Someone recently posed this question in an on-line discussion board: How can a job seeker overcome legitimate employment gaps (company closed, one left job to take care of ill parent, etc.) that will cause resumes to be weeded out by algorithms before a real person can even look at your application? How can you get to to a human being to share your real story?
My reply: You have to use all the tricks in the book in order to get your story to the hiring manager! That’s where you can make an impression and overcome the “questionables” that may portray your resume or application in a negative light. These days, it is common for computer algorithms to filter out from further review any resume that is less than perfect; that is, where there are any gaps in employment, even legitimate ones. How do you get to the hiring supervisor to be sure your resume gets by the algorithm approval process and on human review for the interview stage?
Most companies have public directories where you can find names of staff. Find ways to contact administrative assistants who can give you information about who the hiring manager is for a department you suspect has advertised the job and who have the power to get you through to that person. You don’t have to say you are a job seeker. You can say you have information for that person, met him/her briefly last week at a public event, etc. (but make sure what you say is not an out-and-out lie). You can also “play dumb”, as in “I need help, please; I have to send correspondence to someone in charge of the marketing (or other) department, and I don’t know who to sent it to. Can you help me?” And network, network, network. Do your homework and meet people who can help you meet other people, especially the right people. If you do so successfully, you might be able to say to the administrative assistant, for example, “Bill Nelson, a former colleague, suggested that I call.” This often works to get you through to the hiring supervisor. The age-old method of name-dropping can have a positive effect here, and it can be effective through email, also.
Join professional organizations where you will meet those with hiring power. Use LinkedIn for that as well. Volunteer for community events where you can meet event’s corporate sponsors. Visiting the work site in-person (when feasible) and talking to people there can provide opportunities to gather information, and possibly meet others who can help you connect with the hiring manager. Try to uncover the needs the organization has and then promote your talents at being able to solve those needs. Stay away from Human Resources (sorry HR professionals) who often don’t know enough about the real needs of the position or have a real stake in the day-to-day operations of a particular department. Your goal is to speak to the person directly in-charge of making the hiring decision so you can share your story. If you can reach the hiring person, he/she may be able to pull your application or resume from the algorithm villain and give it a personal review. Hopefully, that will get you passed on to the next step–an interview!