Gaming the job hunting market

Gaming the job hunting market

#MS Office, #Job hunting, #Game Theory, #employment, #Computer Skills, #Graduates, #Gamification, #Skills, #IT skills, #CV, #Office

Yesterday I meet our Graduate Careers Officer who was describing how HR firms use computer algorithms to automatically filter out the rubbish CVs and cover letters, providing the time to humans to focus on the short list of good candidates. For many good applicants, this is a problem because they now have to guess what the computer will filter out, and what will get them to the inbox of a real human. 

Seriously, go talk to this guy. He is great!

This smells like a game to me. 

And all games can be beat!

Games have players, objectives (and interests), available resources, asymmetric knowledge and defined rules. Job hutting pretty much fits all of those elements, the only difference is that now the computer strengthens the rules. The problem is, candidates do not know what the rules actually are. 

Computer says: "No"We know computers have just made it harder to get the interview stage. We also know that the interview is a completely separate skill set. Let us narrow the game to encompass only "getting to the interview" range. 

The smarter players will think strategically, that is, "I think that you think <ABC>, therefore I will behave in <XYZ> manner so you react <123>". Strategy is about changing your behaviour and positioning  your resources such that that your opponent will react in a way that benefits you.

Smart job candidates know that employers will program their computers to hunt for words like "leadership", "self motivated", "attention to detail" and "teamwork". Further the position description has a lot of job specific buzz words - eg:  it might ask for "database skills" or "PeopleSoft". If your application doesn't say these words at least three times, you will be automatically filtered out. It's brutal. 

So how can we bomb the algorithm? Easy! Guess the keywords and repeat these words - a lot. This might beat the computers, but it would certainly make for boring reading when the human picks up the CV, so you would fail at that stage. Conceptually the candidate must write very tight writing that strikes a balance between being repetitive and being readable. 

We need a balance between writing for two audiences, the computer and the human. 


A better way would be to simple write stuff for the computer, and write different stuff for the humans. This is easy, as a computer will read all strings found on the CV or email, but it does not do so optically. Thus for everything you want the computer to read, but the humans to ignore, you change the font to WHITE. White text on white paper (or a white screen background) is illegible to humans, unless they select the text with mouse. 

For example, half of the text here is missing. I'm sure that the first thing you did was SELECT/HIGHLIGHT the text and you will beable to read it just fine - but you only do thisbecause you know that the text is really here. You don't want the HR person to do that, because they will think of it as "cheating." So put that test in your CV where there are white spaces on the document that are less obvious, such as headers, footers, a signature space, etc - cram all your computer-only text there and make the text white. 

Or you could just use metadata - but that is a blog post for another day. 

Happy job hunting.

-Tetracarbon out. 

           Always play by the rules, but be sneaky if the rules permit it. I hate Star Trek but the whole point of the Kobayashi Maru scenario was that it was designed as a no-win scenario to test the problem solving abilities to find the the best of the best.