We wrote this article after hearing from friends and acquaintances struggling to get past the resume review stage despite being highly qualified and experienced. With decades of experience, many were baffled by repeated rejections for jobs they seemed overqualified. While this may not be the only reason for their difficulties, it’s crucial to understand the significant role artificial intelligence (AI) now plays in hiring.

In today’s fast-paced job market, AI algorithms often review resumes before they reach human eyes. This technological shift has led to a surge in qualified candidates facing repeated rejections without a single interview, especially those re-entering the workforce or recovering from layoffs. To navigate this new hiring environment, it’s essential to understand how AI functions in resume screening and how to optimize your resume accordingly.

AI has revolutionized recruitment, offering efficiency and data-driven insights to employers. Companies leverage AI to screen resumes, match candidates to job openings, schedule interviews, and try to predict employee turnover. According to a 2023 survey by Capterra, 98% of HR leaders plan to use AI tools to cut labor costs. In January, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimated that 83% of all employers, including 99% of Fortune 500 companies, use automation to filter job applicants. This technology enables companies to handle large volumes of applications quickly, making the recruitment process more manageable.

For job seekers unfamiliar with AI, automated resume rejections can be disheartening and perplexing. A 2021 Harvard study found that automated systems reject millions of qualified candidates annually due to factors like resume gaps or missing keywords. “If an applicant’s work history has a gap
of more than six months, the resume is automatically screened out by their RMS [Recruitment Management System] or ATS [Applicant Tracking System], based on that consideration alone.” This lack of understanding of the AI-driven hiring process leaves applicants unsure how to improve their chances.

Moreover, AI systems used by employers are often “black boxes” with little transparency, leading to unintentional biases that can discriminate against marginalized groups. Understanding and adapting to these systems is crucial for job seekers aiming to pass the initial screening and reach the interview stage.

Get Past the AI Resume Filters

Tailor your resume to meet the specific criteria set by these automated systems. Based on initial research and conversations with job seekers and HR professionals, here are some practical tips and strategies to improve your chances of getting past AI resume filters and securing an interview:

  • Use Simple Formatting: AI systems prefer straightforward, easy-to-read formats. Avoid using images, graphics, or complex layouts that could confuse the AI. Stick to standard fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri, and ensure your resume is well-organized with clear headings and bullet points. Save your resume as a .docx or .pdf file, as these formats are commonly accepted by AI systems.
  • Include Relevant Keywords: AI resume filters rely heavily on keyword matching. Carefully read the job description and identify the key skills and qualifications mentioned. Incorporate these EXACT keywords into your resume to increase your chances of passing the initial screening. However, don’t overdo it! Aim for a natural inclusion that accurately reflects your experience.
  • Highlight Skills and Achievements: Highlight measurable achievements and particular skills that match the job criteria. Use clear and straightforward sentences to outline your past experiences and successes. For instance, instead of saying “Improved customer satisfaction,” specify “Enhanced customer satisfaction scores by 25% through implementing a new customer feedback system.” Additional Example: Rather than stating “Led a team,” specify “Led a team of 10 employees to complete a project two weeks ahead of schedule, improving efficiency by 15%.”
  • Use Online Tools: Use online resume optimization tools to analyze your resume against job descriptions and suggest improvements. These tools can help you identify missing keywords and improve the overall alignment of your resume with the job requirements.
  • Customize Your Resume: Adjust your resume for each job application. Tailoring your resume to match the specific job description improves keyword matching and demonstrates your genuine interest in the position. Generic resumes are less likely to pass AI filters.
  • Stay Active and Up-to-Date: AI systems often prioritize active candidates on job platforms and frequently update their resumes. Regularly refresh your resume and maintain an active presence on professional networks like LinkedIn. Engaging with industry-related content and networking with professionals can enhance your visibility to recruiters.
  • Avoid Common Pitfalls: Avoid using non-standard characters, symbols, or fonts that the AI might not recognize. Additionally, avoid using white text or other tricks to hide keywords, as these tactics can backfire and lead to disqualification.

Navigating the AI-driven hiring landscape demands a strategic approach to resume writing and job applications. Understanding how AI filters work and tailoring your resume accordingly can significantly improve your chances of passing the initial screening and securing an interview. While AI adds a layer of complexity to the job search process, being informed and proactive allows you to stay ahead and thrive in this new era of recruitment. Embrace the challenge, adapt your strategies, and turn AI into an advantage in your job search journey.

Amy Barajas has spent the past decade serving as a Bay Area company’s Director of Human Resources. She is certified as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR). Hector Barajas is the CEO and President of Amplify360, a leading public affairs firm in California that helps elected officials, associations, and companies communicate their messages effectively.