Resume writing: to "beat the bots" you need a human's help

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There are countless job listing sites on the internet. The most successful of these makes matching jobs with potential hires easy. Better still, most offer "1-click" tools so you can apply for a new position in just a few seconds. Then the waiting game begins. And unfortunately, you might never hear back from the company in many cases. The reason for the silence could be the organization's application tracking system (ATS). 

Many companies now use an ATS software app to automate hiring, improving efficiency and saving time and money. But, unfortunately,  an ATS, by design, uses built-in criteria to remove applicants it doesn't believe are qualified for an open position. In other words, you might have been removed from the pool of candidates without anyone seeing your resume. 

ATS apps aren't perfect, however, and they can throw out good candidates. Jobscan has found that 70% of applicants don't make it past the robot. Luckily, there are things you can do to pass the robot test and improve your chances of being face-to-face with an actual job recruiter. The key to success might surprise you: working with a human being. 

You might also like 6 critical features that the best job search engines share and what is AI? Everything you need to know about Artificial Intelligence.

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How applicant screening works with ATSs

There are key differences between the many ATSs. However, they all perform the same type of tasks behind the scenes regarding applicant screening. It starts with a scanning process where keywords from resumes and cover letters are matched with a job description. Some systems can also quickly assess candidates' skills using online tests and automatically perform a reference-checking process. The software tools can also whittle the talent pool by determining whether an applicant would be a good fit for the company's culture using a personality test.

How to get past the bot with your online job application

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Regarding resume writing, there are tasks better suited for artificial intelligence (AI) and those best performed by humans. Many of those performed by the latter will make it more likely to get past the job bots. Among these are the following: 

Understand and perfect the keywords game: If you don't already understand how the game is played online, you're already far behind other job applicants. Resume keywords are words or phrases added to your submitted documents that should match job requirements and relevancy. 

When writing your resume and cover letter, these keywords must be listed throughout the document, including in the summer, work experience, and skills sections. The best keywords should be easily recognized in the job listing. However, this isn't always easy — at least if this is your first time trying to do so. 

Even more importantly, these keywords should be placed naturally into your documents. It would be best if you also were sure to contextualize the keywords as they relate to the specific job. Otherwise, they'll feel forced, and an ATS will notice this.

Hiring an expert resume writer will make it more likely you're using the correct keywords in your resume and cover letter. In addition, by doing so, you'll have a better chance of moving to the next step in the hiring process. 

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Get help with your resume design / make it easy to scan: Humans are also ideally suited to helping you find the best resume design for the job or industry you're applying for. Many of the best resume-building sites offer an assortment of great resume templates from which to choose. However, you'll likely select the best template by having a human assist you. These folks how much more experience with creating resumes than you do.

Proofreading and finding your voice: Software packages like Grammarly do an excellent job finding document spelling and grammar mistakes. And they have done an admirable job crafting document style and tone in recent years. And yet, human eyes can still find errors computers cannot, and the folks behind them can better prepare text to match the applicants. So it's another important reason for getting help from a human for resume building.

Avoid the bot altogether

The solutions above offer ways experts can assist you with getting a digital job application past a bot. And yet, even in 2023, it's possible to avoid ATSs and bots altogether. 

Ditch the online rate race: No doubt, Zip Recruiter and other job sites have made it easier to apply for new jobs by offering a streamlined process backed by an ATS. However, you can still apply for a job the old-fashioned way by making a note of a job listing's hiring manager and contacting them personally through email or (gulp) by mail. Indeed, this can slow down the overall job hiring process. And yet, it might be enough to get you past everyone relying on a bot. 

Remember networking? Remember all those people you follow on LinkedIn, Facebook, or even Twitter? Some of those folks probably know about a job or two that might match your experience and interests. And former co-workers, especially, know your strength and weaknesses, giving them a better idea of which jobs match you the best. Yes, even in the digital age, a professional network is live, so take advantage of it. 

Help find other ways to apply to a company: Companies don't always post new job openings online, while others might do an internal search first. These practices differ company-to-company, and most times, they aren't known to the public. 

Resume experts usually have better knowledge about a company's hiring practices. But, in the best-case scenario, they also know someone inside that can push you in front of the line. At a minimum, they can figure out the best way to get your resume into the system — even if a job that matches your needs and interests isn't currently available. 

There's no guaranteed way of besting a bot when applying for a new job. There are things you can do; however, to make it more likely, you can get past a bot and have your resume and cover letter spotted by an actual person. Making this more possible requires working with people who are (for now) more creative and better in the know than the current AI solutions.

You might also be interested in 5 reasons why you should hire a professional resume builder and 5 reasons why you should back up your data to the cloud.

Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe is a staff writer at TechRadar, iMore, and wherever Future can use him. Though his passion is Apple-based products, he doesn't have a problem using Windows and Android. Bryan's a single father of a 15-year-old daughter and a puppy, Isabelle. Thanks for reading!