Is resume optimizing cheating?


So recently I reposted a few posts to help people looking for work. One of the posts was about optimizing a resume for ATS and resume databases. I posted or reposted it, and got some interesting feedback form a few recruiters. One said I was telling their secrets, that by telling candidates how to optimize their resumes it will mean they will have more junk resumes to read.  Another said it was cheating or falsifying a resume.


I replied to both. For the first I said, you can look at it that way or you can look at it as an opportunity to find great resumes that you might have overlooked because you were searching for one key word that was not in a candidates resume. Example I used was if you are looking for a “Visual Basic” developer and all you do is look for “Visual Basic” then every candidate who uses VB instead will not get pulled up. Now of course I do know that most experienced recruiters will search under both terms knowing they are the same. However there are allot of young in experienced database recruiters who will not. Also add in you might be looking for something allot more involved than VB and there might be other terms that can be used or the skill or software was called something else at one time. This will especially help recruiters who do not do research prior to sourcing.


For the second I simply said how is it cheating? How is it falsifying anything? All you are doing is ensuring the skills you have can be picked up no matter what buzz words are used to source. You are not lying, just optimizing there is a huge difference. I went on to ask are you cheating or falsifying a job description (JD) when you optimize it? Of course not you are simply ensuring that the JD will come up in a search as close to the top as possible no matter what word the candidates searches for. It is no difference for a candidates and their resume.


In the end they both reluctantly agreed with me. So the morale is Optimizing is not cheating it is simply smart.


Views: 740

Comment by Dan Hunter on August 2, 2012 at 8:33am

As you said how can it possibly be cheating?!  Its cheating if you lie. All you're doing in this instance is making sure the resume is more visible and will be available in more search strings. 

Comment by Alan Fluhrer on August 2, 2012 at 2:12pm

Also, on the other side of this.....if companies are using keyword parsers to do a first cut elimination, then....candidates must have the resume 'formatted' right so a machine doesn't toss them out.

Again, it comes down to experienced professionals to read

Comment by Joshua Lee on August 3, 2012 at 12:21pm

Dean - My two cents is this.  

1. Those who had a problem with this posting.... frankly aren't playing at the same levels as most of my colleagues and myself so I don't sweat it.  If keywords on a  resume mean that much to you as a recruiter, you're already behind.

2. Also, on the opposite side, to be frank, its kind of irrelevant.  At least the simple example you gave about VB and Visual Basic.  The reason is almost all software now automatically has enough AI to recognize both.  Meaning when you do a boolean search for "Visual Basic", it actually pulls up "VB" as well.  Give it a try in Google and you'll see.

3. Lastly, its not cheating and education is always good.  I think you may have posted the VB example as a real rudimentary example?  It can be quite helpful at a much deeper level.  However, again on the flip side, how someone writes their resume is half the reason I even call someone.  A poorly written resume is a sign they aren't organized or may have communication issues.

Good luck.

Comment by Mark on August 6, 2012 at 1:41pm

Dean, you wrote an interesting article on some pretty basic stuff and managed to stimulate some discussion.  Well done.

I've always looked at a resume as a marketing document, that is, a resume is just there to generate some interest in a candidate.  I work with a lot of engineers who are much smarter than I but, they don't write or express themselves particularly well.  Tuning up or optimizing a resume is just a way to make sure it gets seen by the hiring manger.

Anyone who tries to compete for a job in today's market without a well-written resume is making that much harder on themselves.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 6, 2012 at 4:45pm

Perhaps they were referring to your suggestion that a candidate should go down to the bottom of the resume, switch the type to white then type in every keyword in the job description so the system would read it but it could not be seen by the naked eye.  Maybe that was the part folks thought might be cheating or give them a bunch of unqualified resumes to read.

Comment by Dean Da Costa on August 6, 2012 at 5:57pm

That could be Sandra however doing what I said does not classify as cheating. It is nothing more than ensuring that any permutation of a skill that a candidate poses that appears in the JD is on the candidates resume so a system can find it and pull up their resume. So if they are a tester and they put on their resume Quick Test Pro, but you search in your ATS for tester with QTP, they would not get pulled up, But if they also have QTP listed on the bottom in white and small font the ATS system will pull It up and they will get seen. The presumption on the original post is that people would use this to ensure they get pulled up despite not having the skills of the job, and while that could happen it is unlikely that it will happen any more than it does without this trick. More importantly the odds are you will come up with a few candidates that match that you might not have before.

