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By now, it’s no secret that most employers are using some type of applicant tracking system (i.e. bots) to deal with the massive influx of resumes that they can receive for a single posting or listing. Did you really think that a human hiring manager or recruiter is going to read through hundreds of resumes to find the best candidate? That means that job seekers need to re-think how they create their resumes. When bots are the new gatekeepers, new strategies and tactics need to be deployed.
Customize your resume for every job posting
I know, I know, this one is going to hurt. It’s far easier just to submit a generic, one-page resume to every employer and every position, right? Most people spend days, if not weeks, perfecting their resume, and they are not too fond of the idea of having to update it with every new job opening. The problem, however, is that bots are looking for specific keywords. Bots view your resume as just a massive string of text, and they are essentially parsing your resume to see if it contains the “magic” keywords that will result in it being passed on to a human for further review. This will require you studying every job posting to see what the keywords are, and then finding ways to insert them somewhere so that the bots can spot them easily.
Use generic, easy-to-understand job titles
Despite rapid advances in AI, most bots are still relatively simplistic. They might be able to recognize a job title like “Marketing Manager” or “Vice President,” but they will probably skip over more creative job titles like “Marketing Jedi” or “Social Media Overlord.” So, even if your organization likes to hand out creative job titles, it probably makes a lot of sense to “translate” your title into something a bot might recognize.
Opt for a boring, plain text resume
It’s becoming trendy these days to insert visual elements – such as graphics, images, fancy fonts and tables – into resumes in order to make them more appealing to recruiters. You need to resist this temptation because you are no longer trying to get a human to pick up your resume while thinking, “Hmmm, this one looks interesting…” Instead, you are dealing with a bot that only wants to read text.
Include a cover letter with your resume
Most job openings make it clear that including a cover letter these days is “optional.” But here’s your chance to really make your case to a human. Use your plain text resume to win over the bots, and use a more creative cover letter to win over a hiring manager.
Don’t try to trick the bots
And, finally, a single “Don’t” – Don’t treat your resume like a website that you are trying to optimize for SEO purposes. You are not trying to “game” the system, so don’t even think about using “keyword stuffing” as a way to get past the bot gatekeepers. Yes, keywords matter, but they need to occur organically, and not simply as a massive string of text at the bottom of your page. A lot of black hat SEO tactics – like using “invisible” keywords in a white font – might seem like a good idea, but guess what? Since Google now penalizes websites for black hat SEO tactics, you can rest assured that recruiters have also found ways to spot these tactics.
Getting hired in an age of AI-powered algorithms will definitely require some modifications in how you write your resume. The good news is that, with the advice above, you will be well on your way to getting past the bot gatekeepers.