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Software weeds out weak resumes

By Jim Boulden, CNN
January 8, 2013 -- Updated 1501 GMT (2301 HKT)
  • Great achievements listed in your resume may never be seen by a human
  • Software vendors are creating ever more sophisticated programs to scan resumes
  • Computers might like some terms -- but you will have to back them up at the interview

London (CNN) -- You had better be logical and forceful when writing your resume. Your expertise and practical experience should stand out, along with how you performed in your previous jobs, including what you eliminated, influenced, removed, supervised and increased.

My introduction attempts to pepper a first paragraph with 10 action verbs and self-descriptive words that would be needed in my resume.

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"I would say that today's [resume] was selling achievements, as opposed to responsibilities," said Barbara Love of Right Management. "We are selling the evidence that you can do what you say you can do."

But the twist is, these achievements may never be seen by a human, unless you can pass muster with software known as Applicant Tracking Systems, or ATS.

With resumes stacking up in HR's inbox, software vendors are cashing in by creating ever more sophisticated programs to scan resumes before any human sees them.

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ATS software can also be tweaked by companies to catch keywords (not buzzwords) or attempts to trick the computer.

Monster jobs web site has one, 6sense that is a data mining search engine that scans your resume and tracks it through the company, but you have to get past 6sense first.

"People used to put words in white text so you could not see it visually, but the machine would read it. So, there is technology to take that out," Monster's James Brian told CNN.

And if you do what it did in the first two sentences here, the computer can note that you tried too hard.

"Our software detects when people are doing what we refer to as 'keyword bombing' so, if you put skills all together," added Brian.

Some action verbs listed on various web sites to get past ATS might surprise you. Aggressive caught my eye.

Then there are self-descriptive words like pioneering, imaginative, pleasant, and dynamic -- all terms the computer might like but experts say you will have to back up when you finally meet a human face.

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