Friday, April 30, 2010

Should I Use White Font To Get More Keywords On My Resume? Question of the week

This week, a reader asked if he should use white font to get more keywords, or even the entire job description on his resume.

On the surface, hiding the job description within your resume seems like a really smart way to beat the system. In reality, there are many dangers that don't meet the eye (kind of like white font) as well as disadvantages to a hidden keyword strategy.

Read more ...

On alternate Fridays, I'm posting a job search question from one of our readers. This was a question sent to me in response to my daily articles.

W.D. shared a question about his own job search, and asked:

"In customizing a resume to a job description (ie: for a posted/public opening) and adding searchable keywords in the body of the text, would it also be advantageous to copy and paste part/all of the job description to the bottom of the resume (in white font so as to avoid human detection). Would scanning software see it as a match? I often wonder if, by doing that one would become almost a perfect match in the cybermind of the computer... Thoughts?"

In theory this makes sense. There are a number of ways to hide text in a resume. The three most common are white font, microscopic font size, and hidden format selection. I've written many prior articles about resume search optimization, teaching keyword matching techniques (for example, see:

While taking resume search optimization to the n-th degree by copying the entire job description may seem like a logical extension - in reality it brings many risks and disadvantages.

First let's talk about some disadvantages of hiding keywords. The idea here is that you're looking for the best of both worlds - to get keyword matches, but yet not allow the reader to see why there are keyword matches. It might work, but then it's not clear to your reader why you're a good fit. There are better ways to accomplish this:
  • You want reviewers to actually see the keywords, don't you?: If you hide them, your second audience (HR reps and recruiters), third audience (hiring manager), and fourth audience (hiring manager's boss, peers, and staff) can't see what a good fit you are - see
  • Certain ATS systems may overlook white font keywords: So if Audience #2, #3, & #4 can't see it (see above), and now the database (audience #1) can't see it, what's the point? For instance, hidden format selection is typically not searchable, and probably won't show up as a keyword match.
  • Human review: There really are humans in the hiring process, even though at times it might seem robotic. If humans can't see why you are a good match in about 15 seconds, you end up in the no-interview pile (see
  • Gives false sense of security: Copying the job description into your resume discourages you from taking your accomplishments and framing them so they are relevant to the solving the hiring manager's problems. Why? Because a job seeker thinks they are covered by the white font hidden job description.
Even worse than disadvantages, there are some real risks that a hidden keyword tactic could backfire on you: Here are 6 reasons why:
  1. Oops! : It might not end up being hidden. How foolish would your resume look, if your scheme to hide the job description was discovered? Some ATS systems strip formatting (including font color, font size and hidden attributes) and just use text - this would display all those cleverly hidden words, foiling your evil plan.
  2. Search: Word documents can be searched - this usually works to your advantage. Typically searched words are displayed in a highlighted mode, either by ATS selected resumes, or if a reader wants to see where a certain skill exists on your resume. If you use white font, this searched for term displays a highlighted blank space in the white space at the end of the resume - a dead giveaway.
  3. They're not stupid: Your audience is reviewing hundreds of resumes per day. Do you think you're the first person who thought this up? Chances are excellent that your audience has seen this before, doesn't appreciate it, and it's an immediate disqualifier.
  4. ATS Automation: Because employers have seen this before, some ATS systems my have the built-in capability to discover white font, microscopic font, and hidden text.
  5. Looks lazy: Because let's face it, it is lazy.
  6. Appearance of cheating: Is this the first impression you want to give an employer?
In the end you might fool some people, but even if you fool some readers your resume isn't likely to demonstrate why you are a match. And if your sneaky tactics are discovered by your reader, consider yourself tossed. I don't see how hidden keywords are a good strategy.

I'd like to hear from readers ... have you tried this? Has it been successful or unsuccessful for you? How about recruiters or employers? Have you caught anyone in the act? When you've caught people, what happens next? Have you ever hired anyone even if you knew they used underhanded tactics to get your attention?

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Related Articles:
Why Am I Always 2nd Or 3rd? Question Of The Week
Question Of The Week - How should I let my network know that I'm looking for work?

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1 comment:

Mike Administrator Account said...

All great points Phil. IMO this immediately disqualifies a candidate. They are lying on their resume, which is grounds for dismissal in many cases if found out.

It is lazy. It is cheating. It is a scheme in the most negative of connotations. You are blatantly lying to your potential employer.

If you are willing to lie, cheat, and deceive to get the job, what will you do to keep the job? To get ahead?

And if you truly want the job, do you want your very first interaction with the employer to be a lie?