Best Ways to Beat the Bots

Best Ways to Beat the Bots

How can project professionals impress automated job application systems? Focus on keywords and certifications.

Robots aren’t stealing project management jobs just yet — but they have become a new obstacle for job seekers in the digital age. Organizations around the world are turning to automated programs and artificial intelligence algorithms to handle tasks that help recruiters and hiring managers weed out the best candidates.

These automated systems scan applications, résumés and CVs for keywords and phrases that help filter which candidates merit human review. And they are part of a growing analytical approach to help find talent: Nearly 30 percent of recruiters say big data is a trend that will reshape talent hunting in the next few years, particularly in large firms that hire hundreds of candidates every year, according to LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends 2017 report.

“It’s not just the case for project managers. Every industry is seeing this change,” says John Todd, PMP, vice president and partner, Downtown Recruiting, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Project professionals can adapt to the digital talent search by tailoring their applications to highlight the keywords and certifications that align with each particular job opening.

Mirror the Description

Automated programs are designed to search for keywords that are unique to the job description. Project managers should customize their application or résumé so that it syncs up with the core competencies and desired experience referenced in the job posting, says Karen Goers, managing director of career consulting firm Interview Savvy, Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Which words appear multiple times in the description or under key responsibilities? What project skills are listed under qualifications? Such an analysis will help you create a list of keywords that you can emphasize in your application and résumé.

“Your résumé is going to be judged based on how closely it aligns with the open position, so it should mimic the job description as much as possible,” Ms. Goers says.

Showcase Certifications

Certifications aren’t just a sign of your knowledge and skills. They also attract automated systems that are programmed to search for certifications that correspond with a job’s responsibilities and qualifications, says Verginia Duran, PMP, human resources business partner, Bradesco, São Paulo, Brazil.

For instance, if a job description for a software project manager emphasizes the need for experience with agile delivery approaches, candidates should list their PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification near the top of the résumé. But don’t list the certifications on the same line as your name, because automated systems might mistake them for being part of your name and overlook them.

“If I’m looking for a project manager, searching for ‘PMP’ is my default, and the same would be true for automated systems,” Ms. Duran says. “Project managers who know how to showcase their certifications and project experience can get noticed.”

Keep It Simple

Outsmarting application bots requires a bit of risk management, too, Mr. Todd says. For example, if you’ve previously applied for a job at the organization, make sure you purge any previous résumés or cover letters you’ve submitted, if possible, so that the automated system doesn’t scan the wrong one, he says. And don’t use graphics, logos, images, tables or text boxes to convey skills on your résumé, because automated systems might block such content as it reads these as pictures, not text.

Having a smart digital-first strategy can make a good virtual impression — and open the door to a face-to-face interview.