family members if they knew of any companies that were hiring. Once you found a place that was hiring, you either filled out an application or dropped off your resume, then you crossed your fingers and hoped for the best.

But before I graduated from college, online job boards had taken over as the preferred way to find open roles and solicit applications. Unfortunately, the earliest job board sites got spammy pretty quickly. Once, I got a call to come in and interview with a company that found my resume on a popular job board, but when I arrived, I realized I wasn't attending an interview at all. Instead, it was a seminar for a multi-level marketing scheme selling water filtration devices.

In recent years, that's all improved. You now have sites like Glassdoor that make it easier for people to point out the scams and LinkedIn that makes it easier for recruiters to find you even if you're not actively applying for a job. If you're looking for work with a specific company, most organizations post open roles to the careers pages of their websites. And the new Job Search on Google—available directly in search results—aggregates job posts from multiple sources.

Job Search on Google

All of these changes have made it much easier to find open roles as a job seeker. But there's a flip side: employers are getting more applications than ever. Ultimately, something had to change on the employer's end to make sorting through applications more manageable. And in recent years, the task has fallen to technologies like algorithms and artificial intelligence.

Recruiting with Artificial Intelligence

Many employers today—including 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies—use an applicant tracking system (ATS). Applicant tracking systems from companies like Jobvite and BambooHR help recruiters and HR teams stay organized by collecting all resumes, hiring activities, and candidate data in a central place.

But applicant tracking systems also use algorithms to assign rankings to candidates, displaying the most qualified candidates at the top of the list and the least qualified at the bottom.

Jobvite Hire
Applicant tracking systems use algorithms that scan resumes for indicators that candidates are qualified and automatically assign a rank or score to each application.

Few employers go through every application they receive, saving time by reviewing only those candidates either referred by existing employees or ranked highly by their ATS.

But applicant tracking systems aren't really new—they've been around for nearly 20 years. And while they do help recruiters minimize the number of applications they have to sift through, they're not perfect. Most just use basic keyword matching to rank candidates, meaning highly qualified candidates are sometimes passed over, while less-qualified candidates—but those who are more familiar with optimizing their resumes for the technology—can be elevated.

So recently, companies have turned to more emerging technologies to simplify candidate recruiting and screening: artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Here are a few examples:

  • Ideal uses AI and ML to identify commonalities—things like skills or experiences—between a company's highest-performing and/or longest-tenured employees. Then, it looks for those same skills/experiences in candidate resumes to provide a quality ranking that goes beyond the simple keyword matching of applicant tracking systems.

  • HireVue lets employers pre-screen candidates with automated video interviews. Candidates play short games and answer a series of questions. Then, HireVue uses AI and ML to analyze language patterns, detect emotions, and measure cognitive abilities, helping employers determine which candidates are most likely to succeed in the role long-term.

  • Engage uses AI to analyze job descriptions, review the application materials for candidates who applied for roles previously but weren't hired, and surface qualified, passive candidates (people who didn't specifically apply for the role) that recruiters can then reach out to.

Engage features
Here's how Engage describes the features of its AI-powered recruiting technology.

So what does all of this new technology mean for job seekers? Finding the perfect job is no longer a simple matter of searching job boards and submitting resumes.

In some cases, recruiters are using technology to do a first pass of resumes, meaning you can be removed from consideration by an algorithm without ever being considered by a human. In others, recruiters are bypassing the process of posting jobs and reviewing resumes altogether in favor of using technology to find qualified candidates who never even applied for open roles.

In good news, with the right job search techniques, you can cater to these new technologies, giving yourself a better chance at getting your resume in front of the people who make hiring decisions at the companies you want to work for.

4 Passive Job Search Strategies for the Age of AI

Maybe you're one of 45% of people who aren't actively looking for work but are open to job offers. Even if you don't consider yourself part of this group, it's important to partake in the passive job search process. That way, your name is out there and you're a step ahead when you decide to make a change.

