Beat the Bots

By Robert Goldman

October 31, 2019 5 min read

You are going to be replaced by a robot.

You know it's going to happen — someday.

The question for today is: Are you going to be hired by a robot?

It's not as far-fetched as you may think.

According to "What is an ATS? How to Write a Resume to Beat the Bots," an article by Amanda Augustine at TopResume, "approximately 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies rely on ATS software to help streamline their recruitment process."

It's not just Fortune 500 companies, either. As Augustine explains, "what began as a recruitment solution for large employers has turned into a commonplace tool for companies of all shapes and sizes."

Of course, you know what ATS is.

You don't?

You may be in more trouble than we thought.

I'm a Bob, not a bot, but I do have opinions on the subject. Before a snippy computer puts the kibosh on your next job, plug yourself in and hit start.

ATS is an acronym for Applicant Tracking System. It's "a type of software used by recruiters and employers during the hiring process to collect, sort, scan, and rank the job applications they receive for their open positions."

You can see why such a system would be a real timesaver. Instead of a recruiter finding your inner strengths and latent abilities during the typical six seconds they devote to each resume, an ATS can digest and spit you out in milliseconds. This allows employers to reject you well before they even know you.

If you think a highly intelligent ATS system is going to recognize your hidden potential, forget about it. The purpose of the bots is not to identify the best candidates. Their job is to "toss the least-qualified candidates."

Oof! That's the sound of your resume hitting the trash can.

To achieve its goal of tossing out candidates, ATS software pays a lot of attention to keywords. You might think that if you pepper your resume with words like "self-starter" or "proactive," you'll receive warm reception from Mr. or Ms. Robot.

Not so.

Augustine considers these words to be "fluffy marketing term(s)" and not at all appealing to the robot mindset. I disagree. Companies may consider such words fluff, but the real reason they work against you is that no manager wants to hire a proactive self-starter.

Managers want employees who do what they're told and don't rock the boat. That's how managers succeed. That's why they love computers.

If you do have a keyword that will work in your favor, you are advised to use it multiple times in multiple ways. With an old-school resume, which will be read by an inefficient human, you might get an interview for that job at Google by writing, "All of my computer knowledge comes from playing Dead Space, but I am very interested in learning about algorithms."

Who knows? The human reading your resume may also enjoy the game's life-affirming features, like "strategic dismemberment." Or, they may be so hungover that they'll see the word "algorithms" and assume you're a Stanford Ph.D.

With a computer, that's not going to fly.

There is hope. If you don't have the qualifications, you can use frequency to trick the computer. Let me give the resume sentence above a slight makeover:

"All of my algorithms computer knowledge comes from playing algorithms Dead Space, but I am algorithms interested in learning algorithms about algorithms."

Welcome to Google.

Another aspect of writing an ATS resume is to "avoid images, charts, and other graphics."

This means you will no longer be able to get a gig by attaching a photo of you in a Speedo. You can get around this limitation by ignoring what looks sexy to a human and focus on what looks sexy to a computer.

A photo of a Lenovo Yoga C930 laptop in a Speedo could do the trick. Or, you could include a glamour shot of the smoking hot Intel Core i9-9900K chip. Yes, it's computer porn, but if you want the job, you will have to stifle your principles.

If none of these strategies work for you, why not do what you would do with a human reviewer?


"I really want to work for your company," you write in your resume, "because it has such beautiful, intelligent computers. I hope you'll review me positively, but even if you don't, I'd love to take you to dinner.

You pick the place. I'll bring the extension cord."

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Photo credit: FirmBee at Pixabay

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