Secrets to Writing Résumés for Bots Versus Humans

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The secret to writing a résumé for bots versus humans boils down to two things – keywords and résumé format for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) vs. humans.

I do not believe in the black and write résumé for humans, but I do for bots. Résumés with a pop of color may help them stand out if the color is used strategically and appropriately. The human résumé should be easy to read as a typical scan is about 6 to 15 seconds.

Résumés for bots should be black and white. The Ladders did a study and showed heat maps of where recruiters’ eyes went when they looked at a plain black and white résumé vs. one with shaded bands. Read this article and look at the visuals. A picture is worth a thousand words, and because of this article, I use the shaded band format for the “pretty” résumé for humans.

Color should be a consideration, and you can learn about each color’s positive and negative connotations by visiting Color Psychology. I use light blue shaded bands on my human résumés as that color works for men and women in any industry. There are so many options available for résumé templates, yet I only use one and only one format that is tried and true.  

Font choices are important for formatting. I only use Arial 12 point font for the bots, as it is a sans serif font that came up repeatedly in my research as an appropriate font to use for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). For human résumés, I use Calibri, which is another modern sans serif font.

Many people still use Times New Roman, which I would never use for a client as it leans towards ageism, just like having an aol.com email does. Times New Roman was created about a decade shy of a century ago, and AOL began just shy of four decades ago.

Columns, tables, lines, shading, and borders could be used on a human résumé but would not be best practices for a bot résumé. Any of those elements just mentioned would cause me consternation for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). There are over 200 ATSs that exist, and you never know which one you will get. Read these tips to avoid the pitfalls of the ATS, including the types of bullet points you should and should not use.

Typed information in headers and footers, and any section breaks, could cause a problem for the bots. It is best to type right into a Word document and avoid using headers and footers.

A Word document is usually what is used for résumés. If an application requests a PDF, make sure it’s a readable PDF and not an image PDF that you would get by sending your résumé through a scanner or taking a picture with your phone. Those last two examples create non-readable résumés. To make a readable PDF from Word, you would click File, Print, save as PDF.

You might have discovered by now that you will need two résumé formats when you apply to a job – one for a human and one for a bot, and they have to match. At the end of an online application, you may have the opportunity to attach your “pretty” résumé after you upload the “deconstructed” résumé.

It takes time and effort to create a good solid base résumé after analyzing various synonyms of keywords. Since you can only have one LinkedIn profile, you should quantify the keywords used for job searches. I can best describe this as an art and science. You will use a mix of the highest volume of words and the nichey words in your skillset.

After developing a solid base résumé, you need to customize each and every résumé by exchanging your base resume keywords section with the keywords used in the job description.

One must be aware that one résumé does not fit all job descriptions. For example, budget or budgets may be the best choice to use in your LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements section, but budgeting should be used in your customized résumé if budgeting is used in the job description.

If you are currently working, make sure you keep your career documents up to date. It’s essential to engage in career management all the time and be proactive, and not just update your résumé when you need to be reactive.

It’s also critical to make networking a habit, even when you have a job. Keep that network fresh, as you never know when you will need your connections.

So why wait? Come to learn and network at the Great Careers Groups and make sure you sign up for upcoming LinkedIn workshops! Registration links for the events listed below are on the website. We welcome everyone as a diverse, equitable, and inclusive nonprofit organization.

Missed the previous article on 15 Job Search Strategies to Land the Dream Job? Read it here.

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