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Robots are reading your résumé, so here are tips to meet their approval

Companies are increasingly using AI to take the guesswork out of job searches and find the candidates whose résumés match what they are looking for. The first step to a successful job hunt is knowing how the algorithms work. Then, tailor your résumé to use AI to your advantage.

Without even thinking about it, we interact with artificial intelligence every day. Siri finds nearby pizza places or dry cleaners. Alexa turns on lights and gives the day’s forecast. So it may come as no surprise that AI is now a deep but unseen part of your job hunting.

Just as spellcheck alerts you to a typo, other algorithms pore over your electronically submitted résumé for misspellings, grammar and information about your work history.

With thousands of previous versions of a job that can be scanned, the algorithm uses the available data on résumés 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. “That turns out to be by far the best method you can use to match.”

On the other side of the job hunt, AI can match a person to a pool of applicants who have experience or skills in common with the job seeker, and show the jobs they’ve applied to.

“AI is the new version of keyword algorithms,” which have been around since the 1990s, said Robert Meier, a job transition expert and CEO of JobMarketExperts, which deals with a range of employment issues. “Typically, the algorithm looks for continuity of work history, job title progression and education,” he said. Specific companies may have different metrics they look for, such as software experience or credentials.

What has changed is the number of applicants. Digital applications are easy and free, Meier says, and any job opening now has so many more candidates for a company to screen.

But most are eliminated almost immediately, and only the top 2 percent of candidates make it to the interview, Meier said.

The algorithms are the table stakes to get you in the door, Siegel said. Give yourself every advantage of getting yourself into the best-match list.

Cover letters still matter

The algorithms are the table stakes to get you in the door, Siegel said. Give yourself every advantage of getting yourself on the best-match list.

More résumés submitted on apps and tablets mean fewer cover letters.

“But it’s still an opportunity to stand out and give yourself an advantage,” Siegel said.

He recommends every cover letter include what he calls an essential sentence.

“Put things in the simplest, most straightforward language possible.”-Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter

Do some research on the company you’re applying to and make sure your letter says, “I am so excited to apply for this job, because …” Fill in that blank, Siegel advised, with a phrase such as “I love your product” or “My skills are a perfect match to take your product to the next level.”

Convey your availability and enthusiasm to project the most attractive version of yourself, Siegel said, and use this as a best practice to approach an opportunity that really interests you.

Given all these behind-the-scenes algorithms, job hunters need to know how their résumé looks to computer “eyes” rather than human ones. Here are five things to do on résumés you submit electronically.

1. Be straightforward

“Put things in the simplest, most straightforward language possible,” Siegel said.

Clearly list your skills and the years of experience you have with each one.

Instead of “professional sound engineer with varied experience in wide variety of software,” check the job description for specifics. Better to say you’re a sound engineer with four years’ experience using Avid Pro Tools. “The algorithms are really good at deducing these are the key skills for a job,” Siegel said.

2. Spelling counts

It’s critical to remember that algorithms on job sites scan for a range of signals.

“You might be cavalier about spelling and grammar,” Siegel said. “That’s an easy signal.”

For most companies, that means your résumé is automatically discarded.

3. Have an up-to-date format

Algorithms try to turn the information on your résumé into usable data, said Siegel, so make sure you use a traditional, text-based format.

Don’t use Photoshop on your résumé: The algorithm can’t derive data from a picture. “Use a modern text editor,” Siegel said. “WordPerfect will make for a challenging document.”

4. The magic of ‘results’

A résumé filled with results — not duties and responsibilities — attracts employers like moths to a flame, JobMarketExperts’ Meier said.

Phrase your accomplishments as revenue, income or money saved. Perhaps you made some aspect of a company function more efficient or found a way to cut costs.

A résumé that includes specific numbers, percentages and quantities will get a closer look.

5. Have a mobile-ready résumé

Most job-seeking activity happens on a cellphone or tablet, but those are not particularly text-friendly.

“Create your résumé and cover letter in the right format on a desktop,” Siegel said. Use a cloud-based service such as Google Drive so you can apply on any site using a mobile device.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Is Already Changing Hiring Process

While critical to business success, the recruiting process as a whole is both time-consuming and incredibly costly. The average company spends roughly 8-12 percent of a candidate’s salary in recruiting costs, although the number should be closer to 6 percent.

By introducing the right technology, recruiting teams can streamline the process and significantly reduce spending. Artificial intelligence is particularly poised to assist HR teams with the repetitive, time-consuming tasks of recruiting. This could potentially be saving thousands of dollars per employee per year and improving the quality of hires overall.

Given that 35 percent of hiring managers see AI as a top trend impacting how they hire, it may be helpful to look at ways AI could improve your hiring process today:

Prescreening Candidates

Prescreening applicants demand more time and attention than perhaps any other task in recruiting. However, the days of manually reading through stacks of resumes and cover letters may soon come to an end.

There already exist search tools that allow recruiters to quickly surface candidates who meet specified criteria. These tools become much more powerful when AI is added to the mix. AI-enabled chatbots, for example, can prescreen candidates before a recruiter ever engages them. Through online conversations, chatbots can gauge candidates’ credentials, respond to their questions, and identify the most qualified applicants in the batch.


Simply scheduling interviews can be a major hassle, often requiring a lot of back-and-forth emails and days of wait time. According to our internal data at RoboRecruiter, it takes an average of 15 emails between recruiter and candidate to schedule one interview! Candidates grow frustrated when the process moves slowly, and this inefficiency can reflect badly on the company itself.

Inefficient scheduling and interview processes can have ramifications beyond a single candidate. Twenty-two percent of candidates who have a bad candidate experience will tell others about it, thereby driving potential talent away from the organization.

Many chatbots and other AI-driven solutions now offer automated interview-scheduling functions. Rather than exchanging endless emails, candidates can simply select interview times that work for them, and the AI tool will reserve time in the interviewer’s calendar.

Sorting Candidates

Fifty-two percent of recruiters feel the hardest part of recruiting is identifying qualified candidates in large applicant pools. AI can help recruiters to cut through the noise that often surrounds an open role.

Chatbots can engage candidates to pre-vet them before they ever make it to a recruiter. Based on these conversations, chatbots can identify the top matches, which means recruiters spend less time screening unqualified candidates. Chatbots can also fill in gaps in candidates’ resumes by asking relevant questions, ensuring that recruiters get a full and accurate picture of each prospect.

Keeping Candidates Engaged

Candidate engagement is a critical component of the recruiting process, and AI can be of great value here. Few recruiters have time to engage with candidates manually on a regular basis, but automated chatbots and other AI tools can do just that. AI can also be used to maintain relationships with candidates who are not yet available or right for a role at the company. AI can automatically reach out to these candidates when new roles open up, keeping them engaged with the company in the long term.

Writing Better Job Ads

A great deal of time is spent answering the same redundant questions about a role from candidate after candidate. AI can help head off these questions before they are even asked. By analyzing previous job ads and frequently asked questions, AI can make suggestions on how to update job ads to give candidates all the information they’re looking for.

The recruiting process can have a significant effect on a company’s future, but the journey from application to hire can be as time-consuming as it is costly. AI has recently emerged as a major tool that can both cut costs and save recruiters time through automation. AI is streamlining the entire hiring process, bringing the most qualified candidates to the right jobs faster and cheaper than ever before.