Time and lousy resumes are the greatest enemies in a job search. The longer the hunt for a new job takes, the greater the frustration, feeling of failure and the possibility of making more search mistakes with useless resumes and strategies, and all because most jobseekers ignore the changes in recruiting practices and therefore fail to score interviews. I have written a summary of why you should ‘trash’ your resume and turn to effective solutions so you can job search with the right tools and achieve results.
I bet my Headline really got your attention… If you know my blog posts, you will know that I am a firm believer that the best way to job search is to use good tools and techniques, make use of the day and hunt wisely.
I speak to many jobseekers every week. Sadly, the internet has created online job board or LinkedIn junkies and caused a lot of people to adopt a quantitative approach to their job search campaign. The majority of jobseekers are still not aware of the fact, that only between 15 – 30 % of all job openings are placed online. The rest of the jobs are somewhere else!
Yes, I am not kidding. This is what the experts and bloggers will tell you when you search online and in webinars and slide shares but, despite all this, many candidates are hooked on online portal searching. They take the ‘hope and fear’ approach and shoot out a huge stream of ineffective applications to openings posted on job boards and company websites and hope that at least one will yield a response.
No wonder so many end up with a job they hate – or a company without a future, and no wonder many candidates contribute to ‘long term’ unemployment. Clued in jobseekers review their toolkit and adjust it to the job market and seek professional help when their own tools or job seeking efforts produce no results.
Why You Have a Resume
Very few hiring managers will tell you this, particularly recruiters and HR Managers. The whole job search scenario, the tools and more importantly the processes have changed dramatically and if you are not aware of the changes you are likely doomed to failure.
If you apply for a job through a traditional online method without a suitable ATS-optimised resume, it’s likely you won’t get called. But, that doesn’t mean the resume is your only tool. It is usually the first tool for those hiring professionals who solely rely on it to make their selection (or decide on a short list) but it is not even necessary for many other job opportunities. So, if you are open minded, read on. If you are sceptical and want to continue ‘the old way’ you should still read on. And, if you are stubborn, just go back to wasting your time with out-dated resume tools and strategies.
One of the main reasons you have a resume is because it’s easy. Standing out in a sea of people is hard work. It’s much easier to spend a couple hours on a Word document and start spraying it everywhere.
The downside is that the resume is easy for employers as well. A resume is shorthand and a way for them to make quick decisions about you. When they’re bombarded by hundreds of similar candidates, resumes are a mechanism to rule people out quickly. Then add to that the fact that 75% of all resumes are discarded and consider that just like you, most hiring managers, recruiters and HR Managers are not that organised or staffed sufficiently and therefore rely on automated ATS processes to pre-select candidates and ….. you’re back to square one.
Your resume is the key to get through two roadblocks:
- The employers have already exhausted their other options and are resorting to a job posting. It’s possible they’ll find someone amazing, but the reality is, they probably aren’t expecting it. After all, great people often get hired without going through traditional channels.
- The job posting process has radically changed. It is almost fully automated at the front end of the process, with very limited human interaction and it’s designed to make it very hard for you to stand out. Maybe you really are an amazing candidate. However, good luck convincing someone of that with an undifferentiated piece of paper with action words on it.
Most people create one resume and begin to blast it out to anyone they think will see it. Toss out a wide net and you’re eventually find someone who will bite, but you might as well buy yourself a lottery ticket. But, I know that 10 resumes sent with laser focus on the needs of the ATS software processes and the position description will get better results than 100 form resumes sent out to anybody and everybody.
Customising your resume firstly means making it through the automated selection process by going through the job description and looking for the specific skills and traits they’re looking for and then taking that list and going through your experience, awards, education, etc. to find the things that are directly relevant to what they’re trying to find. If I get 100 resumes full of every job and award people have had and received, and I get one that is focused exclusively on my needs, who am I going to call? What do you think?
What Hiring Managers really want to see
I was asked for my resume when I got my first job in Sydney and I’ll never forget my first interview in Australia. For the jobs that followed, people relied on my portfolio, my website, my reputation and the word of others when making a decision, and sometimes on tools such as my LinkedIn profile. These days everything is based on understanding the tools of the trade, the process, the job search strategy and the words of our references or clients. It’s not about who you know – it’s who wants to know you.
What they cared about is that I can make their business better, as measured by customer feedback and actual results. What they cared about is that I can help them increase top line business traffic and bottom line revenue. What they cared about is results, not degrees or the right resume paper or a fancy design. They were looking for facts, real figures, relevant data and numbers, tangible content and confirmation. As someone who has hired hundreds of people, I can tell you resumes don’t matter that much, especially if they don’t even make it to the person that needs to see it because you are ignoring the ATS software requirements and the process.
- I don’t need a resume to tell me whether a designer is great – I have their portfolio.
- I don’t need a resume to evaluate a programmer – I can view their code and their portfolio.
