Robots are reading your resume, so here are 5 tips to meet their approval

  • Companies are increasingly using AI to take the guesswork out of job searches and find the candidates whose resumes match what they are looking for.
  • The first step to a successful job hunt is knowing how the algorithms work. Then, tailor your resume to use AI to your advantage.
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Without even thinking about it, we interact with artificial intelligence every day.

Siri finds nearby pizza places or dry cleaners. Alexa turns on lights and gives the day's forecast.

So it may come as no surprise that AI is now a deep but unseen part of your job hunting.

Just as spellcheck alerts you to a typo, other algorithms pore over your electronically submitted resume for misspellings, grammar and information about your work history.

With thousands of previous versions of a job that can be scanned, the algorithm uses the available data on resumes to find the best candidates for a talent recruiter, according to Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter, an online job marketplace.

"Machine learning can cherry-pick and rapidly learn from the employer how to do a lookalike search," Siegel said. "That turns out to be by far the best method you can use to match."

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On the other side of the job hunt, AI can match a person to a pool of applicants who have experience or skills in common with the job seeker, and show the jobs they've applied to.

"AI is the new version of keyword algorithms," which have been around since the 1990s, said Robert Meier, a job transition expert and CEO of JobMarketExperts, which deals with a range of employment issues. "Typically, the algorithm looks for continuity of work history, job title progression and education," he said. Specific companies may have different metrics they look for, such as software experience or credentials.

What has changed is the number of applicants. Digital applications are easy and free, Meier says, and any job opening now has so many more candidates for a company to screen.

But most are eliminated almost immediately, and only the top 2 percent of candidates make it to the interview, Meier said.

The algorithms are the table stakes to get you in the door, Siegel said. Give yourself every advantage of getting yourself into the best-match list.

Cover letters still matter

The algorithms are the table stakes to get you in the door, Siegel said. Give yourself every advantage of getting yourself on the best-match list.

More resumes submitted on apps and tablets mean fewer cover letters.

"But it's still an opportunity to stand out and give yourself an advantage," Siegel said.

He recommends every cover letter include what he calls an essential sentence.

"Put things in the simplest, most straightforward language possible." -Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter

Do some research on the company you're applying to and make sure your letter says, "I am so excited to apply for this job, because ..." Fill in that blank, Siegel advised, with a phrase such as "I love your product" or "My skills are a perfect match to take your product to the next level."

Convey your availability and enthusiasm to project the most attractive version of yourself, Siegel said, and use this as a best practice to approach an opportunity that really interests you.

Given all these behind-the-scenes algorithms, job hunters need to know how their resume looks to computer "eyes" rather than human ones. Here are five things to do on resumes you submit electronically.

1. Be straightforward

"Put things in the simplest, most straightforward language possible," Siegel said.

Clearly list your skills and the years of experience you have with each one.

Instead of "professional sound engineer with varied experience in wide variety of software," check the job description for specifics. Better to say you're a sound engineer with four years' experience using Avid Pro Tools. "The algorithms are really good at deducing these are the key skills for a job," Siegel said.

2. Spelling counts

It's critical to remember that algorithms on job sites scan for a range of signals.

"You might be cavalier about spelling and grammar," Siegel said. "That's an easy signal."

For most companies, that means your resume is automatically discarded.

3. Have an up-to-date format

Algorithms try to turn the information on your resume into usable data, said Siegel, so make sure you use a traditional, text-based format.

Don't use Photoshop on your resume: The algorithm can't derive data from a picture. "Use a modern text editor," Siegel said. "WordPerfect will make for a challenging document."

4. The magic of 'results'

A resume filled with results — not duties and responsibilities — attracts employers like moths to a flame, JobMarketExperts' Meier said.

Phrase your accomplishments as revenue, income or money saved. Perhaps you made some aspect of a company function more efficient or found a way to cut costs.

A resume that includes specific numbers, percentages and quantities will get a closer look.

5. Have a mobile-ready resume

Most job-seeking activity happens on a cellphone or tablet, but those are not particularly text-friendly.

"Create your resume and cover letter in the right format on a desktop," Siegel said. Use a cloud-based service such as Google Drive so you can apply on any site using a mobile device.