Do you picture a sweaty, B.O.-smelling HR person sitting in a windowless office surrounded by piles of resumes studying your carefully crafted cover letter and resume? OK, maybe that was never the way it really happened, but it is certainly not likely to be happening today. So now you won’t have to worry about it in any case because a new era of matching candidates to jobs has arrived. And, spoiler alert, it involves a robot.
Algorithms are increasingly being used to find the right applicants and take the guesswork out of job searches. They are increasingly used to find the resumes that employers are searching for. A successful job hunt entails knowing how these algorithms operate. So here are a few ways to impress your, er, new robot overlords.
First off, here’s how it works
Algorithms — that is, robots — use available data on resumes to find the best candidates for a talent recruiter, according to Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter, an online jobs site. “Machine learning can cherry-pick and rapidly learn from the employer how to do a lookalike search,” Siegel said to The New York Times. “That turns out to be by far the best method you can use to match.” AI also can choose candidates based off of other similar applicants with the requisite skills to see how you match up. Most candidates these days are eliminated — except for about the top 2 percent — straight off the bat by algorithms. It’s nuts!
Your cover letter is key
Cover letters are an opportunity to stand out and give yourself an advantage. Every cover letter should include what is known as “an essential sentence.” This means that you should show your enthusiasm for the position: “I am so excited to apply for this job because…” Put your heart and soul into the cover letter, truly explaining why you would be the perfect fit for the position. Remember, robots cry, too. Try to pull on the algorithm’s heartstrings, so to speak! And remember to keep everything consistent. Use the same descriptions and keywords in your cover letter, resume and even your LinkedIn profile.
Understand how your resume looks to computer eyes rather than to human eyes because, chances are, the former is the one that will be surveying and analyzing your resume. Put things in the simplest way possible. Robots can make human language error mistakes pretty easily. Don’t give them an excuse to do so by being convoluted, florid and baroque with your language (see how annoying that is?) The name of the game here is clarity. Clearly state your experience, your qualifications and whatever else. But do it in an eighth-grade manner that anybody could understand. Robots are very good at deducing what the desired skills for a job are, but only if you input the perfect keywords — the ones that the employer is searching for.
Algorithm, algorithm, algorithm. Remember that word because it may just decide your fate. Don’t fall prey to silly spelling errors because the AI will catch that and judge you negatively for it. And for most companies, that means that your resume is automatically discarded.
Keep your format up-to-date
Make sure your resume has a traditional text-based format. This is because the algorithm will try to change information on your resume into usable data. For instance, don’t use Photoshop on your resume. That will just confuse the heck out of your robot superiors. Just stick with a modern text editor. WordPerfect is a no go, too. It will make for a challenging document. And no photos please, robots are programmed to reject anything with a photo because it might result in charges of discrimination.
The results trick
The resumes that gain the most attention from algorithms are not the ones that label your duties and responsibilities, but rather the ones that show what you accomplished and how you benefited your previous companies. Phrase your accomplishments as revenue, income or money saved. Perhaps you made some aspect of a company function more efficiently or found a way to cut costs. Be specific in your resume about how you helped the company improve and not simply what your job was.
Now that you have met your friendly (or not so friendly) Resume Robot, keep him, her or it in mind when preparing your application. Use keywords that will capture its attention. Keep your formatting clear and robot-friendly. Make your job descriptions accomplishment-oriented. And remember to maintain uniformity between your cover letter, resume and LinkedIn profile. Stay honest: you can be sure that the robot will be checking.
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