How to get past the computer when applying for a job

We all know that in order to get to an interview your CV, or application form often has to get past a computer. Increasingly there is no human involvement during the initial filter, other than the setting of the algorithms to decide on the key selection criteria. That can be a depressing thought when each application consumes so much of your time, and you fear that it might be put in the bin before anyone has taken a look.

This horribly inhuman process is justified on grounds of practicality. Goldman Sachs site an occasion two years ago when they received a quarter of a million applications from students and graduates; and in the Economist they recently calculated that if a team of five Goldman HR staff, spent nearly five minutes on each application, it would take nearly a year to sift through this mammoth pile. No wonder they want to call on computers to help them.

So how should you respond to this very daunting environment?

The first step is to think carefully about what the algorithms will be looking for, and you will find many of these criteria in the job ad. But there will be other criteria that a firm will be less open about (for fears of being discriminatory). This may be a problem for applicants who did less well during their early years of education, and for example, those of you who pocketed a poor A Level result. No point spending hours filling in an application that is side-lined simply because you got a C in geography four years ago, despite you getting a degree first last year.

A better solution is to use algorithms to your advantage. Use them as an excuse to pick up the phone and make human contact. Get through to the HR person responsible for the initial vetting. Find out about the computer procedure, and explore ways of getting around it. Above all, use the conversation to connect at a human level, and get them on your side. So that when they receive your application they hear your voice and but the algorithms to one side, and your application onto the right pile.