How to Impress a Robot


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How to Impress a Robot

By Bob McIndoe

I’ve written a fair bit in this column about how to make the best possible impression on a recruiter, hiring manager, and interviewer – even on the reception staff as you enter the building for an interview. But I haven’t written yet about how to impress another critical cog in the recruitment cycle: the resume bots.

While not a “robot” in the traditional sense, these artificial intelligence (AI) systems are increasingly common when it comes to job applications. Many job postings receive dozens, if not hundreds, or responses – a volume that is extremely time-consuming, if not impossible, for a hiring manager to sift through. In response, many organizations have started using elements of AI to help alleviate the workload and sift through applications.

Many employers have started “incorporating AI algorithms into their tools” in order to automate tasks, according to an article by Ben Dickson for The Next Web. This can mean that anything from reading through resumes, searching for candidates or sending follow-up emails can be automated using technology.

This has become increasingly common – if you are sending in a resume, chances are good that the first person to see it won’t be a person at all; it will be an algorithm searching for key words and information.

No one wants their resume to be discarded without ever being read – so how can you ensure that you make it past the algorithm? Well, there are two options, according to Josh Fruhlinger of IT World – optimize your resume for algorithm scrutiny, or circumvent it altogether.

Exactly mirroring the keywords in a job ad is an oft-cited tip for success, according to the Wall Street Journal – robots aren’t that into creative writing. There is a good chance the algorithm will be looking for those specific words, so if you can make liberal use of them within your resume or cover letter, all the better.

You should also keep your formatting and layout simple and clean – getting too fancy with the design could result in confusion for the algorithm, causing it to miss or misclassify critical information.

It could also pay off to visit the company’s website to see if there are certain words they often use in relation to the corporate culture or values. If it makes sense to do so, it may not hurt to incorporate some of these key words into your application-writing.

Circumventing the system may mean doing a bit of research – finding out the name and contact information for the hiring manager or recruiter, and perhaps passing your resume along to them directly. Whether or not this is advisable is open to debate, and it may depend heavily upon the individual hiring manager. It could be seen as tenacious and impressive; it could also be seen as a failure to follow the application instructions.

Ultimately, making it past the first step of the recruitment process is as simple as taking the extra time to tailor your resume to fit the employer’s needs. And whether the employer has AI gatekeepers or not, that attention to detail is never going to hurt your chances.

By: Bob McIndoe

Bob McIndoe


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