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How to get your resume past the screening robots

A stylised image showing the silhouettes of two people shaking hands surrounded by streams of computer code.
The recruitment process often starts with electronic screening of resumes. (Source: Getty) (metamorworks via Getty Images)

Applying for a job is never easy at the best of times. There’s usually a cover letter and resume to tweak and tailor to the role you’re applying for, and often then a deathly silence after the initial application acknowledgment.

The good news is that job opportunities are likely to outnumber suitable applicants in the coming months, with Australians expected to change jobs in record numbers in 2022.

However, another factor is looming ever larger in the job-application process – the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in the initial application-screening process.

The rise of the robot

Although some form of automation within the recruitment process has been around for years, it appears more recruiters are using automated screening processes to reduce their administrative burden.


So, what exactly is it that recruitment firms are implementing?

To find out more about this development, Yahoo Finance asked Charles Cameron, CEO of recruitment industry body RCSA, for his views on how his industry is adapting to the new technology.

As Cameron explained, many of his organisation’s members used ‘parsing software’ to pick out key words relevant to the role they were hiring for.

“In a skills-short market, this can be incredibly useful, as recruiters are able to tweak the data to find people that may have otherwise been overlooked, and match them with a job,” Cameron said.

Effectively, this means your resume is being initially assessed by software rather than a human, and will progress to the next stage of the recruitment process only if certain keywords are identified.

Not all recruitment firms use this method exclusively, but most will use an element of 'non-human' screening to reduce the applicant pile to a manageable size.

As artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology improves, the potential for more organisations to use this ‘automated process’ is only likely to increase.

A stylised concept of an electronic signature using blockchain technology.
Optimising your resume will be rewarded by screening software. (Source: Getty) (NatalyaBurova via Getty Images)

Keywords are Critical

So, what can job seekers do to counter the rise of screening software in the recruitment process?

In short, make sure your resume is optimised for the type of keywords the screening robots are looking for.

Working out what those might be is a skill that can be learnt, and the main place to identify those words is the original job advertisement.

For example, if the job you are applying for asks for management skills, make sure the word “management” appears regularly in your resume (assuming you have actually managed people of course).

Equally, some IT roles will ask for specific technical skills that are often defined with acronyms such as “SQL” or “AWS”.

For a technology recruiter, these will be non-negotiable – their client or line manager often won’t want to interview candidates who don’t possess these skills – so they make obvious keywords to target.

Therefore, if you have worked with these technologies, you need to mention this in each role where you gained experience with them.

Often this means such acronyms will show up multiple times in your resume, which will move you higher up the list in an automated screening process.

Are humans still involved?

Despite the rise of technology, the human element is still a critical part of the recruitment process.

Experienced recruitment professionals pride themselves on their ability to elicit information via face-to-face or phone interaction, using behavioural interview techniques that pick out character traits not shown in resumes.

Cameron validates this view.

“The use of machine learning will no doubt continue to increase, however, until we discover a way for an intelligence system to both mimic human intelligence and yet, remove innate human prejudices, we will not see a dramatic shift for recruiters to AI for some time,” he said.

As we move into 2022, we are likely to see more automated selection processes used at the start of the recruitment journey, but human interaction will continue to form a key part of the decision on who to hire.

They key for job seekers is to make sure they succeed in getting to the face-to-face interview.

Optimising your resume for keywords will be a critical part of that.

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