Job Search Tactics: What to Do When Your White Crayon Needs New Batteries?
Job Search Tactics: What to Do When Your White Crayon Needs New Batteries?
When my son was a toddler, I recall a time when he was coloring with a box of many crayons on a large white piece of construction paper - like one of those 128-crayon boxes.

These expansive boxes of crayons made me giddy as a kid (I digress).

There he was... Scribbling and drawing, creating his next refrigerator-bound masterpiece, when he looks up and says to me, "Needs batteries" while holding up the white crayon.

He repeated "Mom, the white crayon needs batteries."

Took me a minute... Toddler-logic-translation led me to believe, the white crayon was not working on the white paper so it must need batteries, of course.

Toddlers are cute in how they think, eh?

I was reminded of this story last week when I was asked by a few job seekers if stuffing your resume with keywords in white font is an effective way to get a resume past an applicant tracking system (ATS).

I shook my head in frustration.

Stuffing your resume with white font keywords was a tactic used in late 1990's and early 2000's to have a resume come up in a search in job board databases without the keywords being seen in the document - because they were white (think 

This logic isn't so cute with adults on a serious mission to find their next job.

Why doesn't it work now? (It really didn't work back then either).

The character, regardless of the font color, shows up in the resume as a piece of data.

The white color doesn't prevent the data imprint showing up when imported into a database.

The recruiter will see all of the stuffed in keywords. The resume looks ridiculous.

When viewing this type of keyword-stuffed resume, the recruiter/hiring manager thinks "Oh, this guy was thinking he was slick in populating his resume with all the keywords. Let's see if he put in as much effort into the content and if he seems as good at his job as he is at trying to game the system."

How do I know they will think this? I was a recruiter for 13 years and anytime I saw antics to game the system to put a resume in front of me, this is what I thought.

What would often happen is the resume content wasn't very good.

The resume did not clearly state how the person was qualified or that they could do the job.

But they had that resume gamed to get in front of the recruiter. Check.

Instead of writing good content and reaching out to people, their efforts were focused on the wrong solution.

My son was focused on the wrong solution to get the white crayon to show up.

He would have had to change the color of the paper to get the white crayon to show up, instead of asking for a battery.

Job seekers need to use the right solution to get their resume in front of the hiring manager. Stop trying to game the system to get a human to read the resume.

Write a good-content resume for a human eye.

And then reach out to a human.