Write For Humans, Not Machines

Many companies receive hundreds (if not thousands) of resumes for job postings. When that occurs, there’s no time for the hiring manager to sift through them all.

That is why some companies rely on applicant tracking systems to conduct the initial review of resumes. Theoretically, hiring managers will then only see the most qualified candidates.

Unfortunately, some candidates try to devise ways to “beat” applicant tracking systems, an unwise move, in my opinion.

Instead, think about preparing your resume as if a human being—who doesn’t know much about the job—is reviewing resumes and selecting candidates to be interviewed.

Keep in mind, these machines are only doing what humans would do. They read resumes and select candidates to be interviewed. So, whether a person or machine reviews resumes, here are a few points to keep in mind.

Use a simple, clean format.

This means no images, charts, tables, or multi-columns. They are confusing to both the human eye and the machine. You should also select a font size (10, 11, or 12 point) and use it consistently throughout your resume.

The same principle applies to the typeface. Sans serif typefaces like Helvetica, Arial, Verdana, or Calibri are best.

Sound boring? Good. Boring resumes that contain relevant information are best for the human eye or the machine eye.

Apply keywords intelligently.

When preparing your cover letter or writing your resume, you must clarify that your education, skills, and experience align with what the company is looking for. Again, the job posting or job description (if you can get it) should be your guide.

If you see specific skills and experiences listed in the job description, make sure that you weave them into your resume in the same form.

For example, the job description might say they want candidates to have experience with MS Office. However, your resume might get overlooked if you say you know Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and OneNote, even though those are programs contained within MS Office.

Hopefully, that will not occur, but you cannot take the chance. Instead, make sure you insert “MS Office” somewhere on the resume.

In general, you should strive to have a straightforward resume that doesn’t require any guesswork.

Don’t forget, a human will eventually read your resume.

Whether resumes are reviewed initially by an applicant tracking system or a person in HR, they will be sent to the hiring manager, who will read them and apply the “human” test. This means you should still use proper sentence structure, good grammar, and correct punctuation.

As I’ve said many times before, people worry too much about their resumes. Instead, keep it simple, clear, and relevant to the job. If you follow these simple principles and have faith in the process (whether machine or human), you should get selected for interviews for jobs for which you are qualified.