Taleo is a major player in the applicant tracking system market. To recall – applicant tracking systems (ATS) are used by the majority of employers to handle job postings and the related application process. ATS systems are supposed to help streamlining the application process by collecting the applicant information (incl. a resume) and then by grading (or better: assigning a score to) each applicant/application. The goal is to filter out candidates that are not a good match for the open position and to speed up the interview and hiring process by playing gatekeeper and only letting “good” candidates/applications hit the recruiters desk.
And as you probably know – that is not working out too well for the average job seeker. Reports on the Internet have it that ATS systems reject about 75% of all applicants – including some of those suited best for the position they applied for. And specifically talking about Taleo – Taleo has the reputation of being a black hole for job applicants – meaning you put your application in and then it disappears forever.
The problem is often how these ATS systems read the resume of the applicant, how they extract the important information, and then come up with a grade or a score for each individual applicant. As mentioned – the chances are stacked against job candidates because the systems are far from being fool-proof and not the best candidates make it to the interview, but the most lucky ones.
Now, if you think about it – employers are paying a ton of money for these applicant tracking systems and they are not really getting a good return for their money if the best candidates are weeded out before the interview process has even started.
Now about my own experience with ATS systems. Over time I have applied for many open positions and I have to admit that sometimes I was really wondering if my resume was the issue with me not getting any type of response and it probably was. Not because that my resume would suck, but because of the algorithms used by applicant tracking systems and how they grade an applicant.
After talking to a friend at work I was shocked to hear that he had sent out dozens of applications and did not get a single interview from these applications. Now mind you – I consider him extremely skilled with what he does and I would say he is a real asset to the company. He knows his stuff, he is motivated, and he is dedicated. He also has a masters degree and a lot of industry experience. He had hired someone to have his resume written, but the results were simply disappointing for him. I looked at his resume and pointed out a few things I would change, but it also got me thinking about my own resume and application success.
Yes, I had gotten some job interviews and even some job offers, but considering how many applications I had sent out – the percentage of success was probably in the low single digits (side note: however, I know that I am trying to move up in my career and I am applying for positions one or two levels above where I am and I expect a higher “failure” rate accordingly). So, I went and researched which ATS systems my resume worked great with or not so great with.
I had to discover that I applied for a lot of jobs at companies that were using the Taleo ATS software and while I had some success being contacted by companies using Taleo, the majority of my applications did not get anything in return – even though I feel that my qualifications, expertise, and skills would have been a great match for those positions. No email, no phone calls, no interviews, and of course no job offers. That got me angry and so I decided to crack the Taleo ATS code and see if I could get a version of my resume to perform better in Taleo environments.
Sure, there will always be the unknown factor that depends on what the individual recruiter has configured as matching criteria for what the company is looking for in a candidate. However, if the ATS system has already problems importing my resume to pre-populate my personal data and my work history into the right fields, then how can I expect it to properly score/grade my application?!
The attached Microsoft Word document is the result of many hours of work fine-tuning my resume and testing it against Taleo by submitting applications and then starting the application process (before cancelling out my application at the end). Don’t laugh – submitting and cancelling your application over and over again is not necessarily how you want spend a Saturday afternoon. However, this version of my resume is consistently showing success when being imported into Taleo. When you submit your application in Taleo, it will import your personal information and your work history and then have you review it. As mentioned before, Taleo used to fail to properly import my resume already at those steps, but now I am consistently seeing good results when reviewing my personal information and my work history on Taleo.
This new, Taleo-optimized resume is not necessarily my preferred resume style, but I guess something has to give. Overall it still looks decent enough when printed out and that is important, too. If your resume and application makes it past the automated gatekeeper, a human being will review your application and look at your resume. If the result would be sub-par (aka shitty) this would not do you any good.
I tested this in Taleo by importaing my resume as PDF and .doc file (PDF – Adobe Reader format – DOC = Microsoft Word). I also tried the newer Microsoft Word .docx format, but something changes inside the document and I had less space to use per page compared to the older .doc formart. I ran this many many times through different Taleo websites and would rate the attached template as a 9 out of 10 success. Success defined as Taleo’s system pulled in all the information and used it correctly to show my personal information (address, name, phone, email address), job history/work experience, job title, time at job, and education. I now usually do submit the .doc version my resume on Taleo, but not necessarily on other websites. PDF is what I prefer to use whenever possible, but again – Taleo (unfortunately) makes the rules and based on my tests importing my resume as a PDF file did not deliver the best results.
My thought process is that if the system can properly import and pre-fill the information for the personal information section, work history section, and education section, then chances are pretty high that the backend rating system can identify keywords as well and eventually assign a good grade/score to my application.
The job title near the top is the title of the open position (the one you are applying for) – so, adjust it as you go. I believe it gets seen as a keyword match by the system. Don’t stuff too many keywords randomly – rather embed them in text sentences.
Important: Do not just copy and paste the contents from your existing resume into this one if you decide to use this optimized version. Copy and paste the text into notepad first. Notepad is a plain text editor and will strip out some of the hidden stuff that Microsoft Word embedds into Word documents. Then either paste it from there (Notepad) or even type the text by hand. I only copied content from Notepad into the first bullet point (where applicable), hit enter to create a new bullet point and then pasted the next portion of text – then repeating this step again and again. Initially I had “problems” with Taleo properly recognizing my info when simply replacing bullet points one by one. I rather deleted the unneeded bullet points at the end. Leave the “time at job” dates formatted as they are – the current format worked best for the imports. Do not use more than 2 columns of bullet points and don’t use any custom type of bullet points – just stick with the defaults Microsoft Word has to offer. Have your most important education on the top (under Education of course – not the top of your resume) if you list more than one under education. I never had success getting my certifications imported.
Test. Test. Test.: Test your new resume at a Taleo website. I used this one quite a bit: https://www.cognizant.com/careers as I was told that I never ever should work for that company. At the very end make sure to “Quit” so that the system discards your application. Every 5 tries you need to rename the file name of your resume, but I use numbers in my file names anyway so that I know what version I am working with.
Taleo trips of different terms in your resume and you can only identify those when testing out the import. As an example, I had the term “Subject Matter Expert” embedded in text inside a work experience – Taleo decided to start a new work experience and as a result things were totally messed up from there. Other things Taleo tripped over were custom bullets, words that could be considered job titles (subject matter expert – replace it with SME), and unknown colleges or universities. There were other terms as well, but you might have to test how it works with your specific version of your resume.
So, before you get started optimizing your resume please keep in mind that this is just “half the rent”. Each job listing recruiter can and needs to configure specific skills and requirements that Taleo needs to find in each submitted resume and application. If your resume does not have a good match to offer or if the recruiter did a sloppy job defining the requirements, then your resume will still not make it through the system. In addition, there is the hidden sauce – the Taleo algorithm. This algorithm determines who is worthy to make it to the recruiters inbox. We as job applicants can only do so much and therefore it is very important to a) optimize your resume for Taleo, but b) to also customize your resume for each job application.
Download Taleop Optimized Resume