‘Slightly disturbing’: Fabricated resume highlights flaws of automatic resume parsing

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After creating a fake resume with nonsensical but prestigious credentials and receiving a 90% response rate from companies, software engineer Angelina Lee has pointed out the prestige-oriented nature of the technology industry.

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Even after working with tech professionals and recruiters to improve her personal resume, software engineer Angelina Lee received no calls back to interview. To investigate what she was missing, Lee created a false resume and applied to several companies to see if recruiters really even read them.

The final fake resume, posted on Reddit along with responses from companies Lee submitted the resume to, contained mostly fluff, jokes and nonsense, but listed an education from UC Berkeley and work experience at Instagram, LinkedIn, Zillow and Microsoft. According to Lee, the resume received responses from companies such as Reddit, Airtable, Dropbox and Robinhood.

“The resume included everything from porn star names, admitting to mining cryptocurrencies on company servers, spreading herpes to teammates, to organizing potato sack races,” Lee said in an email. “I got a 90% callback rate.”

Most large organizations and Fortune 500 companies use an applicant tracking system, or ATS, to screen resumes, according to Sue Harbour, interim executive director of the UC Berkeley Career Center.

Campus senior Namrata Kantamneni noted while she saw the Reddit post as satire, it highlighted the flaws of automatic resume parsing. Rosa Zhang, campus senior, added that seeing fake credentials pass through screeners is discouraging to students looking for jobs.

“I really just proved what everyone in the tech industry knows — FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) on the resume is a golden ticket,” Lee said in an email. “Once you have Google on there, you can literally rick roll recruiters multiple times and they’ll still be knocking on your door asking for a second chance.”

Lee also noted her experiment showed it was “slightly disturbing” how resume parsers can lead to gatekeeping jobs in the software engineering industry. Prestige is becoming a distinguishing factor between many job candidates, according to Zhang.

Zhang added it “sucks” to get immediately screened out of the recruitment process and the way one needs to present themselves can be “artificial.” However, Harbour stressed the importance of being honest on a resume.

“The first rule of constructing a resume is to not fabricate,” Harbour said in an email. “A fake resume may make it through an ATS, but you’d have a hard time faking it through an interview and validating the experiences and references. The truth always comes out.”

Zhang advised students to get a friend or instructor to look over and critique their resumes and talk to alumni in their chosen field. Harbour said students struggling with how to present their experiences on a resume should visit Career Center resources or schedule an appointment with a team member.

While she feels “uncomfortable” with how companies reduce experiences to a few keywords rather than what a candidate can contribute, Zhang emphasized that one’s job doesn’t define them.

“Your job does not define you as a person as much as this school or Silicon Valley or just society makes you feel like it sometimes,” Zhang said. “Just because you don’t work at a top company doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be given a shot.”

Contact Vani Suresh at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @vanisuresh_.