- I don’t need a resume to evaluate a sales person – the persuasiveness of their email, the way they talk on the phone and their willingness to follow up tells me what I need to know
As a general rule, you need your resume in 30% of the cases if your sole job search strategy is based on online and job board searches.
Trash the objective
Objectives are great in theory – summarising your career goals and giving potential employers a nice ‘executive summary’ of yourself is tempting. Objectives are also used as key word grabbers for ATS but they fail for a number of reasons. They are really only good for automated pre-selection or for any hiring professional who needs to copy and paste your objective into a candidate synopsis for a potential employer. 99% of the time the objective doesn’t really say anything about the real you. It’s packed full of useless phrases and punchy keywords, and it rarely stands out or makes a genuine impression.
- Objectives rarely even convey what a person’s real goals and values are. If I were truly honest about my objective I’d risk turning off a potential employer who doesn’t understand where I’m coming from and doesn’t think that my goals align with theirs.
- Because of number 1 (above) the sad reality is most objectives usually just say that the candidate is looking for a job in the industry of the company they’re applying to. Not exactly overly helpful information. Pretty lame, don’t you think…?
- The only objective that your potential employer is going to even care about is making or saving them money. Feel free to differ with me, but candidate searching is business, it isn’t personal. They don’t particularly care if you’re looking to be challenged or are hoping to work in a collaborative environment. I am proud of you if you genuinely care about these things, because they matter to me also but the reality is different. They want you to want what they want, and usually that is to make the company successful.
And so, my dear blog reader, for those reasons I say ditch the objective from your resume. You don’t need it.
Try to fit your resume on one page if you have under 10 years work history.
A lot of people disagree with me on this. They say that they’ve accumulated so much experience that they can’t possibly fit everything on one page. I say rubbish. Understand this or trash your resume especially for anyone who’s been in the job market for less than 10 years. If you’re 25 and have a sprawling resume, it shows a lack of focus and an inability to prioritise (as well as a little too much ego).
As your work experience grows to over ten years, you might accumulate more truly amazing work than cannot realistically fit on one page. But, if you follow my recommendation and focus on the skills and experience that are directly relevant to the position you’re applying for, condensing your resume to one or two pages should still be possible. If you struggle with it, get some professional assistance. It costs the equivalent of a dinner or a night out. What’s it worth to you?
Use hard facts and data – stop the generalisations!
In talking about your accomplishments, try to quantify as much as possible. A company is hiring you to help them make more money, reduce costs or develop products that help them grow. Think about it, it’s likely that every great thing you ever did at work had an impact that can be translated into numbers. So what do those numbers look like? I know from my own experience that hard numbers make a case much more effectively than generalisations can – it also shows your real value and it shows that you have a mind that is focused on improving the business.
Imagine you had a position where you gained valuable management experience, and you want to include that on your resume. Which approach stands out more?
- Managed the operations team
- Responsible for project planning and ensuring milestones were completed on time
- Managed a team of 18, responsible for the timely design and delivery of over 150 projects per year
- Spearheaded the restructuring project that reduced the production times by 28% and saved the company over $600,000 per year in production costs
Include a personal information section
I always encourage jobseekers to include awards, memberships, skills, etc. into one section. Mention a few remarkable things. Don’t just say you’re a member of Surf Life Saving Australia – what did you do with them? What amazing awards did you win what remarkable contribution did you deliver?
Think about one personal thing that would be really interesting. Do you run marathons? Do you have a successful blog? Is there something that shows an amount of discipline? If yes, then include it! Are you a coach or provide volunteer support? If you’ve got something that shows a commitment to your community and leadership – include it! Do you perform as part time actor or musician or singer or maybe even a stand-up comedian? That shows that you’re outgoing and a willingness to speak in public – include it! All these will almost certainly lead to a discussion during the interview and give you the opportunity to show the real you and can often lead to unexpected conversations or connections with potential employers.
Think about design
Just because resumes include standard information doesn’t mean there is no opportunity for design, but you need to ensure that your design and layout does not turn out to be a handicap when your resume passes through the ATS systems (if you’re solely job hunting online). If you are job hunting in the other 70% of the job market, find a friend or colleague who knows typesetting or letterpress. Don’t use standard system fonts or unique but silly fonts – pay the money for a professional typeface. Make subtle, well-judged use of colour (emphasis on subtle). Take the time to make your resume look beautiful.
Resume writing is indeed an art as well as a science, particularly if you are solely (or mostly) relying on online applications.
I know that for many people will disagree with my suggestions. However, the suggestions above have helped my clients find positions with great companies, many of whom had been looking unsuccessfully for a very long time. Having a winning resume tailored to the job you’re applying to makes everything easier and vastly improves your chances for an interview.
So, trash your old resume, get on with the job, don’t waste time and get your tools and strategy organised. If you need more insight and advice, go to the Archive in my blog or ask questions and provide some comments. Whatever you do out there, remember to hunt wisely!