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How to make your resume work in the age of AI

Job applications have changed with the times and it is in the interest of applicants to stay on top of the latest trends. It is no surprise that technology has also disrupted this space, changing the way resumes are prepared and submitted.

How to make your resume work in the age of AI

ATS evaluates every position based on the key words in the job description. It is therefore important for applicants to identify the necessary key words and incorporate them into the resume.

Job applications have changed with the times and it is in the interest of applicants to stay on top of the latest trends. It is no surprise that technology has also disrupted this space, changing the way resumes are prepared and submitted.

In the 1990s, we saw internet job portals such as Monster.com and Career Mosaic facilitate the careers process by aggregating available jobs in the marketplace and making it easy for job seekers to search for roles by industry and function on a single platform.

More recent is the rise of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) in HR portals. An ATS is a software that automates management of resumes and applicant data. It is able to filter applications based on given criteria such as keywords, skills and years of experience.

Today, we are beginning to see Artificial Intelligence (AI) add a layer of sophistication to the resume review process by companies.

ATS and the AI behind them are still dependent on the HR professionals who tell the systems what to look out for. Therefore, it is important that we understand how HR professionals and their hiring managers think to know what to include in resumes.

Here are five tips on how to get your resume noticed in the age of AI:

1.   Keep it simple

Most ATSes rely on scanning and converting the contents to readable text. In the scanning process, words on colour backgrounds may be faint or not visible. ATS also captures the information on the resume and put it into data fields for keyword analysis.

With this in mind, steer clear of using fancy formats and fonts, adding photos and graphics. Being too creative on the resume is probably the surest way to be eliminated by the ATS.

Fonts play a big part as well. San serif fonts such as Calibri scan a lot better than serif fonts like Times New Romans, where an “R” may be converted to “R.”.

List first the names of your employers followed by the period of your employment. Some like to put the period in front. That can sometimes confuse the ATS and lead to rejection.

2.   Use specific keywords

An ATS evaluates every position based on the key words in the job description. It is therefore important for applicants to identify the necessary key words and incorporate them into the resume.

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Be as specific as possible. For example, “marketing” is vague as there are many sub-segments within marketing. It would be more effective to use terms such as “event management”, “customer relationship marketing” or “social media marketing” instead.

If the necessary key words from the job description are not found in the resume, the application goes straight to the rejection bin.

3.   Keep it brief

In general, unless you have more than 10 years of working experience, keep your resume to just one page, at the very most two. I have seen resumes of those with several years of experience retaining their university internships. Remove them.

If you have to rely on skills that you demonstrated years ago, it probably means that you do not have the necessary experience for the role.

4.   Check, check and check your work

No matter how good the resume, you can still be disqualified because of typos and formatting errors.

One of the recruiters I work with shared a funny story. She once received a resume that stated “willing to shift anywhere for the job,” indicating the applicant’s intention to travel or relocate based on the requirement of the job.

Unfortunately, the letter “f” was missing in the word “shift”, changing the meaning entirely.

Even with spellcheck, mistakes such as the one shared above can be overlooked.  Print out your resume and do a visual check. Better yet, ask a friend or two to review it and make sure everything is perfect.

5.   Practice makes perfect

The ATS focuses on the key words, but eventually the resume has to go through a real person and that is when storytelling is crucial.

The resume needs to be more than a listing of key words and skills. Job seekers need to think through what they want to communicate, reflect the salient points on the resume and be prepared to talk about them.

Many resumes read like job descriptions of tasks completed. Achievements are not highlighted and many waste unnecessary interview time trying to identify or clarify them. If the interviewer chooses not to probe, a huge opportunity to impress will be lost.

When I meet with students, especially first- and second-year undergraduates, they typically have little to no experience. Career advisors will sit down with them to talk through their roles in temporary or part-time jobs to identify their achievements.

Often we find that even in their administrative jobs, they were able to use their Excel skills to improve the processes there and in turn increase productivity.

Going through such an exercise helps put their knowledge and skills into context and brings out the experience and impact. As technology becomes increasingly entrenched in the recruitment process, job applicants can leverage the algorithm to be noticed.  

It all boils down to using the right keywords to better translate experience onto paper.

Even for those with no actual work experience, it is about how they are able to articulate what they do in projects, on exchange and in internships to meet the employers’ criteria and secure that job interview.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kenneth Lam is a career advisor with NUS Business School’s Career Services Office, which works closely with business undergraduate and postgraduate students to prepare them for their careers ahead. This is the first in a series of career-related commentaries which TODAY will be running in partnership with the school.

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