1. Keep your profiles on career-focused sites up-to-date

LinkedIn update experience form

It's crucial to keep your profile on professional networking sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and AngelList up to date. Why? Technology companies like Fetcher "aggregate candidate information across the most valuable professional and social networks"—i.e., they use publicly available data from career-focused sites to help employers find passive candidates. So if you think you'd like to consider offers from companies—even if you're not actively looking for work—take time to update your professional profiles regularly.

2. Add your resume to the ATS for companies you want to work for

Any job by Lever
Add your application to a company's applicant tracking system by applying for a generic job listing, if possible.

Some companies let you add your data to their applicant tracking systems—even if you're not applying for an open role—by having you apply for an "Any" position. An "Any" position (see the example in the image above) is just a placeholder job that employers use to collect the resumes of individuals who are interested in working for the company.

If you want to work for a specific company but don't see a job you're interested in/qualified for on its careers page, look to see if they have an "Any" position listed.

Applying for an "Any" position is technically applying for nothing. However, by adding your resume and contact information to the company's ATS, there's a chance that the ATS will surface your application for consideration for future roles even if you don't actively apply for newly opened positions.

3. Accept invitations to talent pools

Final Stage invite request
If you've made it to the last stage of the hiring process with a company that uses Final Stage, you can request an invite to its talent pool even if you didn't receive one from the employer.

Some recruiting technology companies focus on aggregating data from professional networking sites. Some focus on surfacing talent among candidates who've applied to a specific company but weren't hired. And others are focused on creating pools of vetted talent to share high-quality candidates with other prospective employers.

For example, Final Stage lets employers add candidates to its talent pool who were passed on for roles at other companies. Basically, getting invited to the talent pool is an employer's way of saying "This person wasn't perfect for our role, but they would be a great addition to any company looking for talent."

Getting an email notifying you that you didn't get a job you were excited about is disappointing, but if the email includes an invitation to join a talent pool, take advantage of it. It may get you in front of other great employers without ever having to apply, saving you time and helping you find a great job without all of the searching and cover-letter writing.

4. Add your resume to the databases for recruiting tools

create a profile on Hired

If you really want to up your passive job search game, add your resume to the databases for popular recruiting technology tools. Sure, it takes time and requires a lot of effort to create profiles on each tool and add your resume, but in the end, it's probably not as time-consuming as searching for roles you're interested in and applying for each individually.

Here are a few recruiting tech tools that allow candidates to create job seeker profiles:

Optimize Your Resume and Profiles for Machines

It's difficult to know when your resume will be vetted by an ATS's algorithm before landing on the desk of a hiring manager, so it's best to just assume it will and optimize accordingly.

Essentially, these algorithms identify keywords in the job description and see if those words—or synonyms of those words—appear in your resume. For example, say that one of the listed job requirements is a bachelor's degree. The algorithm will likely look for words like "bachelor's degree," "bachelor of science," or "BA" on all submitted resumes, scoring those that include some variation of "bachelor's degree" higher than those that don't.

When applying for a job, it's good to review the requirements and make sure that you've included some statement on your resume that speaks to how to meet each requirement. If you can't find a place to fit it in naturally, you can always add a "Summary of Professional Qualifications" section at the top of your resume that you customize for each job you apply for:

summary of professional qualifications
Here's a screenshot of an old resume of mine where I included a Summary of Professional Qualifications section.

Keywords are important for a passive job search, too. Many recruiters search for candidates on sites like LinkedIn, and in order to show up in search results, you need to include the words and phrases these recruiters might be searching for in your profile. Just make sure not to resort to keyword stuffing (i.e., repeating the same words and phrases over and over again). Remember: If you make it past the machines, a real person gets your resume at the other end. A keyword-stuffed resume is unlikely to make a great impression.

You can also use a tool like Jobscan to help when updating your resume and profile for robots and algorithms. Simply paste your resume and a job description into Jobscan's tool, and it produces a report showing how well your resume matches the job description. You can also connect your LinkedIn profile to get tips on how to optimize it for your passive job search.

