To pin down the case let´s put two examples of big companies: Amazon and Google. They both have job offers posted online but they probably receive thousands of applications daily.

I imagine that there are some preliminary, automated filters to avoid reading all of them. I guess they probably look for certain key words, or something similar. I am just wondering here, and would appreciate the confirmation of someone with experience as a recruiter on a company like this.

My point is, even if I have a decent curriculum, is it a waste of time to simply send it along with a cover letter for the position offered without any inside contact on the company? If it is not, which is the best way to ensure your resume and cover letter arrive to the hands of someone capable to understand your technical accomplishments rather than simply an HR agent?

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    If you don't have an inside contact it is out of your control. Have experience and use industry standard terms to describe that experience. Use careful words to describe your soft skill - design, architect, ...
    – paparazzo
    Apr 24, 2017 at 21:59
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    I literally found inside contact the best. If you don't your fed into a system that is based on key words and years. There is also a high likelihood you will be trying for a position that there is someone who has an inside contact on, so you don't make the cut either. Even if you get the interview a lot of times they are required to interview x number before they decide. It sucks, but at the same time weeds out a lot. I'd recommend trying to get to know someone from there to reference you and then apply with that reference. The higher up the better on references...
    – mutt
    Apr 24, 2017 at 22:27
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    really depends. Usually it's key word terms for the technologies targeted. It's likely they look for a number and year or certain duration. Some of them have humans review for those things first and just throw it out if it doesn't match up. Read the job description carefully and make sure you list the terminology listed and match up completely or are slightly above. The goal is to get an interview, if you can legitimately explain it in the interview, make sure you align your text to their goal. Again personal reference is going to be the best bet to be seen though.
    – mutt
    Apr 24, 2017 at 22:44
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    SO I worked at Facebook and Amazon. They get so many resumes, they can't handle it. Send in a resume to the default website and you'll just get lost. You're better off making contact with a recruiter and starting a conversation, then giving them your resume. (As an aside, I get an email from different Amazon recruiters about every 2 weeks, so they're definitely hiring). Apr 25, 2017 at 2:19
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    Best way, if feasible, would be a networking event. Go up to them start a conversation, hand them a resume and get their card. Reference the convo in your email to them. Look for any type of tech meet up they sponsor. Linked in works and they'll talk to you, but it's not as memorable. On linked in look for someone recruiting or paying jobs in the area you're interested in Apr 25, 2017 at 4:19

2 Answers 2


My point is, even if I have a decent curriculum, is it a waste of time to simply send it along with a cover letter for the position offered without any inside contact on the company? If it is not, which is the best way to ensure your resume+cover letter arrive to the hands of someone capable to understand your technical accomplishments rather than simply an HR agent?

It's not a waste of time to send in your resume, if you feel that you are qualified for the job posted (or for a potential job if one isn't specifically posted).

Unfortunately, there's no magic way to ensure you will get past an HR agent. But there are general techniques that give you a good chance

  • Have a killer resume. If your accomplishments match all the requirements for the position, you'll obviously have a better chance to make it past the first filter
  • Have a killer cover letter. Make sure your cover letter clearly explains why you will be a great fit for the particular job. Be enthusiastic and specific - tie in your background with the needs of the position. Avoid generalities (such as "I'm a really hard worker") that would apply to just about everyone
  • Drop names if you have them. If you have some connection with someone in the company that could influence the hiring manager positively, mention it in your cover letter
  • Make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes
  • Make sure your useage of all technical terms, acronyms, and abbreviations is correct. Don't fake it if you don't really know the terms
  • Don't overdo your accomplishments. Resume readers often balk when someone describes themselves as a world-changer when they really aren't. You don't want to be humble, and you do want to sell yourself, but don't go over the top
  • Get lucky. Sorry, there's no way around it. Sometimes you just have to apply for the right job at the right time to get chosen

Clearly if you could be referred by someone internally, that would be to your advantage. But that only happens occasionally. Make the most of whatever you have.

Some suggest finding a specific hiring manager's name and addressing the cover letter and resume directly to them as a way to bypass HR - sometimes using a special envelope or fancy paper. Some suggest sending attachments to an email directed to the hiring manager. I have not found either to be effective in any company where I've ever worked. When I was a hiring manager and I received a resume sent to me, I had to walk over and drop it off in HR anyway (or forward the email), so they could log it and enter it into the system. If anything, I always considered that a strike against the applicant for wasting my time.

Some suggest trying to game the filtering software by adding keywords (perhaps in the margins using a white font on a white background). In my experience, this may have been effective in the past, but isn't these days. The filtering system I have seen personally highlights the keywords. When a "hidden keyword" gets highlighted it makes you look foolish. Just include the words and acronyms that are appropriate and natural for your resume and you'll be better served, in my experience.

  • Thanks @Joe Strazzere. So, in your experience, all the resumes and cover letters are read by a human and there is no previous automatic filter? This is one of the steps I am more concerned of, since it seems a hurdle one can overcome if knows how these filters discard candidates.
    – A. Fenzry
    Apr 24, 2017 at 22:35
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    On the contrary, they almost certainly ARE run through an automatic filter and NOT all resumes will be read by a human being. Especially for big companies like Google. However, short of using industry-standard keywords in your resume and doing everything you can to align your resume with the specific job position being advertised, there's not really much you can do about that part.
    – Steve-O
    Apr 24, 2017 at 22:46

First, if your resume can't get past the automatic filter, one of three things is happening:

  • You have a poorly written resume.
  • You are not at all qualified for the position you have applied for.
  • You are not as well qualified as the other people applying.

In the first case, rewrite and try again. Concentrate on using the exact keywords that are in the job advertisement as long as you you genuinely have the experience they are looking for. For instance, if the the ad says C# then don't use the the term .Net, use C#. Yes we all know that C# is part of .Net but you need to be specific as you don't know what filters they are using but the ad gives you the best chance of guessing correctly.

More likely though you may not be ready for such a competitive environment. It is not enough to just graduate and meet minimum requirements. You need to have something that makes you stand out from the rest. You need an internship where you accomplished something (not just attended) or contributions to open source or a blog with well-written articles or experience speaking at conferences, attending code bootcamps, doing team coding competitions (extra points for winning!), etc. Look for the things which will distinguish you from other candidates and put in the work to do them.

To understand what I mean, if you are still in college, get together with your friends and review each others' resumes as if you were a hiring manager. Once you have read a bunch of resumes, you will realize that so many of them blend together and might have been written by the same person. These are the ones filtered out in the most competitive environments.

You have to be able to show that you have something the others don't have. The kicker is that you really have to have actually done that something. Putting in a few lines about something you don't actually know or did not do may get you past the resume screen, but it will be found out in the interview when they ask you to describe what you did in detail.

If you want to get into a competitive place you need to start working on getting the experiences you need at least two years in advance. You can't just look at this at the end of your senior year and think you can somehow magically make yourself competitive. You have to do extra all through your education to be truly competitive. Same with your early work experiences. If you want to get to a certain place, then you have to put in the time and effort to get what you need to be competitive. Accomplishments, not buzzwords, are what ultimately make you competitive.

Top tier places don't hire only straight out of school. If you don't get in this year, then work to do something in the next couple of years that makes your resume shine and then try again. This is not your only chance ever to go to work for these places. Nor are they necessarily the best places to work for what you want to do with your life. I have worked with people who have worked for these companies and found them ultimately unsatisfying and moved on to different challenges. No job or company is the right place for every possible person who can qualify to work there. So don't think you can't have a successful and interesting or challenging career unless you work in these places. You are not a failure if you don't work for Microsoft or Amazon.


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