Many of my clients ask me if I think it is a good idea to use white fonting on their resume. White fonting is the practice of attempting to manipulate the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that many companies use to sort through mountains of resumes by placing keywords (the words that describe the applicant's skills and abilities) in the white spaces on the resume in a white font so they are not visible to the human eye but can be picked up by the ATS.
At first glance it seems like a clever idea and a great way to pack in those important keywords without compromising the visual appeal of the resume so you can get your resume to the top of the pile and in front of the eyes of the recruiter and hiring manager with greater frequency. But the experts agree that the downsides of this practice far outweigh the benefits. Here's why.
Your resume may not make it past the human scanner.
Even in organizations where parsing software is used to sort candidate resumes, eventually a human will take a look at the resume as well. So while white fonting may help you get in front of the recruiter, it won't help you get past him. If your resume does not contain the right keywords (in a visible font) or prove you have the skills to do the job, that recruiter won't be contacting you -- regardless of how many invisible keywords you stuffed into the margins of your resume.
According to Kelly Dingee, sourcing researcher and trainer at AIRS, "candidates use white fonting thinking 'if they just see my experience, they will hire me.' What they may not realize is that the keywords they've white worded are requirements for the job, and when the human eye reviews the document and doesn't see the required work, they will dump the candidate in favor of someone who has listed the actual skill set or words."
Paul Peterson, national talent resource manager for Grant Thornton LLP, adds, "White fonting can help bring your resume to the top of the search results, but when a recruiter actually looks for a keyword and can't find it on the resume, that resume may be purged from the database by someone who thinks an error in the ATS system caused it to surface in the first place."
You may be dealing with an ATS that can't read white fonts.
All ATS systems are configured differently, and there is no way of knowing how each company's ATS will parse your resume.
According to Bruce A. Hurwitz of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing, "some systems can't read white fonts. So the candidate who is trying to trick the computer system may actually become its victim!"
The recruiter or hiring manager may be one step ahead of you.
White fonting is not a new concept, and many hiring authorities already know how to get around it. Rob McGovern, founder of CareerBuilder and current CEO of JobFox, says "a recruiter has only to highlight the resume text to see the white text, which many of them are smart enough to do."
White font may be visible on some systems.
If you are dealing with an ATS that displays the white font to the human reader, the hiring manager may question your integrity as it relates to the application process. Phil Rosenberg , owner of reCareered says, "the white font may not end up being hidden. How foolish would you look if your scheme to hide keywords 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, and foil your evil plan."
Keywords are an important component of the resume, but it's best to stick to traditional strategies for displaying them on the resume by either creating a competency section or weaving the keywords into the content of the resume. Robin Schlinger, owner of Robin's Resumes suggests, "strive to include all 'hidden' keywords as 'visible' keywords associated with accomplishments. Show how you succeeded (with an example) while using or applying the keyword to solve a problem or do their job. Jessica Silverstein, Principal of Attorney's Counsel agrees. "If an applicant has the skills required for the job they are applying for, those skills should be clearly expressed and highlighted on the resume."
Perhaps Teena Rose, owner of Resume to Referral, summed up the white fonting issue best: "Qualified professional candidates don't cram invisible keywords into their resumes. They leave those foolish antics to the scammers and spammers."