Over the past several years, more recruiters and HR staffers have begun to rely on automated software to scan through their daily flood of résumés and cover letters. On the surface, that seems like an excellent idea: Why burn time manually sorting through unqualified applicants when a couple lines of code can eliminate them in a fraction of a second?
But the rise of application-screening software has introduced another unfortunate trend: applicants seeding their résumés and cover letters with lots and lots of keywords, whether or not they’ve truly mastered the accompanying skill-sets. Whatever it takes to get their materials reviewed by a human, in other words.
There’s just one problem with that strategy: What if you actually manage to get in front of a flesh-and-blood interviewer, they’ll doubtlessly ask about your abilities and experience—and it will rapidly become clear that you’re not nearly the master at certain skills as you suggested on paper. The interview will go downhill from there.
Fortunately, there’s a simple way to prevent that scenario from playing out: While you should certainly list any and all relevant skills on your résumé, take care not to load up on too many keywords simply to beat the scanning software.
If you feel that you absolutely must list a particular ability that you haven’t quite mastered yet in real life, mention that you’re learning it (including any classes you’ve taken, or when you expect to earn your certificate). That way, you’ll get your keyword without potentially creating an awkward moment with an interviewer.