Make Your Resume Stand Out to HR Managers, Not AI Bots

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Recruiters receive hundreds of resumes when they’re looking to fill a role. To make application sorting easier, some recruiters have turned to artificial intelligence. About 12% of hiring professionals used AI in their recruiting last year, according to a Criteria survey, many in the finance and tech sectors.  

To get ahead in a competitive job market, some journalists are optimizing their resume for AI scanners. However, it’s unclear how many media companies are using AI tools to fill journalism positions. NBC News recruiters, for example, look at every resume that comes in — not just the ones AI recommends. Besides, getting a resume noticed is only one step toward obtaining a job. 

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“You could write the best AI-proof resume on the planet. You’re still going to have to interview,” said Scott Williams, talent acquisition director for NBCU News Group and NBCU Local. 

Below, Williams and Allie Barclay, talent acquisition manager for NBCU News Group, share how they review journalism job submissions and what helps applicants’ resumes stand out to employers.

Be authentic

Once an applicant submits a resume into NBC’s job portal, AI parses through the submissions and highlights certain words associated with skills and experiences mentioned in the job description. However, Williams said this is not a large factor in determining whether somebody moves forward in the process. “We take a look at the entire resume,” he said.  

Even if a candidate matches their resumes exactly to a job description, they will need to speak to their actual skills and abilities.  

“We will find out eventually,” Williams said about whether a candidate is qualified. “That’s why we have initial conversations.”  

Barclay said she receives applications in real time and likes to review each one, not just the resumes the NBC portal recommends. Barclay and Williams also warned against writing a cover letter that is a rehash of a resume. “It is not going to move the needle at all,” said Williams.  

Human connections matter

For Barclay, building connections is invaluable, and she says journalists should focus their efforts on networking. Attending journalism conferences is a great way to connect with peers and lean on each other for support. Introduce yourself to speakers and panelists. Be inspired as they share advice on their career trajectory.  

Interpersonal skills are also key for Barclay and Williams as they meet with candidates and assess how they would interact with potential new managers and teams, something that AI cannot do. 

“Being able to build that rapport and have those very human conversations will end up making the difference, no matter how good your resume might be from an AI perspective,” Williams said.  

Be open to jobs where you can advance

While candidates should cater their resumes and cover letters to show their qualifications for a specific job, they don’t need to be so narrow in their ambitions when they meet with a recruiter at an event or job fair. Barclay said early-career applicants can benefit from being open to different roles, or shifts beyond 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

“Sometimes working those [overnight] shifts, you might be the person that’s in the right place at the right time. That gets you really good experience that maybe you wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she said. 

Jobseekers should also pace themselves as they work toward a dream job. Barclay warned that applicants who only focus on big-name shows or working specific hours may miss out on other opportunities. Instead, apply to openings where you have a good chance of advancing and that match your skill set.  

Emphasize accomplishments rather than duties

Don’t focus on describing job duties in a resume — job roles tend to be similar across the board. Instead, Barclay and Williams said a candidate’s resume can stand out by highlighting particular accomplishments with specific examples, such as how they approached a certain news story. Those descriptions could carry more weight than a general summary of a job’s responsibilities. 

“Did you launch a new show? Did you interview somebody high-profile when you were working for the school newspaper?” Williams said. Those are the things to include on your resume, he said. 

For example, someone who produced political coverage for the 2020 election could include quantitative details like “worked in the control room during election night” or “produced post-election interviews with city voters.” Barclay said those kinds of details show collaboration skills and what the applicant could bring to the team. 

They stress the importance of being a team player — something bots might not be able to flag. 

“At the end of the day, those human connections still matter,” Williams said.

More tips on resumes, job applications and job interviews

Writing Your Resume Like a Journalist
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Tips for Your Elevator Pitch
How to Ace Your First Journalism Job Interview

Clarisa Melendez

Clarisa is a bilingual associate producer based in New York City with NBCU Academy’s content team. She also co-edits The Weekly Rundown newsletter. Previously, she produced for NBC Telemundo Network in Miami.