Work smart and not hard
The adage “What you don’t know won’t hurt you” is very misleading, especially for people in transition or otherwise contemplating a career change. Not only is the contention untrue, but also it in fact hinders the ability to get what you want. Furthermore, it conveys a false sense of positive feeling. For example, those in transition are advised to customize their résumés to the job openings they’re applying to. Sounds logical, but it’s a laborious process that can take hours of close work, even though, at the end of the process, clicking on Submit or Apply gives a sense of satisfaction. But it’s a false satisfaction because nowadays, most if not all such submissions are going through electronic software called an applicant-tracking system, or ATS, which has its own rules. If the applicant does not obey the rules, the résumé or application goes into the proverbial black hole and never reaches its intended destination. That’s where the hurt comes in, because the applicant will never learn why it happened or how to correct the process for next time.
So, what to do?
Here are several suggestions. They apply only to electronic job applications, which means you should have two versions of the résumé: one for ATS software so that it will reach a recruiter and another one for a human.
- Submit your résumé in Microsoft Word format.
- Do not include tables in formatting the text.
- Be aware that there are many ATS providers, including archaic and new versions. As a candidate, you have no way of knowing which one your résumé will have to deal with, and pdf files or files formatted in other ways might not be able to get read into every type of ATS software.
- Don’t format your résumé by way of the use of a résumé template.
- Use the standard, customary section headers for sections, and put them on separate lines.
- Type those section headers in all capital letters, such as PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE, but do not type anything else in all caps. Of course use a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence, for the words in course titles, and for all proper nouns.
- Be consistent when listing your previous companies and titles—whichever you want to list first for emphasis.
- List a company name with its appropriate suffix such as Inc. or LLC. Otherwise, the company name could be mistaken for a different company.
- Separate each résumé section by a blank line, but never add a blank line within a paragraph.
- Do not number the pages because computers see all information as continuous. Your page number would wind up appearing at random somewhere in the middle of the document.
As you can see, the foregoing steps may appear as details, but as another adage goes, “The devil is in the details”; and that notion could be both crucial and decisive for your future career.
Could this be? After all it worked in past and others who helped you with it made significant improvements. Despite that, vis a vis other outstanding resumes it pales and is ineffective. In order for your resume to propel you to the point that somebody considers you as a potential candidate is has to have at least the following elements. Above all the gist of the resume has to be written in a way that conveys the reader that you have what it takes to solve his problems and chances are that you will excel.
- A strong career summary following the contact information. This is the first thing read. It sets the tone for the entire résumé. And it should be designed to attract, intrigue as well as compel the reader to keep reading more.
- An attractive visual presentation. This means the résumé has to look good on paper. The ideal résumé design has lots of white space, looks clean, and invites the reader to want to learn more about the candidate. A résumé is merely a marketing tool—the first impression a potential employer has of you.
- Passing the 10-second test. Résumés are being reviewed by recruiters and others who read many résumés and have to weed out worthwhile ones from those that are wastes of time. A professional reviewer does this for each résumé in 10 to 30 seconds. If it’s not attractive, your résumé will be discarded.
- Evidence that you will be able to deliver. This is the reason you have to list your accomplishments. Don’t confuse accomplishments with tasks that someone in your position typically performs; the interviewer already knows the tasks just from your title. From the way many résumés are worded, they come across as doers, not strongly as achievers. The distinction between the two is decisive. This is a common mistake made by nonprofessional résumé writers. To be effective and create excitement, a great résumé helps the decision maker envision your delivering similar achievements at the decision maker’s company.
- The right keywords. In addition to the human eye’s scan, most résumés nowadays get scanned into an applicant-tracking system and retrieved exclusively if they contain the right keywords based on a computer query. Keywords are critical because even the best applicant will miss the opportunity to compete if the résumé lacks the right keywords.
So, now the question becomes, What should be your next step? In principle, you have several options.
- Based on the issues covered here, you can continue having people help you with your résumé or you can buy books, read articles, and work toward making your résumé more desirable.
- You can engage a professional editor once you’ve finished your work on the résumé. That will assure you that it is perfect in terms of format, grammar, usage, spacing, punctuation, and more.
- You can engage a professional résumé writer. Most of the professional résumé writers are accredited, certified, and experienced. Some are pretty good; others are outstanding. You’ll want to interview them first for your résumé and cover letter.
People in transition or those who contemplate making a job change should not start dispersing their résumés all over the place before those résumés are up to snuff. I know that people in transition are very eager to get back in the game, to restore their (temporarily) lost identity, and to restart the flow of income, but the biggest mistake they make at this point is to start blasting weak credentials. Once your résumé hits cyberspace, you never know where it’s going to end up. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that before you post a résumé, it be a solid and strong one.
Next, the question is where to post it? Generally there are three types of job boards.
- The big and popular job boards such as HotJobs.com, Monster, and CareerBuilder.com are musts. While there may be overlaps among them, you never know which one is used by which recruiter or which potential employer.
- Those in the six-figure-income range can also post their résumés on such job search sites as sixfiguresjob.com, which is still free. They can also possibly try for at least one month certain others such as The Ladders.com and ExecuNet, which charge a small fee. The value of these sites is hotly debated among their users. Some job seekers were greatly helped by them, while others considered it a waste.
- There are several other, specialized sites such as lawjobs.com, Biospace, and HigherEdJobs, which should be used as appropriate.
A question I’m being frequently asked is how many job boards to use. My answer is that five to eight are suitable. Posting on job boards is laborious when setting them up for the first time. After doing so, it’s important to visit the sites daily—yes, daily–and make a small change such as adding or deleting a line and then saving the change. Doing that makes your résumé appear to be fresh. Recruiters have many fresh résumés to choose from, so why should they bother looking at older ones whose owners may have found already employment elsewhere?
The push and the pull
Now that you’ve pushed your résumé out into cyberspace, you should pull in openings that have been posted. Several job search sites do that for you. They’re known by the term aggregators. Indeed.com is one of the most popular ones, and there are others such as JobCircle and Simply Hired.
The aggregators are very user-friendly, and as a job seeker, you should set up a number of job alerts, as they are called, to reach your in-box daily. In fact, you should have several of them based on different keywords you’ve used and the distance from your ZIP code that you’re willing to commute to a job. The disadvantage of these types of sites is that there will be many duplicates. It takes a few trials and errors before hitting it right.