The Secret to Getting Hired

I’ve never gotten a job by applying for a position through an Applicant Tracking System. Never. Ever.

The reality is most positions in organizations are filled around the ATS. Most organizations’ number one source will always be referrals. Then, depending on the organization, it’s a combination of job boards (CB, Monster, LinkedIn), Indeed, college campus strategies, other recruitment marketing strategies, etc. Some of these might come through the ATS, but it’s still a crapshoot for most organizations.

In many organizations, hiring managers are looking for the ever elusive “passive candidate.”  Talent Acquisition pros hate this, but it’s their reality. The first question a hiring manager usually asks is, “Where did you get this candidate from?” Great talent acquisition pros figure out great responses to this, because they know what’s coming next.

If you say, “They applied!” it’s almost an immediate negative to the hiring manager. They want to know why? Why are they looking? What’s wrong with their current job? Why did they leave their job?

It makes you want to scream, “MAYBE WE ARE JUST GREAT AND THEY WANT TO WORK HERE!” but you know that will just make the hiring manager fall over with laughter!

The secret to getting hired at a company is to find a way to get your resume passed on to the person who is hiring and not from someone in talent acquisition or HR.

I’ve gotten candidates turned down by HR, and then sent it to a friend in the same company, who sent it to the hiring manager directly, and the hiring manager immediately wanted to talk to the person.


Hiring managers love to “find” candidates! So, if you want to get hired, you need to find a way to get “found!”

The secret to getting hired at a company is to be “found.”

You don’t get “found” in an ATS. You don’t get “found” by someone in Talent Acquisition or HR. You get found when somehow the hiring manager gets an email from someone they trust that they have a referral. You get found when you run into the hiring manager at lunch and start up a conversation. You get found when someone at the hiring manager’s church tells them “Hey, I know a guy.”

Getting hired isn’t about having the best resume and best skills. Getting hired is about getting found.

If you’re an “active candidate,” make yourself a “passive candidate.” Recruiters don’t “find” active candidates; they “find” passive candidates.

FOT Note:  We here at FOT like to think we get talent and HR at a different level. At the very least, we are probably going to have a different take than the norm. That’s why we asked  HireVue to be an annual sponsor at FOT, where they’ll sponsor posts like this one, allowing FOT contributors to write, without restriction, on all things related to talent and predictive analytics and how it impacts our organizations. Most of us will never get the science behind all of this, and to help, HireVue is also signed up to sponsor a FOT video series aptly names “Weird Science.” Be on the lookout for latest episode of Weird Science later this month. 

FOT Background Check

Tim Sackett
Tim Sackett SPHR, is the ultimate Mama’s Boy!  After 15+ years of successfully leading HR and Talent Acquisition departments for Fortune 500s and smaller technical firms, Tim took over running the contingent staffing firm HRU Technical Resources in Lansing, MI. Serving as the Executive Vice President, Tim runs the company his mother started over 30 years ago, and don’t tell Mom, but he thinks he does a better job at it than she did!  Check out his blog at Because he's got A LOT to say, and FOT just isn't enough for him.


  1. Erin says:

    Gosh…this perspective, this advice. It’s as perennial as, well, perennials. But across my 15 year career (primarily in HR, no less), I simply have not found it to ring true. FOR ME, I mean. As an HR professional, yes, I’ve probably seriously considered, interviewed and hired more referred candidates than those who came to me blind. But of the 6 post-collegiate jobs I’ve held in those years? Only one was the result of having been referred, or otherwise knowing someone. The other 5 were all jobs that I simply saw advertised and applied for (though 1 was with an organization that I’d targeted for at least a year in advance).

    I was knee deep in the most intense job search of my career from July 2014 through February 2015. I did everything you’re supposed to do: I worked with a career coach to ensure my resume was as strong as it could be and that my strategy was consistent with my experience and longer-term goals. I networked my face off – meeting with senior professionals in HR and recruiting in an effort to a: establish relationships, and b: understand their paths and glean whatever insight and wisdom from them that I could. I became very involved with my local SHRM chapter, taking on a leadership position and attending every event I was able to. I WORKED LinkedIn in all the ways that are possible without being obnoxious. For every role that I pursued – and I’m not kidding, there were 123 across those 6+ months, which I know, because I kept track – I tapped into and further fleshed out my network.

    But the job I got? The job I took? I applied for it on the fly, via the dreaded ATS. I had absolutely no connection to the company, no one to refer me, no one to give me insight into the culture as I prepared for my first interview. And I got it.

    Sometimes it’s NOT about who you know (and like I said, across my career, it usually HASN’T been about who I knew). If I could reduce my own experience to any one thing, I’d actually say that it’s mostly been about being in the right place at the right time.

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