How to adapt your CV to get past machine screening

Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images
  • One way to get a CV accepted by machines is the use of keywords.
  • Back up achievements with examples.
  • Use industry-standard job titles even if the one you have is unconventional.

Recruiters generally spend only a few seconds with a CV and look for ways to reject it against the job they want to fill.

And the process can be even more brutal when machines are used to make the initial cut of candidates.

“Artificial intelligence (AI) and automated machine learning algorithms are being utilised in every industry, including recruitment,” says Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director of recruiters Hays in Australia.

“Typically, it is time consuming and repetitive tasks that are being automated.”

In the case of recruitment, one job ad can elicit hundreds, sometimes thousands, of responses. Many of these may be inappropriate but all must be screened in order to identify the suitable candidates.

“With the aid of AI and algorithms, such time consuming processes now take seconds, allowing recruiters and hiring managers to provide a more personal service and engage with skilled and experienced professionals,” Deligiannis says.

But how to structure a CV to make sure it gets past the machine?

Hays says:

    1. Keywords: Pepper your CV and online profile with keywords relevant to the job. If you aren’t sure of suitable keywords, look at job descriptions for your ideal role. And add keywords for the required soft skills.

    2. Achievements: For example, “I used my communication skills to liaise with colleagues in other departments, then applied my analytical nous to develop business case proposals and tenders accordingly.” And link keywords with proof that you did your previous jobs well. For example, instead of writing that you always achieved target goals, try: “I surpassed target goals by 20% in quarter 1 and 18% year-on-year.”

    3. Format: Ensure your CV is in the accepted format as an alternative style might not contain the content AI recognises, meaning your application could fail to make the shortlist.

    4. LinkedIn: Create a strong LinkedIn profile. Many people leave the summary field blank, but you should use the full character count to highlight your successes, skills and value. Again, use the right keywords.

    5. 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 by an algorithm.

    6. Job hopping: Don’t change jobs frequently. Hiring managers value stability and turnover can be factored into the criteria AI screens for.

“Recruitment will always remain a people business,” says Deligiannis.

“At its heart are trusted relationships, which means that the value of the human touch can’t be overestimated.

“But at the same time, technological advancements are speeding up certain elements of the process. Recruitment is evolving, and we all need to evolve with it.”

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