Software engineer Angelina Lee was sick of applying for jobs and not getting any call-backs, so she decided to run an "experiment" to see why she kept getting rejected.
Suspecting no-one was actually looking at her CV, she knocked up a new version, but this time with a twist.
She changed all the hyperlinks to link out to Rick Astley's song Never Gonna Give You Up - a long-standing internet joke known as 'Rick Rolling'.
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She then changed the description of her experience and skills to highlight some rather unusual personal attributes.
"Team coffee maker – ensuring team of six was fully caffeinated" one part said of a previous role. She also spruiked her ability to increase team bonding by "organising a team sack race".
One bullet point even boasted of her "record for most vodka shots in one night" during college.
"No way I get calls back with this right? Wrong," she wrote in a reddit post that has since gone viral.
After firing off the fake CV to a bunch of top tech firms in the US, she said she had a 90 per cent success rate, including getting positive responses from major firms DropBox, RobinHood, GrubHub and Aussie tech giant Atlassian.
Why? Because she changed her work history to include Instagram and Microsoft. That seemingly made all the difference - companies are keen to hire from competitors and industry heavyweights.
"Just incredible. Every time I read it again I catch something I missed," reacted one Reddit user. "What dogs*** screening procedures do these companies have where qualified people can't get in but this could?"
Angelina Lee was not her real name. Like the CV, that was also fake. But the experiment highlights an often overlooked reality for job seekers: When applying for jobs, you've first got to get past the screening software.
Do Australian employers use software to screen CVs?
It is "very common" for major Australian companies to use software to filter the CVs of job applicants, according to Nick Deligiannis, the managing director of recruiting giant Hays in Australia.
"In fact, next time you apply for a job, chances are it’ll be an algorithm that firstly screens your application," he told Yahoo Finance.
Known as an application tracking system, or ATS, advances in AI and machine learning mean key information is sniffed out before a human touch is applied to the hiring process.
"An important aspect is CV parsing, which is the automatic processing of data from a CV," Deligiannis explained.
"The software uses a preliminary scan to analyse such information as a candidate’s skills, experience, education and job titles. The data is then directly translated to a structured candidate profile in a recruitment system."
Such practices are widespread across industries and sectors, he said.
An eng created a fake CV with Instagram, Zillow, LinkedIn, Microsoft and Berkeley on it, all details being nonsense. Got 60% response rate.
Reddit is going wild.
Me, as a hiring manager: what is surprising about any of this. It’s exactly how recruiting works. Let me explain: pic.twitter.com/FVaFUiPtYG
— Gergely Orosz (@GergelyOrosz) October 30, 2021
Tricks to optimise your CV and beat the screening process
For hopeful job applicants, here's the advice from Nick Deligiannis:
Identify the hard skills: Add keywords to your CV that are relevant to the jobs you apply for. Look at job descriptions for your ideal role so you can determine what these keywords are, and where they can be incorporated. For example, you may include “project management”, “governance”, “efficiencies”, “health and safety”, “financial reporting” or “budget management” under your responsibilities.
Look for the soft skills: Don’t forget keywords for the required soft skills, such as “communication”, “adapt”, “organise”, “time management” or “professionalism”. Use these soft skill keywords throughout your CV to describe your achievements. For example, “I used my time management skills to plan a successful annual conference with a strict budget in a short time frame.”
Avoid unusual job titles: Even if your official job title is unconventional, use an industry-standard title in your CV and online profile so it will be recognised.
Use an accepted format: Remember to ensure your CV is in an accepted format. An alternative style might not contain the content that the algorithms recognise, meaning your application could fail to make the shortlist.
Avoid generic statements: An ATS searches for tangible results and penalises vague descriptions. Commonly used terms such as “team player” and “innovative” may describe you well from a professional point of view, but do not provide much concrete information. Under the ‘work experience’ section of your CV, highlight the five best and relevant responsibilities and successes for each job. Describe these activities concretely, so that it becomes clear to recruiters and hiring managers – and an ATS – that you possess the required expertise.