Applicants put a lot of trust into job boards and resume builders to present their qualifications and experiences to hiring managers in the best way possible. Even though job seekers rely on these tools to streamline the application process, what happens after someone hits “upload resume” is a mystery to most of us.
As powerful as these tools may be, the AI behind them might not be as smart as you think it is. And you may be surprised to learn that this lack of intelligence could actually be hurting your ability to get that dream job.
As recruiters, we see our fair share of resumes every day, and we can tell you firsthand, depending on the information submitted to a job board, a platform’s resume import tool can make a complete mess out of your finely-formatted document.
Even for resumes that aren’t jumbled up by these programs, we are always surprised how much personality and professionalism are stripped out of even the simplest resume layouts from these uploads and imports.
To give better insight into the ways job boards can reformat your resume, we submitted a test resume through this process to demonstrate what exactly happens to applicant data on job boards. Here is what we found:
Page Length Can Be an Issue
We’ve all played with the margins and line spacing to make a document meet a certain length. And altering the spacing to make our work experiences fit onto the gold standard of a single-page resume is no different.
Unfortunately, when job boards reformat your data, there is no regard for this rule of resume etiquette.
Indeed, in particular, likes to put every input field onto its own line. So, even if you can get everything on one page without adjusting font size or margins, there’s no guarantee your reformatted resume won’t spill over onto the next page.
A resume header that takes up two lines could end up taking four.
Your Text Populates Exactly How it is Put in
Let’s say you formatted your resume to have job titles be in all caps to better show the different positions held, or made the job title a lower case 14pt font and the company underneath all caps, 10pt, italicized and bold font.
Job boards will overwrite your formatting choices to match the standard font styles of their default resume, but the individual characters will remain.
What this means, is your job headings could go from this:
Grammar and Spelling
You may have caught the next thing we tested with these quick-build resumes:
There is no spell-check
For anyone who has applied on job boards using a candidate profile and not a resume knows this is a very tedious process. Depending on the browser you are using, the capabilities to check for spelling errors and grammar mistakes simply may not be there.
Our advice: Take your time when you are filling out your profile in this manner. It’s very easy for a small grammar mistake to fall through the cracks, and this tiny oversight can have big consequences for your application’s response rate.
Be Careful of Value-Added Content like Professional Summaries and Additional Jobs
Depending on how you have organized your previous work history, job boards can have a hard time figuring out where your job experience ends and education begins. If you’ve ever had a supplementary job, worked multiple jobs at the same time, or worked different positions at the same company, AI can struggle to determine which position takes priority, and how to place this shared/overlapping data.
For those of us who have gone the extra mile to make our resume stand out with awards, headshots, online websites, certificates, or volunteer information, we might as well forget it.
Depending on the job board, their resume format may not have input sections for this additional content. This means any volunteering or side jobs get pushed into the main work experience section of your reformatted resume.
Depending on where you put information like languages spoken, GPA totals, etc., this extra information can erroneously end up as part of your contact information, or even in the name of your alma mater.
To test out what happened to volunteer and secondary jobs, we gave our test applicant a job as a dog walker, and….
…it came up as their primary (and current) employer.
Now, this may not seem like a big deal because George’s job experience is right below this, but for employers who, on average, spend 6 seconds reading a resume, this setup does not make it apparent that this person has three previous positions in a customer support role. Furthermore, depending on the job board and how detailed application previews are, a hiring manager might pass on George’s application based on what they (don’t) see.
Consistent Formatting and Special Characters
Even though candidate profiles may appear to have a lot of style standardization, the text box where you add job descriptions is relatively open. However, this flexible text field does not mean it can support all characters.
If you used bullets to detail the responsibilities of one job, be sure to use them in all positions listed on your resume. If you prefer a paragraph style for detail, be consistent with that, too.
As a note, if you prefer the bullet method, try to avoid using special characters as bullets because some job boards do not recognize these symbols. Most are pretty good about recognizing the • character, but alternative bullets, like, ▪ , ● , ◦ , or ∙ could potentially cause some issues. If you are ever in doubt, we recommend using a classic “-" sign to take any risk off the table.
So What Can Applicants Do?
At the end of the day, we have no control over how sympathetic a potential employer is to the shortcomings of job boards and their AI. As job seekers, all we can do is try to safeguard against any programming gaps.
- Have an unformatted copy of your resume specifically for uploading to job boards.
- Before uploading your resume to a job board, see what it looks like in different word processing programs, and check to make sure the layout is clean and professional, regardless of the program.
- Ensure your job titles and their descriptions have a consistent format and are free of spelling and grammar errors.
- If there is a place to upload your original resume as a supplement, convert your resume to a format job boards can’t recognize as text. This could be a single layer .pdf, .jpg or .png file.
- If you have a website, it might not be a bad idea to include a link to your resume from there.
- Take your time! It may not be the answer you wanted to hear, but there is no such thing as a short cut when it comes to ensuring you are putting your best professional foot forward. The upside is that if you are willing to put in the extra effort, that is something that will stand out to employers.
We put together a few resume templates for applicants that are compatible with various job boards and also are formatted for hiring manager readability as well.
Putting it All Together
Although job boards’ resume builder functions may be marketed as benefitting applicants, they are not designed for you; these programs exist to make application searching easier for businesses. However, if these resume tools struggle to feature the best candidates in the best light, we may be trading off quality for convenience, and applicants and hiring managers alike are being put at a disadvantage.