Your worst "the robots are taking over" nightmare probably doesn't involve a machine sitting down with a cup of tea and assessing your résumé, but in 2018, the idea isn't completely farfetched.
Many companies have turned to application tracking systems (ATS) to help ease the hiring process. Carisa Miklusak, the CEO of tilr, a company that matches workers to jobs using a propriety algorithm, says almost all large and medium-sized organizations across industries use some kind of ATS — so it's possible the next pair of eyes on your résumé will be a little ... mechanical.
Why should you care? Conventional advice on résumé writing doesn't tend to take this into account. Our robot overlords might not be as discerning as human beings, but they can hone in on the professional strengths you want potential employers to notice — if you write your résumé right. Here's where to start.
Research the employer's lingo
"For the most part, the more your résumé language matches the terms the employer uses, the better chance you'll show up as a viable candidate," Miklusak says. "Do your homework and research the employer's job postings, and try to use similar action verbs, skills, and titles in your résumé. Also, pay attention to what they call out as absolute requirements for the position and emphasize those competencies."
Skip the complicated formatting
People seeking creative jobs might waffle at this advice, but anyone applying to a more traditional job should keep their résumé simple.
"First and foremost, make sure your résumé is in a Word document. Remove things like tables, charts, images, and columns because they can get mangled when your résumé is being imported," Miklusak says. "Special formatting can make your résumé get weeded out by an applicant tracking system,"
Plus, she adds, any valuable information and keywords in those graphic elements, will get lost if they import incorrectly — and reduce your chances of the system picking your résumé to be reviewed by a hiring manager or recruiter.
(If you're more creative and want to show off those skills, you might to focus on a fancier cover letter.)
Use skills to show personality
You might worry that you have to remove all personality from your résumé, but don't get hung up on that. There are better ways to show it off, Miklusak says.
"The fact is, most employers just scan résumés. They allow the technology to do the majority of the 'reading' work," she admits. "Personality is, therefore, best displayed when you're doing a phone screen or an actual interview with the hiring manager."
But if you're still worried about sounding lifeless, take the time to write a cover letter if one is being accepted by that employer, she adds. "Center it on the impact you can make for the company based on your skill set. This allows them to get a taste of your personality through your writing."
Enlist your own robot
Use tech to help you! LinkedIn's Résumé Assistant feature reveals the top skills other professionals in your desired role and industry have, as well as job requirements from real job postings. It can help you better understand how you compare to your competitors and tailor your résumé accordingly.
LinkedIn career expert Blair Decembrele also reminds job seekers that finding at least one personal connection can help. "Nearly 50% of recruiters say referrals are the leading source of quality hires, and if you receive a referral you're four times more likely to hear back from a recruiter," she explains. So, aside from checking LinkedIn to see if you have any connections who can provide you a referral, try its Ask for a Referral tool to help you make these requests.
Try and try again
If you have a sense that your résumé is being rejected perfunctorily when hitting a robot firewall, you may want to troubleshoot and tweak your text. You can't control a robot but you can revamp your application.
"Do some A/B testing with your résumé!" Miklusak urges. "Try emphasizing different skills or calling your highlighted skills something different — i.e. 'customer success' rather than 'customer service.'"
You might also want to remove certain skills or titles that are irrelevant to the role you're pursuing, she adds. There's no point pumping up your application with experience that doesn't totally matter for a specific position.
This article originally appeard in USA Today