The Hiring Funnel

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A Look Behind the Curtain

You spent hours putting your resume and cover letter together and just hit send. Fingers crossed that you’ll hear back on that application, right? Unfortunately, the odds aren’t in your favor. But, there’s something you can do about it.


Here’s what’s going on.  For every job posted online, over 1,000 people will see it. Roughly 200-500 people apply to each job posting. With all that a recruiter or hiring manager is responsible for in a day, such as meetings, interviews, preparation, and research, it’s almost impossible for them to read each application. They usually rely on the Applicant Tracking System to rank candidates and they’ll reach out to the top-ranked candidate.  


So, how many applicants get interviews? Well, over 75% of the applicants get filtered out by an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), a software application that enables the electronic handling of recruitment and hiring needs. Of these, only a few get reviewed by the recruiter before being screened out.

After that, only about 25 resumes are sent to the hiring manager who then only gives about 10-15 phone interviews. If you do well on the phone interview, then you are one of the 4-6 candidates who get in-person interviews. And, of course, only one person gets the job. It’s clear that the hardest part of the process is getting past the ATS. That’s why having an ATS-friendly resume is so important. The positive of a system, however, is that it’s programmed, so with just a little formatting, editing, and strategic use of keywords, most resumes can make it to a human being (assuming you are, in fact, a fit).


These systems are programmed to act like a recruiter’s eyes. That means they're going to be looking for what most recruiters are looking for. Recruiters care about 4 things on your resume - your contact information (phone, email, and Linkedin), your education, your two most recent jobs, and the skills you have. Recruiters only see your resume if the ATS, which works as a resume scanner, ranks you near the top of all the applicants. The way the ATS ranks resumes is by calculating and comparing resume content to the desired job description. A high ranking means that your resume matched well with the job posting, usually through a score out of 100. A low ranking doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not a great fit for the job, it means that the ATS didn’t like the resume, couldn’t read the resume due to font or format, or you may have used different words than what the ATS was looking for. That’s because a good-looking resume isn’t a functional resume.


It might seem trivial but the first thing you need to check is the file type you are using. ATS’ have a far easier time extrapolating data from a Word as opposed to a PDF document, and is one of the fastest ways to get your resume higher on the list. The next thing to consider is how easy to understand your resume is. Having a lot of different colors or fonts can make a bland document stand out, but it’ll most likely get your resume sent to the bottom of the pile. This is because the ATS has trouble interpreting what’s on your resume when there are too many different shades or fonts in play, so focus on keeping it simple. A few fonts that ATS’ love include Cambria, Calibri, Arial, or Times New Roman at around 10-12 points for the size. When it comes to the layout, have each section stacked above the other instead of the pop art feel a lot of people use in their resumes. Your resume should be able to make it up on the list, but you still might not make the top 25. Now it's time to go over some tricks on how to “beat the system”.

1. Tailor Your Resume

Before sending in a resume for any job, make sure you tailor it to the job posting. Carefully go over the job description to see their job skills list so you can use them in your application. Beyond this, PathMatch can help you narrow down the skills you need for each career path and get the training you need.

2. Use long-form and the acronym for keywords

You want to have the maximum results for your resume, so if you have a “Masters in Business Administration” make sure to put (MBA) right after. By using both formats in your resume it will have maximum searchability, pushing you higher in the ranks.

3. Reverse chronological format

Always start with your most recent position and move backwards. Companies want current information about your work experience and skills so put those positions where they can easily see them.

4. Standardize your section headings

Back to one of the main points, keep it simple. The parser (how the ATS reads your resume) is programmed to the industry standards, using headings like “Work Experience” or “Skills” to keep it functional.  

5. No tables or columns

Listing off your technical skills resume in a table or column can lead to a parsing error in the system, resulting in your resume being rejected without you knowing.

6. No headers or footers

The information might get lost or cause a parsing error.

7. Please no photos

Recruiters will go to your Linkedin profile anyway and the image can throw off the ATS parsing.

8. Save your file as a .doc

Formats like .docx can often give ATS problems

9. How to name your resume

This makes it easily searchable in the ATS and also more professional.

10. Dates

05/2019–08/2019 and May 2019 – August 2019 parse correctly, but 05/19–08/19 and May ‘19–August ‘19 do not.

How Can PathMatch Help?
PathMatch helps students connect with modern career paths uniquely matched to their strengths, interests, goals, and personality. PathMatch has helped thousands of students and grads improve their resumes to get through Applicant Tracking Systems and in front of Recruiters and Hiring Managers through our Resume Optimization Playbook, a tell-all guide created by a former recruiter and free with all our available plans. We're here for you every step of the way, from resume optimization to skill building to interview prep. We've got you.

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