Comment by Ryan Leary on August 6, 2012 at 8:21pm me crazy but I cannot find the original posting... Can someone direct me to it, I'd love to read it.

I will say though that without reading the post and nothing but the comments on this page, the tip that Sandra is referring to is a seriously bad case of Black Hat SEO, which btw was a topic of discussion in 2000 and botted from online search algorithms about 4 years ago.

It's not a tip, it's actually a detriment to the job seeker. Especially if they are using Job Boards....

Online, Google will shut you down. If they don't tag that as SPAM and shut it down the amount of traffic to your site will  be so minimal you won't be able to measure it. If they post their resumes using this tactic on job boards they can kiss that good bye too.

Beyond this an ATS that is worth it's weight won't recognize this either. Top systems today convert resume submission to plain text for the purpose of parsing and search. Once converted to plain text the "oh oh we have crap in here" controls kick in and off it goes, quarantined often never read.

I'd love to read the posting but this tip is slimy and breaks the rules of integrity.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 7, 2012 at 1:16am

I looked for it too Ryan but Dean has posted so damn many tweets in the activity stream that it is burried in all his branding efforts.


If a candidate has the skill set or any derivation of it the skill should be reflected in black type on the resume or on an addendum that is a skill set summary.  Not the slimey crap of hiding a ton of buzz words so it will come up.  If any recxruiter is stupid enough to just search for  QTP and not Quick Test Pro they haven't been doing online searches for more than about 20 minutes.

I will defer to Ryan's far superior knowledge of techie stuff it's above my pay grade but when i first read it a year ago or whenever it was recycled my thought was, what a cheap chickenshit trick.  But then i am a purist about cheap tricks and being from Texas i can recognize chickenshit without having to take a bite of it.  So i suspect that is what the recruiters were talking about when they said it was cheating and would cause them to get all kinds of unqualified candidates. 

Fortunately or unfortunately , as the case may be, i am blessed or cursed with a photographic memory.  I am delighted that Ryan has clarified the pitfalls and called your suggestion out for what it is albeing somewhat more politically correct than mine. 

Comment by Dean Da Costa on August 7, 2012 at 1:53am

Ahh yes now one at a time, we will start with Ryan, it is interesting you mention some of the things you said such as black hat etc, at sand so on. And yet when I had several friends of mine using several different ATS systems put resumes in with this trick and only searched on words that were not viewable to the human eye the resumes were pulled up. So the trick still works very well, of course the idea is you only use it with words and skills you actually have. As to it being slimy and breaking rules, hmm so listing your skills is breaking the rules, making sure they are picked up by an ATS system is breaking the rules. Wow I guess writing a resume is breaking the rules too.

Now Sandra, I first want to thank you for keeping it cleaner than normal for you, as to your thoughts on it being a cheap++trick that is of course your opinion and you are entitled to it, but since I have had at least 2 dozen people contact me saying thank you it helped get them noticed and get the hired I think I will go with a good tip to help get you in the door. As to the QTP example, well I hate to say it, it has happened recently. I think perhaps in your work of executive recruiting not so much, but in corporate world were you have non recruiters in India and other country’s doing searches in ATS systems, based on the JD it happens a lot. As to your idea of a skills page etc, that too is a good one, and would also suffice. However that does not make this tip chicken+++t or slimy or breaking any rules. I think for you the problem is you did not take into accottn that the person doing this would be putting in the words that are in the JD of a job they are qualified for. You assumed that people who are not qualified for a job would use this to get looked at, and while I am sure that might happen, I am sure it will not happen any more than it happens without this tip. It is interesting how you took it to the dark side though.

The morale here is to not assume that all the people doing the searches in the ATS systems are seasoned professionals, in some cases they are admins using a JD that is far from complete, and yet they are the first door a candidate must get through, and this tip helps them.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on August 7, 2012 at 2:37am

if they are qualified and have the skills they should be reflected on the resume so any idiot can run a search using the words in the JD.  As people telling you thank you for this tip and it got them noticed.  Did it ever occur to any of you that just maybe they would have been noticed without the cheap crap in white at the bottom.  Or did some recruiter call them and say, "hey, the words that i didn't see were picked up by the ATS."


I think you meant "moral" not morale.


You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2020   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service