The Newest Secret in Job Hunting

Dear HRart Worker,

Job hunting is mentally and physically exhausting. 

In the beginning stages of job hunting, the goal for any candidate is to find the company and position that aligns with their values. Although, the longer one stays within the cycle of job searching, it has harmful effects on one’s mental health. To try to prevent oneself from staying as an active candidate for too long, there are a couple tips and tricks that some use to land positions. 

I have seen and experienced the negative effects of the job search process. The longer I looked, the more desperate I became. In a study conducted by Gallup, long-term unemployment may cause depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. I watched as my self-worth started to disintegrate based on the preconceived notion that I can only be happy with a full-time job. Looking back now, I find it ridiculous that I thought this way. But at that time, it felt like survival. 

When I was job hunting, friends, family, peers, and past co-workers would share their personal tips to nailing a position. Connecting about the same unemployment difficulties allowed us to lift each other up. From these relationships, I discovered some practices people use to “trick” their way into a position. That is what I am here to share with you. 

The Newest Secret in Job Hunting

The biggest trick I found that many applicants used was how they format their resume. In other words, candidates are finding new ways to beat the resume-filtering applicant tracking system (ATS). Some websites, like this CIO article, suggest applicants keep their resume simple. This means no fun fonts or headers. The system won’t be able to pick up the applicant’s information if it is a visual. In terms of what to include in one resume, this LinkedIn article states that a candidate should tailor their resume to the job description. 

Candidates are taking this last suggestion quite literally. Instead of editing their resume to fit the position, candidates are inserting the entire job description into the background of their resume. With the job description as the same color as the background, the recruiter will not be able to see it but the ATS will. This will create a higher chance for the candidate to be pulled from the candidate pool. 

My first thought when I heard this was, “I need to do this”. From being on both ends as a recruiter and an applicant, I was impressed. It is an easy and straightforward trick that is not too time consuming, though I do see the harm if every candidate uses this trick. It will defeat the purpose of using an ATS system. 

Although, having a system that can filter through applicants can pass on potential talent. As stated above, if formatting is off in an applicant’s resume, the ATS system will look over information entirely. Some educational institutions provide guidelines for students on how to make an ATS-friendly resume. Busier resume formatting only increases the chances to be rejected from the interview process even before the applicant has a chance. Some people do not like having a computer determining their worth. 

Should applicants be using this trick?

Before anyone gets any ideas, no one should practice this trick. If an applicant gets past the ATS system by putting the job description in white text, a recruiter will be reviewing the applicant’s information as well. It will only take a couple clicks for the recruiter to notice a text-box behind the applicant’s resume. The recruiter would not read the application and it might hinder any chances to apply to the company within the future.

ATS systems can be frustrating but they have a purpose. The system was made to help recruiters easily weed out applicants that do not qualify for the position. The faster applicants can be interviewed, the faster applications can receive updates about the status of the application. As stated in the CIO article above, the fastest way for applicants to progress through the ATS system and recruiter is to tailor one’s resume to the position. Tailoring a resume is a time-consuming process but it is an ethical method that can sustain respect in the company. Job hunting is emotionally draining but applicants should not give themselves a reason to be removed from a job application. 

How do you feel about candidates using this trick while job searching? How do you feel about companies using ATS systems? 

If you are on the hunt for a new job, take care of yourself and good luck on your search!


Grace (she/her/hers) 

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