It’s graduation season, and whether you’re a recent grad or someone looking to change jobs or look for work, you need to get your groove on first. And increasingly, that means moving past resume filters, algorithms, and application tracking systems (ATS).
I recently gave some advice to a young man who wanted to move into a career in software project management. Although he didn’t have any specific experience highlighted on his resume, anyone who looked closely could see that he actually had project management experience. And by “anyone” I mean a human being. The problem is, there’s a certain hoop you have to jump through to get to the person who will read that resume. In this candidate’s case, he never passed the technology used to screen candidates.
At this point, most mid-sized and large companies use resume filters or ATS. When they receive hundreds or thousands of resumes for a job, there is simply no way one can go through them all. If the HR department is trying to hire for multiple positions, the need for these filters increases. Filters serve a purpose. I consider filters to be low-grade artificial intelligence, and they have significant limitations. However, the smarter the AI, the better the filters will be. Like it or not, resume AI is here to stay.
Filters can’t (yet) necessarily do a good job of reading between the lines. In the case of the young man I was mentoring, I could see that he had been involved in project management for about nine years. Those same skills apply to any project. The problem was that AI couldn’t connect with software project management positions.
“The only function of your resume these days,” I told this job seeker, “is to create one that can pass AI filters.”
To that end, here are some tips for beating the AI goalie:
- Do not complicate. Resumes with attractive borders and fancy graphics or artistic additions can make a person stand out. But AI may not know how to interpret a graphic or photo. The same goes for colored fonts or columns, tables, etc.
- Watch your SEO. As we all know that search engine optimization is important to promote a business or product, you are essentially your product and you need SEO terms that are going to “sell” that product. Look at the wording of the job description and make sure most of those words are in your resume.
- Use the correct file format. This sounds very basic, but unless the company specifically requires a PDF resume, use Word. Filters have a hard time “reading” PDF files, and Word is more efficient for the rendering process.
- Customize your resume for the position. The old advice to tailor your resume for each job you apply for still holds true (remember your SEO).
- View your department heads. It might be smarter or more conversational to use the phrase “What I do”, but stick to “Skills”. ATS will read much better.
- Keep it current. You should always update your resume not only when changing jobs, but also when adding skills or experience.
- Use a cover letter. While filters don’t read cover letters (again, AI is always evolving anyway), if you to do Get through the filter, people will read it, and it’s an opportunity to highlight the best talents and experiences you have.
- Be specific. So not “fixed processes”, but “streamlined processes, saving the company x dollars and saving x time from our production schedule”.
Your resume is your company’s business card. But also don’t forget that the best “filter” is the person. Network and make connections, because handing your resume to someone will always be better than playing the “pass the filter” game. While the goal of your resume is to get past the artificial intelligence that sifts through hundreds of resumes for the best candidates, remember that your ultimate goal is to reach the hiring manager. Filtering is just one part of your search on the way to that human connection.