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August 3, 2015 8:21 AM   Subscribe

Why in God's name, in 2015, do recruiting websites still insist that you cut-and-paste the resume you just spent dozens of hours format-tweaking into a web page that changes / strips my hard-won formatting perfection? Why can't I just upload a Word or PDF or even RTF file, the file formats everyone in the rest of the known universe uses?

Is there some legitimate reason for this, or is it just indifference / ignorance? Any HR / web dev insiders who can shed some light on this?
posted by ZenMasterThis to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I was told that when you're doing the cut-n-paste (as opposed to attaching a file) the resume will be scanned "by a computer" for key words - and "the computer" doesn't care what your formatting looks like.
posted by VioletU at 8:23 AM on August 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Few people probably care your hard- won formatting and just want the information.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:23 AM on August 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yeah, because the CVs will be parsed so that they can be searched, and many want you to do the hard job of pre-parsing into fields, i.e. saying that this is a job title, this is a company, etc, because machines don't always get it right. The funny thing is that I have received thousands of emails from these sites, and recruiters always make a really basic keyword search that would have been just as good from a raw CV upload.
posted by Spanner Nic at 8:30 AM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Because they're storing it in a database in specific ways to make it searchable.

Scraping a formatted file to do that - when there's not a standardized format - is hard.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:30 AM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Correct. in these kinds of applications, your focus should be that your phrasing hits the looked-for keywords (which you can figure out from the job description) especially in the essential information section, just you'll make it past the shortlist.
posted by cendawanita at 8:31 AM on August 3, 2015

Response by poster: In the present case (Krazoom.com), the website makes you paste your entire resume into a single box, so I don't think the scraping / parsing answer applies here. It then changes line spacing, font type and size, indents (some more than others, unlike in my resume), etc. And for a C-level position!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:36 AM on August 3, 2015

They want you to apply for their job. They want everything to be parsed and sorted automatically. They don't want to have to try to interpret (manually or automatically) every line of your CV to see where it fits into their job description. They don't care how pretty your CV looks.

There should be a standard CV/resume form that everyone uses for every job from cashier to CEO -- Job title, Job description - short, Job description - long., etc. -- but there isn't.
posted by pracowity at 8:36 AM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Most big HR/ATS (Applicant Tracking System) setups do actually scrape for keywords. You're going into a big pool of candidates and being fished for by specific words (often software package names, management methodologies like Agile or Lean, specific qualities or employer names) by HR teams.

A carefully formatted Word or PDF file is a massive programmatical pain in the arse to successfully parse and filter. It's far easier to make the candidate do the work by copying and pasting the CV into a little box. In most big systems like this, no human will ever see your CV, at least until you're interviewing.

Which is why you should have a text format version of your CV around. And also why applying through massive ATSs is a mug's game.
posted by Happy Dave at 8:43 AM on August 3, 2015

The bitter part of me assumes it's one more hoop to jump through, to weed out the candidates who are too lazy (e.g., me). If you reaallyyyy wanted the job you'd be glad to fill out 100 forms!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 8:48 AM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I also hate this with a firery loathing. I assume my resume goes in the trash and these places are really only hiring through contacts of current employees. I give the text box formatting as much effort & consideration as the company has shown me, the applicant (i.e. very little). But I stuff my text box resume full of scannable buzzwords all the same.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:11 AM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) systems are a nightmare, every one of them. Their harm - beyond just the applicants' frustration - has been demonstrated in multiple studies; ATS filters have been shown to consistently reject resumes of company's own best employees and/or resumes created to contain the most ideal job qualifications, and ATS web forms have been shown to deter applicants who abandon their job application as soon as they recognize the ATS software.

The reason companies use ATS is the internet. Email lowered the cost of submission to the near-free point, resulting in HR departments being flooded with resumes. I've co-hired for a variety of roles at businesses ranging from tiny startups to large corporations and I've witnessed firsthand what happens when you advertise a job, any job, without a filtering system in place. Forget the human cost of evaluating the resumes... the sheer number of submissions will overload your email system so your entire business will come to a halt. It's truly crushing.

So ATS systems are really "gate-keeper" software that's crappy by design because at the end of the day it's a bunch of computer code that predictably fails at solving the inherently human problem of evaluating other humans. It sucks but there it is. It'll drive you bonkers until you give up the notion that it's resume processing software and think of it as gate-keeper software that matches keywords to internal job descriptions instead. You just need to accept that the times have changed and you now need two "resumes" - a human-readable traditional resume, and a hybrid machine/human-readable keyword-rich version (that you will need to tailor to each job description).

Good luck on your job search.
posted by rada at 9:46 AM on August 3, 2015 [21 favorites]

Best answer: It's super stupid, but formatting actually does matter when you're asked to do this. There are specific ways to optimize your resume to be text only so automated programs can ID if you're a candidate. Most of the time the programs doing the evaluating make a lot of mistakes, but since I started following these formatting rules I've had better luck getting my resume noticed. YMMV.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:49 AM on August 3, 2015 [16 favorites]

Ha, wait until some helpful recruiter strips your name off and puts his/her name and their logo on it and then sends a really bad xerox to the hiring managers because you are a "very good candidate".
posted by Gungho at 12:33 PM on August 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ugh. I hate this with a passion. Special hatred for ATS systems where you have to upload your resume, then retype everything on the resume into the online application and add in complete contact information for your supervisor, starting and ending salary, and reason for leaving for every single job.

See also Ask A Manager on this topic.
posted by SisterHavana at 3:00 PM on August 3, 2015

Best answer: I simply don't apply to those jobs anymore. I have never gotten an interview for any job that required me to jump through the ATS hoops, so I just don't do it anymore. If I can't email the hiring manager or CEO I don't want to work there.
posted by COD at 4:44 PM on August 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

We have an ATS system, but I don't use the scoring or keyword system at all and ours lets us look at the resume directly. However, if I had a dollar for every resume where the hard won formatting did not come through properly...I'd have a decent number of dollars.
posted by vunder at 7:35 PM on August 3, 2015

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