The Careerist: How Do I Get Robots to OK My Resume?

The Careerist explains how to get your resume past the automated systems that screen job candidates.

Q: I’m updating my resume for the first time in a decade and feeling intimidated. What are the trends? Robots? Help!

A: You’re onto something with the robots; you’ll need to envision your resume as a digital document, whereas last time you worked on it, top concerns included crisp, ivory paper. Many recruiters and hiring managers are now using an applicant tracking system, or ATS. To get past these digital gatekeepers, make sure your resume has the terms, key skills and titles that align with the position you are applying for. You can figure this out by analyzing the job description. Also include a link to your (up-to-date) profile on LinkedIn. Two more tips: outdated email addresses containing providers like AOL or Hotmail may suggest that your skills are equally vintage. And highlight your recent experience rather than hashing out everything you’ve ever done. Positions held during the Clinton administration can be edited out, focusing instead on the past 10 to 15 years. Now go get ’em!

Q: One of my co-workers frequently says she is going to take care of some task but “forgets” to do it and I’m left scrambling. What should I do? 

A: I hear this and instantly think “passive aggressive!” – which is why I should not be left to my own devices. I consulted with Oren Jay Sofer, author of the new book, “Say What You Mean.” Sofer is an expert in mindful communication and leads workshops on this valuable skill (

He didn’t jump to conclusions like I did. “Clearly, you are seeing a pattern with the behavior,” he muses, but instead of labeling things, he suggests we “approach with a sense of curiosity and give the person the benefit of the doubt.” There could be many reasons for your associate’s task amnesia. Is she overwhelmed? Does she need support or help organizing priorities or more information? Maybe she needs to say no to your requests but doesn’t feel empowered to do so. You won’t know until you check directly with her, so here’s how to create the framework for a meaningful conversation.

The first step is a check of your internal stories. Look at the assumptions you may be bringing – Sofer called it “extra stuff.” For example, if you are someone who wants to be liked, you might be primed to experience your co-worker’s inaction as a personal affront. Or if you value high quality and expect others to hold similar standards, her behavior may frustrate you. Think about what you’re bringing to the situation that doesn’t have anything to do with the actual situation.    

Sofer says to consider what you need or value in this exchange with your co-worker. “How much of this is about getting the work done? Or is it about having clear communication? Or keeping agreements? All may be going on, but each one would be a slightly different conversation. If you aren’t clear going in, it will be a muddy conversation.”

He notes that passive-aggressive behavior is different from conflict avoidance. In conflict avoidance someone tries to keep the peace – even to the point of giving up on their own needs. Passive-aggressive is an indirect form of confrontation, but confrontation nonetheless. “We’re pretending everything is OK on the surface but there is anger or even hostility underneath. We are still expressing our needs, still connected to that and still trying to get our needs met.” But not in a positive way.

Now that you are ready to have the conversation, Sofer coaches, you could say something like, “Hey, I noticed we had discussed having this project in at this time. I was wondering if you were really busy or maybe I remembered wrong?” It removes it from the personal realm, he says, “And the last thought: there can be no real ‘yes’ unless there is a ‘no’ possible. We need to feel someone can really say no in order for them to be able to say a trusted yes.” That may be something to look at, both from a company standpoint and an interpersonal one.

Q: I want to initiate a summer internship program at my company. Where to begin?

A: Launching an internship program can be daunting, but interns provide fresh perspectives to companies and sow the field for a future crop of talented employees. I asked Greg Chilson, VP and talent acquisition manager at Bank of Hawaii, about his company’s highly sought-after program. 

First, he suggests, you’ll need buy-in from top management. “You have to be doing this for the right reason. It can’t be for free labor. Our reason is community service. With our program, we’re trying to avoid a brain drain of kids graduating and getting a one-way ticket to the Mainland. We want to show them there are career opportunities in Hawaii.” There’s also a financial commitment. “We have 30 interns, each working eight weeks, full time, at $15 an hour, which is the same minimum amount we pay across our company.”

Consider who you will pursue. “For us, it’s about 90 percent coming from the UH Manoa Shidler College of Business,” says Chilson. He and his recruiters focus on campus organizations, “the ears directly to the students.” He has four people who work on the college activities to build the program, and one of them oversees the internship program.

It pays to think beyond the usual suspects. Have you considered older, transitioning workers? In Bank of Hawaii’s case, “We’re actually about to start up a new internship program, for people who are transitioning out after 10, 20 years in the military,” says Chilson. It will be modeled after the college program and overlap slightly so the veterans can also help mentor the college students.

Lastly, think about what the interns will experience. “They want to taste test an organization and even a career,” says Chilson. “And we’re thinking, ‘Can we maybe convert them into an employee?’ ” At Bank of Hawaii’s program, about 1 in 4 interns eventually becomes an employee. At the onset, he says, “We promise them you’re going to get paid, you’re going to make 30 new friends, and you’re going to get clarity on banking as a career. If, afterward, you feel like ‘banking sucks, I don’t want to do this,’ that’s great. You don’t want to do 10 years in a banking career if it’s not for you.” During their internships, interns take part in one-on-one meetings, resume reviews and coaching, and are asked how the internship program can be improved.

Ask the Careerist
Have a question about work, life and that place in the middle where it all gets tangled up?
Ask me at:

Categories: The Careerist