How to get your CV ready for AI hiring

As more recruiters lean on AI screening tools, we explain the simple resume tweaks you can make to beat the computer and win your dream job in 2024.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

The high staff turnover rate in the UK means many of us are searching for a new job this year. But the application process looks unrecognisable now that AI has entered the mix.

Recruitment tools like Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) have been given a major upgrade thanks to the advent of AI in recruitment. Machine learning drastically speeds up the process of reviewing resumes by automating those fiddly pre-interview checks you might not even be aware recruiters carried out.

Naturally, though, losing the human eye from the initial stages necessitates a different approach to CV design. Below, we list five quick – but impactful – changes to make a robot-friendly resume.

By the end, you’ll be able to “beat the AI” with a document that’s fully compatible with, and optimised, for the modern recruitment process.

1. Embed keywords from the job description

AI algorithms seem mystical to the layman. But in truth, most AI screening tools are simply taught to judge how well your CV matches the criteria it’s been given: the job description.

The AI will look for words that appear in both the job advert and your CV, so be sure to tailor how you write about yourself to reference what the job ad is looking for. Include keywords that the machine might be searching for. These should relate to your work history, experience, and skillset.

For example, if the posting asks for experience using Microsoft Excel or WordPress, use that exact terminology, instead of related words like ‘spreadsheets’ or ‘web publishing.’

Include the title of the position you are applying to in your CV. It’s a simple step, but it can help you to be registered as the more relevant candidate for a role over less attentive rivals.

2. Keep the layout simple

AI screening tools are not designed to be groundbreaking technology. They are intended to scan text, not images, so it’s best to avoid flashy graphics on your CV.

Choose plain colours and default text over tables and charts. Format all dates as MM/YYYY (the software can get confused by other variations) and stick to good ol’ fashioned bullet points, not asterisks or arrows.

This is another reason why recruiters dislike creative CVs. Non text-based formats (such as a graphic novel or video essay) might look amazing, but if the first entity that views them is an AI tool, all the computer will see is a jumbled mess of code. Which brings us to..

3. Save it in the correct format

One of the biggest clues that the reviewer is using AI to scan your resume is if it asks you to save the document as a specific format (usually Microsoft Word).

This is because some older ATS systems can unintentionally read a PDF or Google Docs file as an image, which blunders their ability to extract all of the correct information from the copy.

It’s an easy mistake, but it can be incredibly costly. When there’s hundreds of entries for one role, time-stretched recruiters won’t chase down every applicant who saved a file incorrectly. Even if a file type isn’t given, save yourself the trouble and send it as a Word document – unless you’re specifically encouraged to do otherwise.

4. Sans Serif is in, italics are out

By now, everyone should know that Comic Sans is off limits as a font. But there are some other typefaces that some AI algorithms can’t pick up as well as others, meaning they are best avoided by candidates.

Easy-to-read styles, like Sans Serif or Serif fonts are safest. Aim for 10-12 point font size. All text should be coloured plain black, so don’t start messing about trying to match your CV colour scheme to the company logo. Avoid blue-shaded hyperlinks for the same reason.

Finally, italic types might look more formal, but they can also confuse the AI scanner. Keep your copy upright and standing to attention to give the best impression to the ATS.

5. Send a follow-up email

We’ve outlined five tips when writing for robots. But a caveat to the above guidelines is that the end result must still make sense to a human reader (simply spamming the CV with 500 soft-skill keywords will likely get you through the first round of recruitment and no further).

Remember, after the initial AI screening, the best resumes will go on to be assessed by a real person. If you’re concerned about how an AI tool might receive your CV, you can also send a short follow-up email to the relevant manager to get on their radar and ensure they hire the right candidate for the role.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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