5 Ways to Get Your Resume Past AI

Job candidates now have to get past more sophisticated AI screening tools. What is it looking for?

Job seekers are accustomed to searching job descriptions for keywords and then adding those words to their resumes to get past so-called applicant tracking software. Now job applicants have a new nemesis: sophisticated screening tools powered by artificial intelligence software that are becoming more sophisticated by the day.

Indeed, about 99% of all Fortune 500 companies are using AI to screen job candidates, according to a recent survey. A separate survey found that more than 95% of all companies are using AI to screen resumes. While these tools might speed up the hiring process for employers, it is making it more difficult for job seekers to break through the process and be interviewed for a position.

“AI brings more intelligence,” says Dan Kaplan, senior client partner for Korn Ferry's CHRO practice. AI is still looking for keywords but if you overuse keywords, many AI programs will flag the resume as suspicious, he says. “You can no longer trick the system by using ten keywords over and over again in your resume,” he says. Here are five ways job seekers can crack the system.

Use simple formatting.

AI can’t read graphics or fancy formatting or fonts. Many AI systems can’t even read a PDF, so if you’re prompted to upload a Word document, follow those instructions exactly, says Mark Royal, senior client partner for Korn Ferry Advisory.

Many AI systems also require resume points to be in chronological order. It’s also a good idea to use clear headings for each section and to avoid acronyms and jargon that AI might have a hard time understanding. You can also increase your chances of getting past bots by removing headers, footers, and text boxes, says Korn Ferry Advance Coach Frances Weir.

Tailor your resume.

Spend some time reviewing the job description or any information about the role and the company’s objectives, values and culture, Royal says. “Being attentive to the language used by the company can help your resume line up with what the AI is likely looking for,” he says. For instance, if the job description focuses on collaboration but your resume uses the word teamwork, rewrite the resume to include collaboration. “If you have the qualifications and experience listed in the job description, be sure to call them out but don’t over play it,” Kaplan says.

Pay attention to titles.

Some bots look for specific titles, yet job titles can differ across organizations. Weir suggests putting the most appropriate title for the company you’re applying to in paratheses after your actual title. For instance, if your title is HR Director but the company is seeking a Head of HR, put in parathesis next to your title “Head of HR equivalent.”

AI programs might also be looking for specific education or certifications, including how they are spelled, which could cause trouble if you are applying to a role in a different country. For instance, if you’re applying for a job in the United States but receive a Ph.D. in organisational behaviour in the United Kingdom, be sure to list the degree on the reume as “organizational behavior” or it might be overlooked, Weir says.

Don’t try to game the system.

Job candidates have tried to trick bots by pasting the entire job description in white into the resume, or stuffing the resume with keywords, or submitting multiple resumes for the same position hoping that one is selected by AI. The problem with that, Royal says, it what happens if the resume actually does get past the AI.  “Remember, a human will read your resume and that’s where ultimately you want to be successful and get an interview,” he says.

Don’t forget about networking. 

The best way to avoid bots is to network your way to a job rather than applying online, says Korn Ferry Advance Coach Valerie Olson. Online job applications have a low rate of success for a variety of reasons. Most postings get hundreds of applicants and some employers list jobs just to get a backlog of candidates for the future.

If you do apply online, and you know someone at the company, it’s best to let them know, Weir says. “Going through a referral process can result in you being included in a much leaner shortlist of candidates,” she says.


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