If You Hate Automated Résumé Screening, We Have Bad News

Recruiters and hiring managers view automated résumé screening as an unmitigated benefit, allowing them to sort through hundreds (or even thousands) of candidates quickly.
But Americans reportedly take a dim view of automated résumé screening, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center: some 57 percent of 4,594 adults surveyed by the organization thought that such tools were an “unacceptable” example of algorithmic decision-making. Around 67 percent felt that automated video analysis of job interviews was likewise inappropriate.
What’s behind this sentiment? Simply put, people want a fellow human determining their employment prospects. “This is the top concern of those who find the automated résumé screening concept unacceptable (36% mention this), and it is a prominent concern among those who are worried about the use of video job interview analysis (16%),” read Pew’s research note accompanying the data.
People are afraid that algorithms, no matter how sophisticated, are incapable of truly nuanced analysis. “This is a relatively consistent theme, mentioned across several of these concepts as something about which people worry when they consider these scenarios,” Pew added. “Roughly half of these respondents mention concerns related to the fact that all individuals are different, or that a system such as this leaves no room for personal growth or development.”
For those job candidates who fear automated résumé screening, here’s the bad news: that automation will only increase in the years ahead. Software is relatively cheap, and it spares companies from having to hire more recruiters and HR staffers.
That being said, many recruiters and hiring managers honestly view automated résumé screening as a way to eliminate unconscious bias (while boosting diversity, applicants, and, ultimately, employee performance). Yes, human beings can read the nuances of a document, but they’re also fallible.
Job seekers should keep in mind that application-screening software leverages in-document keywords. It’s important to make sure that the skills and technologies you mention in your résumé (and other materials) match the job description. At the same time, you must take care not to seed your materials with lots and lots of keywords; software knows when you’re trying to game it, and any humans who read your résumé won’t be pleased, either.
Make sure your job-related keywords cover your experience, skills, and education. Be specific, and cite any advanced subsets of the technologies that the employer is looking for; that may give you an additional leg up on the competition (provided you actually know those “advanced” distros or platforms, of course). Helpful side-note: do not include logos or graphics in your materials, as that can often confuse the machines.
It’s okay to fear algorithms; as much as their creators would like to think they’re infallible, they’re sometimes imperfect. If you have the right combination of skills and experience, though, chances are good that you’ll make it through your next candidate screening—whether your résumé is read by a machine, a human, or both.
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