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Career Conversations - Eric Hernandez

Presented by the Career Management Center at Stuart School of Business

Navigating Your Way Through an Employer’s Applicant Tracking System

Eric Hernandez

By Eric Hernandez, Customer Success Manager, CareerBuilder

Have you ever sent an online application or submitted your resume to a potential employer and have the sense it fell into a black hole? The biggest barrier to overcome in a job search may be to navigate your resume through an organization’s applicant tracking system and get the opportunity to meet a potential employer face to face to share your skills in person. Your application and resume are unlikely to be read by a recruiter until you pass through the multiple levels of technical “knock out questions.”

As a consultant recruiter for many years, and now at CareerBuilder as a customer success manager (CSM) working alongside corporate human resources partners on their applicant tracking systems, I have gathered some tips to help you navigate your application through these hurdles so that your resume is read by a human. Having the opportunity to explain our skills in person is the stepping stone we all need.

Be Prepared Before You Apply
  • Have your resume, cover letter, contact information, and calendar ready. Each online application is different and can take time to complete.
  • Be very careful to double check and track everything so you can follow up without mixing up various positions you have applied for.
  • Make sure everything is perfect, including spelling and grammar. There are online platforms that can help you check that.
Using Web Crawler Sites

While it is best to apply directly to a company website, you can also use a reputable job board or job search engine, but be aware of privacy policies.

Thousands of job boards claim to be the best in the employment field or type of job they cover. However, most of those job sites are just looking to collect your email address and showcase their ROI figures to employers. Your application and email address are merely metrics for those sites, and into the black hole your application goes unless you do what you can to bring your application to the top of the list.

What You Need to Know About SAAS Platforms

Most employers likely are using software as a service, or SaaS, platforms run by third parties to manage their employment sites and applicant tracking systems. The goal of the vendor running the SaaS platform is to make life easier for the recruiting or HR teams at their client companies, and as a result your path to applying for jobs can be longer and more difficult.

For example, some employers want the application process on their online platforms to be lengthy by design, which is their first line of defense to weed out candidates who are just applying to random jobs.

Most platforms have automated “knock out” questions and software that auto-reads resumes, using “matching filters” to select applications and resumes to send to HR and recruiters within the company.

Top Tips for Getting Through SaaS Platforms

Use the exact keywords—that is, words used within the job description that talk about the skills and attributes the company is seeking in applicants—in your resume, cover letter, and application, so you will make it through the SaaS screening process.

Personalize: If you have the ability to submit a cover letter or if there is a place in the application to describe your soft skills, keep it short and personal. You are essentially submitting your skills in an “elevator pitch” for a recruiter to read and your goal is to keep the reader engaged in your story.

Use Job Sites to Your Long-term Advantage

Even as you are in the middle of your current job search, think ahead. The majority of employment sites have external auto re-engagement emails or newsletters that go out to potential candidates. Join these sites to make sure you are aware of new opportunities when they open up throughout your career.


Eric Hernandez spent eight years working for a private staffing company as an account manager and lead recruiter. As a first generation immigrant, he has a passion to mentor young professionals to find their career path. With his strong network of financial institutions, Eric excels at guiding new graduates into their first employment opportunity. Currently, he is at CareerBuilder as a customer success manager, working enthusiastically with high-profile clients optimizing and automating their business processes. When he is not working, you can catch Eric cheering on his favorite team, the Chicago Cubs. 

Posted November 25, 2020

Career Conversations is presented by the Stuart School of Business Career Management Center.

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