When somebody uses the word “algorithm,” what image comes to mind?
Maybe you’re thinking of a young Mark Zuckerberg scrawling an equation on his dorm room window. Maybe you’re thinking of a huge room full of servers that somehow decide which website Google wants you to see. You’re not far off.
An algorithm is a series of guidelines or conditions that directs a computer result or action. For example, if you’re on Facebook looking for your friend Gina’s friend Greg, Facebook’s algorithm knows that since you’re already friends with Gina, her friend Greg is one of the most likely matches for your search.
Here’s the thing: potential employers are using hiring algorithms to search for you. And such algorithms often stand between your application and a real person.
Understanding how algorithms work can help you get past digital filters to the next level, where the human touch can make a bigger difference, and even help you plot your long-term career path with greater accuracy.
To make any of that happen, you’ve got to think like an algorithm during your job search process.
Step 1: Build a list of targeted keywords
Keywords are the words or phrases you enter into a Google search box; for example, “Pizza near me.” Much the same as you may look for pizza; hiring algorithms use keywords to look for candidates. So if you want your resume and profile to stand out to a hiring algorithm, you’ll need to use keywords they’re most likely searching for.
Here’s how to build a list:
Talking to an algorithm can be tricky. By using a little technology to find top keywords, you’ll be better equipped to speak their language.
Step 2: Customize your application materials using keywords
As you’re customizing your resume to each position you’re applying to, add keywords from your target list into descriptions wherever it’s appropriate and still sounds natural. Also include keywords in any supplementary written materials such as cover letters, sample work, emails and job board fields.
You’ll want to keep the following in mind:
Step 3: Keep pushing, and recheck
Resumes, applications and job boards aren’t the only platforms algorithms use to track candidates. Use the same keyword list to help you build and edit your LinkedIn profile, or any other writing you publish on the web. After all, a fresh algorithm might come crawling past your page at any time.
You can also remain more visible to hiring algorithms by staying up to date. Post on LinkedIn and other channels, and update your profiles and details often using your keywords. Some algorithms may filter for user activity level.
Also, remember that jargon changes fast. You’ll want to occasionally re-do your keyword list, and check which social media hashtags are in popular use.
Keep at it even after you accept a job offer! You never know if or when a new algorithm will be the first point of contact for your next big leap forward.
Algorithms vs. people
Hiring algorithms are designed to help hiring managers spend less time reading resumes that don’t match job requirements. Instead of having to search through resumes by hand to see which candidates have a certain professional certificate, hiring managers can now trust a program to filter candidates automatically.
For job searchers like you, that means algorithms are a gatekeeper. They might not present the greatest barrier to getting hired, but they can limit your options if you’re not careful. Getting past them, and on to the human element of the job search, is where you’ll really get a chance to shine as a candidate.
Ready to leapfrog over the hiring algorithms? Reach out directly to a human, at Aerotek.