There are about 7.3 million open jobs in the U.S., according to the most recent Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And for many job seekers vying for these openings, the likelihood they'll submit their application to an artificial intelligence-powered hiring system is growing.
A 2017 Deloitte report found 33% of employers already use some form of AI in the hiring process to save time and reduce human bias. These algorithms scan applications for specific words and phrases around work history, responsibilities, skills and accomplishments to identify candidates who match well with the job description.
These assessments may also aim to predict a candidate's future success by matching their abilities and accomplishments to those held by a company's top performers.
But it remains unclear how effective these programs are.
As Sue Shellenbarger reports for The Wall Street Journal, many vendors of these systems don't tell employers how their algorithms work. And employers aren't required to inform job candidates when their resumes will be reviewed by these systems.
That said, "it's sometimes possible to tell whether an employer is using an AI-driven tool by looking for a vendor's logo on the employer's career site," Shellenbarger writes. "In other cases, hovering your cursor over the 'submit' button will reveal the URL where your application is being sent."
CNBC Make It spoke with career experts about how to make sure your next application makes it past the initial robot test.
AI-powered hiring platforms are designed to identify candidates whose resumes match open job descriptions the most. These machines are nuanced, but their use still means very specific wording, repetition and prioritization of certain phrases matter.
Job seekers can make sure to highlight the right skills to get past initial screens by using tools, such as an online cloud generator, to understand what the AI system will prioritize most. Candidates can drop in the text of a job description and see which words appear most often, based on how large they appear within the word cloud.
CareerBuilder also created an AI resume builder to help candidates include skills on an application they may not have identified on their own.
Including transferable skills mentioned in the job description can also increase your resume odds. After all, executives from a recent IBM report say soft skills such as flexibility, time management, teamwork and communication are some of the most important skills in the workforce today.
"Job seekers should be cognizant of how they are positioning their professional background to put their best foot forward," Michelle Armer, chief people officer at talent acquisition company CareerBuilder, tells CNBC Make It. "Since a candidate's skill set will help set them apart from other applicants, putting these front and center on a resume will help make sure you're giving skills the attention they deserve."
It's also worth noting that AI enables employers to source candidates from the entire application system more easily, rather than limiting consideration just to people who applied to a specific role. "As a result," says TopResume career expert Amanda Augustine, "you could be contacted for a role the company believes is a good fit — even if you never specifically applied for that opportunity."
When it comes to actually writing your resume, here are seven ways to make sure it looks best for the robots who will be reading it.
Use a text-based application like Microsoft Word — rather than a PDF, HTML, Open Office, or Apple Pages document — so buzzwords can be accurately scanned by AI programs. Augustine suggests job seekers skip images, graphics and logos, which might not be readable. Test how well bots will comprehend your resume by copying it into a plain text file, then making sure nothing gets out of order and no strange symbols pop up.
Mirror the job description in your work history. Job titles should be listed in reverse-chronological order, Augustine says, because machines favor documents with a clear hierarchy to their information. For each role, prioritize the most relevant information that matches the critical responsibilities and requirements of the job you're applying for. "The bullets that directly match one of the job requirements should be listed first," Augustine adds, "and other notable contributions or accomplishments should be listed lower in a set of bullets."
Include keywords from the job description, such as the role's day-to-day responsibilities, desired previous experience and overall purpose within the organization. Consider having a separate skills section, Augustine says, where you list any certifications, technical skills and soft skills mentioned in the job description.
Quantify performance results, Shellenbarger writes. Highlight ones that involve meeting company goals, driving revenue, leading a certain number of people or projects, being efficient with costs and so on.
Tailor each application to the description of each role you're applying for. These AI systems are generally built to weed out disqualifying resumes that don't match enough of the job description. The more closely you mirror the job description in your application, the better, Augustine says.
Don't place information in the document header or footer, even though resumes traditionally list contact information here. According to Augustine, many application systems can't read the information in this section, so crucial details may be omitted.
Network within the company to build contacts and get your resume to the hiring manager's inbox directly. "While AI helps employers narrow down the number of applicants they will move forward with for interviews," Armer says, "networking is also important."
AI hiring programs show promise at filling roles with greater efficiency, but can also perpetuate bias when they reward candidates with similar backgrounds and experiences as existing employees. Armer stresses hiring algorithms need to be built by teams of diverse individuals across race, ethnicity, gender, experience and other background factors in order to minimize bias.
This is also where getting your resume in front of a human can pay off the most.
"When you have someone on the inside advocating for you, you are often able to bypass the algorithm and have your application delivered directly to the recruiter or hiring manager, rather than getting caught up in the screening process," Augustine says.
Augustine recommends job seekers take stock of their existing network and identify those who may know someone at the companies they're interested in working at. "Look for professional organizations and events that are tied to your industry — 10times.com is a great place to find events around the world for every imaginable field," she adds.
Finally, Armer recommends those starting their job hunt review and polish their social media profiles.
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