6 Ways You Can Improve Your Résumé that AI Can’t

A chatbot can pump out a document, but a human can make these upgrades to attract the interest of recruiters.

Not a day goes by without a new story about how AI will change everything for the better. It’ll make searching online easier. It’ll buy groceries for you when you’re about to run out. Now, AI will purportedly write the perfect résumé. It will speed up penning multiple résumés, in fact, along with cover letters, and it might even catch some typos (although it finds proper names challenging). One AI tool claims it can create a résumé in seconds that perfectly “fits your personal brand”, all for just $39.99.

But career coaches say there’s a lot AI can’t do—for example, figuring out which experiences to emphasize on a resume, and which to omit. “AI can’t really understand because they don’t know the candidate and their stories,” says Tiffinee Swanson, a career coach for Korn Ferry Advance. We looked up some perfectly human tricks that will not only spruce up your résumé, but also help you get past a potential employer’s own AI-backed candidate screener.

Use title tags.

Job screeners, whether they are human or virtual, look for keywords on a résumé that indicate the candidate knows not only what the job is, but also what skills are needed to excel in it. Experts say you can make it easy for the screeners—and do a better job than AI can—by highlighting certain elements at the top of your document in a way that you, the human, determine to be most attractive. These so-called “title tags” can immediately pique a recruiter’s interest, says Sarah E. Williams, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. “The average time a human recruiter spends on an individual résumé is three to five seconds, so using title tags can really help out,” she says.

Candidates should put title tags at the top of the document, just below their contact information. The first tag should specify the role the candidate is applying for; it should be in a slightly larger font size than the rest of the résumé (but slightly smaller than the font size used for your name). The second tag should refer to the most important competency for the job, while the third tag should refer to the next most important.

Add a professional profile.

A short—four sentences, tops—paragraph just after the title tags should be all a recruiter needs to know about whether you are a good candidate for an open position. The first sentence, Williams says, should describe who you are and what you offer—and do so in a personal style AI typically can’t match. The next sentence should highlight your three best skill sets. The third sentence should emphasize how you would go about becoming the organization’s go-to person. The final sentence should highlight your leadership style. Everyone has a leadership style, Williams says, even if they don’t have a leadership position.

Make every point achievement-oriented.

AIs are quite good at formatting all of your attributes and past job experiences and throwing them into a nicely designed document. But they’re not so great at determining which of your various experiences and accomplishments matter most to a prospective employer. “Making those individual stories accomplishment-oriented—using metrics, demonstrating outcomes—is also something AI simply won’t know about you,” Swanson says.

That takes some human thought. Instead of just laundry-listing your prior jobs and roles, she says, highlight the work you did to really add value to the organization. What actions saved the company a lot of time or money? What project did you finish that created a brand-new product or service? How did you get a team to work more effectively together? Once you start to read your résumé that way, you may delete some things and recast others, Williams says.

Embrace any gaps.

Most AI programs, when they see a time gap in a résumé, will just skip over it. But even if you’re not at a full-time job, you’re likely not twiddling your thumbs, Williams says. Candidates often use a layoff or voluntary time away to learn new skills, take professional-development courses, or volunteer. Any of these can appeal to a human recruiter. Showcasing your volunteer experience and the training you’ve taken to improve or upgrade skills, for instance, can help underscore your purpose, values, and ambition—all attractive post-pandemic traits for recruiters and organizations.

Promote a pivot.

The pandemic didn’t force AI to have to work from a different location, nor to rethink a business model or how it did its role. But the pandemic did compel humans to do all of those things, and plenty more. Potential employers want to feel confident that their new recruits will be able to thrive in an uncertain environment. On your résumé, highlight how you helped your organization or team to pivot during the pandemic. For instance, don’t just say you helped accelerate digital transformation or new-business development. Instead, discuss the process you helped to automate and any new products or territories you developed in order to increase revenue.

Practice the job interview.

Even if an AI program writes the perfect résumé, Williams says, that can only get you in the door. “AI is not going to help you with interview skills,” she says. So after spending time on your résumé, make sure to practice answering tough job-interview questions (as well as asking the interviewer smart ones) and avoiding common interview mistakes. Then, be proactive in following up after the conversation. Those very human moves, not an AI-powered résumé builder, likely will determine whether you get a job offer or not.


For more information, contact Korn Ferry Advance.