Worried about getting caught up in the ever-more-sophisticated resume robot systems when you apply for a new job? It’s a legitimate concern.

Today’s automatic resume checking systems – Applicant Tracking Systems or Automated Resume Screeners – are becoming better and better at screening out irrelevant candidates to help streamline the hiring process, especially for large companies.

But any time you submit a resume online, even if you’re applying for a job at a smaller company, your resume is likely to be run through a robot.

So how do you beat the robots so that your resume ends up in the inbox or on the desk of an actual human hiring manager?

It’s not too difficult, actually. Here are five tips to help you get there:

1. Use contextualized keywords

Yes, when it comes to resume robots, using the right keywords is important.

But just peppering certain job-related keywords into your resume is no longer enough. The Applicant Tracking Systems of today are especially adept at checking for keywords in context to really get at your qualifications.

Here are a few specific ways you can use the right keywords in the right way to get past the resume robots:

  • Prioritize the keywords from the company’s actual job description, but also use related keywords (the names of other companies or brands in the industry, longer keyword phrases, etc.)
  • Use keywords that go with the main job keywords. Think about keywords that relate to the actual job you’re applying for and the skills that job requires, and work those into your resume, as well.
  • Put keywords throughout your resume, rather than just concentrating in one area. If the keywords appear in multiple places in your resume, the robot will be more likely to pass you through because it will show that you have a greater depth of experience in your field.
2. Check for spelling and grammar

Resume robots are ever more adept at checking and flagging improper grammar and spelling, so follow the rules here.

You may have heard that once you master the rules of grammar, you’re allowed to break them. This might be true when you’re trying for a Pulitzer or writing a novel, but not when you’re creating a resume (even if you’re a writer prone to wordplay).

Because resume robots (much like your word processor’s spelling and grammar checker) are set up to detect deviations from standard grammar, you need to stick as closely as possible to the rules you learned in college. Sentence fragments, sentences beginning with “but” or “and,” and other rules that you might break when writing your blog should be avoided here. (Of course, you can use sentence fragments for bulleted lists, but that’s a pretty established convention.)

3. Make connections before you turn in your resume

Not sure exactly what keywords and experience the hiring company is looking for?

Make a connection with a hiring manager or an HR rep at the company you’re applying to. You may not even need to check with an employer or manager at that actual company, if you can find one in your field who will give you good advice.

Ask the contact to look over the job description and your resume, and see how they match up. If the person has hired people in the field recently, they’ll know what types of experience (and which keywords) you should highlight in your resume.

4. Revamp your resume format

The traditional resume is listed in chronological order, but this isn’t always the best option for breaking through resume robot screenings.

Instead, consider creating your resume with category headings. If you’re applying for a job that requires design experience and management experience, make both of those things headings for new categories. Then, list the specific job experience you have in each area underneath.

Here’s another hint: a categorized resume, rather than a chronological one, is also a great way to highlight your best features as a job candidate and to disguise gaps in your job history – for example, if you’ve been unemployed for a while or have taken time off to raise your family. Just be sure that you do list your previous jobs and companies in chronological order near the bottom of your resume.

5. Create a clean look and feel

It’s tempting to try to make your resume stand out with fancy graphics and a slick, interesting design. Sometimes this is the best approach for those in creative and design fields, but when it comes to resume robots, this is not a great option.

Robots actually break down your resume text to feed it through the system, and graphics, pictures, and crazy layouts can cause a complete breakdown. Your resume may not even make it into the system, let alone get past the robots.

So if you’re applying for creative jobs that can call for a stand-out resume design, try this. Create two versions of your resume. One should be a sleek, slimmed-down, mostly-text version for the robots. Use it when you apply for a job online. The other can be as funky and fun as you think it needs to be. They should contain mainly the same information, but you can use the second resume as part of your portfolio, load it up on your website, or hand it out in person at interviews.

Do you have any experience getting past the resume robots? If so, please share a story or tip with us in the comments.

About the Author: Daniela Baker, social media advocate at the credit card comparison blog CreditDonkey.com, says that even though it can take a bit of time up front, effectively navigating around the resume robots is worth the effort.

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2 thoughts on “5 Useful Tips for Getting Your Job Application Past Resume Robots

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