Five Tips for Getting Your Legal Resume Past AI Screeners
For openly posted positions, most legal employers will receive thousands of resumes—far too many to review. Consequently, they use software algorithms to screen the resumes received, and only those that pass this initial review make it to a human being’s desk. Recent developments in AI have caused these algorithms to become vastly more sophisticated. While your best angle for finding a job remains, as ever, to network as much as you can, below are five tips for getting your resume past these new, powerful AI screeners.
Don’t Try to Game the System
You may encounter older articles on this subject advising you to do something like paste relevant keywords all over the blank space of the resume in white on the theory that the algorithm will detect the words and pass the resume up, but the human who ends up reading the resume won’t be able to see what you did. This was always bad advice, as the full text will often be re-rendered in black after passing through the system. Additionally, the systems are more sophisticated now and can flag things like keyword spam as suspicious and place the resume in the discard pile. There’s no magic bullet here—you’ll have to be honest, so focus on being smart and effective rather than trying any “tricks.”
Upload the Resume in .doc or .docx
A lot of people erroneously assume that, because many human beings prefer it, you should upload a resume as a PDF. However, many screening systems are still not compatible with PDFs and are programmed to discard any resumes they cannot read. A .doc or .docx is still your safest bet.
Tailor the Resume to the Specific Job Description
When sending out multiple applications trying to get that first job, resist the temptation to use the same resume for all of them. Obviously, each resume won’t be too different, as your experience and education are what they are. It is worth the time, though, to read the specific job posting and tweak the language of your resume to highlight the specific items in the posting that are also in your background. It is normal and to your advantage—and not a “trick”—to use similar keywords in the resume as are present in the job posting.
Keep Formatting Simple
If we can learn anything from those reCAPTCHA authentication screens, it’s that bots still aren’t great at reading words that aren’t simply and clearly formatted. It can be tempting to try and make a resume stand out by doing something unique with the formatting. Resist this temptation. Even though your resume will—superficially—look like everyone else’s, a simple document with plain, clear formatting and obvious headers, the standard format is the easiest for the bots to read, and as such is much more likely to get past them.
Only Send One Resume
Another common temptation—and now outdated advice—is to either apply for multiple openings at the same firm or to try multiple applications for one position with different resumes, the theory being that at least one permutation might get by the screener even if the others don’t. While this worked at times in the past, newer screeners are programmed to scan for and detect multiple resumes from the same applicant and discard them all as suspected spam.
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Ideally, you’ve networked well enough that you have a connection point with at least a few firms that interest you, or failing that, you have at least found multiple positions of interest. Your best bet is not to try trickery or system gaming to get past the AI bots. Rather, take the time and effort to carefully read each job description and—always being totally honest—tailor each resume you send to include appropriate, highlight relevant keywords (without spamming them), so the system flags you as qualified. Keep the formatting plain and standard, and submit the resume as a Word document so that you can be sure the bots are able to read it. Getting by the bots is, of course, only the first step, but it’s something you must do to get any further in the process.
Best of luck in your legal job search from all of us at Vault Law!