Jobscan report
Jobscan uses ATS technology to score how well your resume meets the requirements stated in a job description.

Jobscan Price: Free for resume scanning and optimization reports; from $49.95/month for the Monthly plan that includes unlimited LinkedIn profile scans.

Strategies for Finding Work in Specific Roles and Companies

The tips above will help you take advantage of employers using ATSs and AI-powered tools, but not every company uses those systems. For that reason, some of the old techniques are still necessary when searching for jobs. Use these tools and tactics to take your job search to the next level.

1. Search Google like a pro

searching for jobs on Google

Not every company pays to post their open roles to sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, or Glassdoor. If they have enough interest from qualified candidates, some only list open roles on the careers pages of their websites.

You can uncover these opportunities, but you'll have a hard time doing so if you're only conducting general Google searches. Instead, use Google search operators to narrow the results. Google search operators let you do things like:

  • Remove postings from sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor from your results
  • Restrict results to show only those posted or updated in the last day, week, or month
  • Show only results posted to sites with an .edu or .gov domain

To learn how to use Google for finding unadvertised jobs, check out our piece on finding the perfect job with Google search operators.

2. Take advantage of niche job boards

AngelList jobs

If you're looking for a specific type of job or want to work for a specific type of company, you may be better off checking smaller, niche job boards than poring over the hodgepodge of positions on sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or Indeed. Here are a few of the more popular niche job board sites for specific careers and interests:

If the niche you're looking for doesn't appear in the list above, it's easy enough to find potential sites that cater to your industry by Googling "[job/industry] job boards" (e.g., human resources job boards). Google will surface the most relevant results. Be sure to take a few minutes to make sure the site seems legitimate before you upload your resume.

Look to see if there's a fee for employers to post jobs on the site. If they charge for posting jobs, there will likely be fewer scam/spam posts. Also, make sure people post jobs to the site somewhat regularly. Like all things online, sites go in and out of favor, and it's possible that Google will direct you to a site that people aren't using as much anymore.

3. Bookmark the careers pages of companies you want to work for

Chrome bookmarks
Right-click any bookmarks folder in Chrome, and you get an option to open all of the bookmarked pages in a single click.

If your goal is to work for a specific company you adore, consider creating a bookmark folder in your browser and adding the career pages of the companies you're interested in. Then, once a week/month—depending on how often that company posts new roles—open all of your bookmarked pages and scan them for jobs you might want to apply for.

Automate Your Job Search

Looking for a new job and keeping your resume and profiles updated are time-consuming tasks. By automating parts of your job search process, you can reduce the effort required. Here are a few ways Zapier can make your job search less labor intensive.

  • If AngelList is your favorite place to look for jobs, create an RSS feed of new AngelList job postings and get an entry in your favorite RSS reader app any time a new job is posted to the site.
  • Want to work for Zapier? Use a Zap to email you whenever there's a new opening.
  • Activity is one of the factors LinkedIn considers when determining in what order profiles are displayed in its search results. If you have a WordPress blog and want to keep your LinkedIn profile fresh, use this Zap to automatically post updates to LinkedIn when you publish a new blog post.
  • Need to set up reminders to check the careers pages for your favorite companies every week or update your LinkedIn or AngelList profile every quarter? Use the Zaps below to have Zapier send a reminder to your preferred to-do app when it's time to perform the task.

By understanding the role technology plays in modern recruiting, you'll be in a better position to get job offers even when you're not actively looking for work—and to get your resume in front of a real person when you're on the hunt for a new job.

It's a beast to update your LinkedIn profile after neglecting it for years, but it's easy to make small tweaks when you make time for it every few months. And once you start adding a "Summary of Professional Qualifications" section to your resume every time you apply for a job, you'll eventually end up with a long selection of bullet points you can copy and paste as needed.

And in the end, the time you put into these tasks is well worth it if it helps you find your dream job, get hired by a company you love, or take the next step in your career.

Hiring sign by geralt via Pixabay. Jobvite Hire screenshot via Jobvite.

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