June 21 1998                                    YOUR CAREER


                        How to impress the robot recruiter

 If you are applying for a job at a blue-chip company - particularly in the IT sector chances are your CV is being sifted by computer. Firms such as BA, the BBC, Ford and EDS receive so many job applications that they scan CVs into a computer and let the software draw up shortlists. Up to 300,000 CVs are computer-sifted in this way annually and numbers are growing. But how can you adapt your CV so that it appeals to the robotic recruiter?

There are two types of sifting systems: text-based systems, which search for key words grouped into topic libraries, and systems that use artificial intelligence to decode simple phrases.

With text-based systems you should generally put your personal details at the top, after your name, otherwise the program gets confused. You also need to cite your company's annual turnover, workforce, the budgets you managed, specific technologies you have used, names of clients and the number of years' experience.

"The simple rule is be as detailed as possible," says Dominic Leslie, UK sales manager of Restrac, manufacturers of a text-based system. "If you are applying for a computer software job, make sure you list all the technologies you have used so the system can find them. If you are applying for an engineer's job, say what sort of projec s, companies and what scale of construction projects you have worked on."

With artificial intelligence-based systems, popular in the IT sector, such details are less important. Some companies use a system that can distinguish between the phrases "I am a manager", "I work for a manager", "I want to be a manager" and "I worked on a system called Manager Desktop", but many other systems cannot.

One rule for all CVs likely to be scanned: use a no-frills format and ensure the print quality is good. But is there any way you can persuade the program to put your CV at the top of the pile? "People think that if you repeat a word often enough, you will get a higher score from a text-based sifting program," says Alan Whitford, managing director of software house Resumix. "But you are probably better writing your CV so it makes the most of your skills and experience.

" Don't use boxes - the software cannot read images. Avoid italics because they are hard for the computer to read. Also avoid fancy layouts and fonts, as well as fonts smaller than 10 point. Use a good-quality laser printer. Make sure you fax the original because a fax of a photocopy loses half the definition. Apply by e-mail or Internet if possible, as this is easier for the recruiter.

But remember: if you do get to the interview stage, your CV will need to appeal to a human being as well as a computer.

                                                                                     Katherine Burke

Copyright 1998 Times Newspapers Ltd.
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