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Thursday, June 21, 2007
The Decision-Maker

Everyone talks about getting the resume to the decision-maker. Prior to the hiring decision, though, other decisions have to be made. The first concern should be the decision made by the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper is the person doing the resume screening, either an administrative assistant or perhaps a recruiter. If your resume doesn’t pass their scrutiny, it will never make it to the decision-maker. A resume has to pass two tests, not just one.

Let’s examine the first person, and ultimately the most important person – the gatekeeper. This person is someone who has been given the task of searching Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) or online resume databases for a certain set of keywords that match qualification requirements for candidates. Depending on if it’s a traditional employer or a recruiting firm, it may be an administrative assistant or it may be the recruiter.

The gatekeeper is looking first for keywords so it’s important that the resume have the correct industry buzzwords so the search technology will pick it up. Next the resume has to be viewed. A search on Monster’s database on a single keyword may bring up literally thousands of resumes; therefore, the gatekeeper narrows the search by using Boolean search techniques and stringing together several keywords. Candidates must have all the keywords to be “caught” by the system. The gatekeeper has now narrowed the pool to several hundred.

The next step is to sort the pool. Usually, the sort is done by hit counts or by how recent the resume was uploaded. Once caught, the resume has to pass the 45-second human-eye visual skim by the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper is influenced by initial appearance first of all (after all, he/she IS a human and we all like things that look neat and professional). Next, the gatekeeper glances at location of the candidate (especially if searching for local candidates). The summary is read first and then the rest of the resume gets a fast glance with job titles, years, special skills and education all getting attention.

It is now decision time. If the resume has what it takes – all the right factors and is persuasive in that 45 seconds – the gatekeeper will place it in the “consider pile”. The field narrows. At this point the road may fork and the entire consider pile goes up the ladder a step or the gatekeeper goes back and refines and narrows the field further with more careful study of the resumes in the “consider pile”.

A contingency recruiter usually is asked to present three to five candidates to the employer for consideration so the recruiter starts making screening phone calls. Many candidates dismiss these “screening calls” as non-interviews but look how far you’ve gotten to make it to the screening call! That call from the recruiter is pivotal and should be afforded ample preparation and treated as the first interview.

Once you get past the gatekeeper, you move on to the other key person in the process – the hiring manager. This person or persons (the decision may well be a group consensus) will interview selected candidates. Generally, the interview process involves several meetings or subsequent interviews to narrow the field. Then the final decision is made on which candidate gets the offer.

This is a long process and many candidates do not understand the time involved. The hiring process can actually take several weeks. Throughout the entire process, the resume has to be doing its job – selling you, the job seeker. That is a big order! A professionally prepared resume can make the difference between making it from that sea of millions in the online database to the offer letter that arrives via FedEx.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Here’s a story for you. A senior executive decided he had had enough of the rat race and decided he was going to ditch everything and go for a menial job that had no stress. He looked around and thought the hospitality industry seemed low stress so he applied for a job that paid $8 an hour as a desk clerk. During the interview, he was honest with the interviewer and said that he was looking for a menial job where he could relax and just do the required work. He admitted he had chosen the hospitality industry because the employees of the high-end hotels where he had always stayed on business did not seem stressed so he figured it was as good a place as any to start. He was offered the job but at a rate of $6.50 an hour. He proceeded to get upset and pointed out that the job was advertised at $8 an hour. The hiring manager pointed out some important things to him:

  • The advertised rate was a range and $8 an hour was for someone with at least three years experience. Since he had no experience, he had to start at the bottom of the range.
  • It appeared the executive had no concept of work ethic or customer service, both very important aspects of the hospitality industry, since he was leaving a high-level job for one where he could “coast”. That attitude essentially put him in the “warm body” category and warm bodies only rated the beginning rate.
  • The hiring manager pointed out that all jobs have stress related to them. A desk clerk would definitely say he had a stressful job on a high season day when there were 250 check-ins and 180 check-outs plus two conferences in progress. The hiring manager felt the executive would bail after his first experience with such a “non-stress environment” and therefore did not want to invest much in the hire.
  • The hiring manager was offended by the superior attitude the executive took about the hospitality industry and his belief that it consisted of menial jobs. The hiring manager had spent twenty years in hospitality working his way up through most hotel positions until he knew the industry inside and out. The last thing he needed was a supercilious and lazy desk clerk with a bad attitude.

Finally, the hiring manager gave this senior executive some good advice. He said “All jobs will have stress, but if you find what you love to do, the stress turns into challenge and is stimulating rather than handicapping. Stop looking for an “easy job” and start looking for a job you love.”

Are you doing something you love? Why not? Many people go through life measuring their success against a scale set by other people. Success is generally measured by income levels, net worth, types of “toys” possessed, and how much “stuff” can be accumulated. It is often measured by titles, power positions, and ability to manipulate others. What would be your measure of success?

At my local public library, there is a nice seating area in the front lobby near the circulation desk where there are comfy chairs and a coffee bar. Every time I go there, there is an older gentleman sitting there reading. He has a portable oxygen tank with him and wears a navy hat with USS Indianapolis on it. He’s obviously a WWII vet. I look at him and think – now that’s where I want to be when I’ve “made it” or retire. Just park me at the library with my oxygen, a book, and a cup of coffee and life will be sweet.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Scannable or Text?
Just this week, I’ve had three clients become confused on the difference between a scannable resume and a text format resume. Most people seem to think the two are one and the same but that is incorrect. A scannable resume is always a text format but a text format may not be a scannable resume. Every job seeker in today’s employment world needs two resumes – a regular Word version and a scannable resume. Assuming everyone understands what a Word version is, let’s concentrate on the scannable version.

What is a scannable resume?
A scannable resume is a form of the resume that is designed to meet specific organizational and formatting rules that make it both palatable to resume databases and friendly to the human eye. It is important for the scannable resume to work for both computers and the reader. The computer will store it, search it, select it, and display it but the human being (the reader) is the one who will make the decision to contact the job candidate for an interview. People seem to forget that last part and somehow think it’s the computer making the “call, don’t call” decision. I often hear someone say “It’s getting a lot of hits, but I’m not getting calls.” Hits come from the database picking up on keywords. Calls come from recruiters being persuaded the candidate is a strong contender.

What is the difference between a scannable resume and a text format?
There are lots of differences and the least of them is the file format. A scannable resume cannot have bullets, underlining, bolding, centered text, etc. A scannable resume follows certain guidelines for character width by page and should have particular attention paid to keyword richness. Think of it this way – compose a resume on an old typewriter. There are no options for making fonts bigger or smaller or even different. You can’t use bullets because there aren’t any on the keyboard. Centering can be done but it involves counting characters and dividing so it’s easier to just left-justify. What you would come up with on an old typewriter is basically what a scannable resume would look like visually. Bullets would be asterisks. Bold would be ALL CAPS. Now put that plus all the other scannable formatting rules in an electronic format and save it in ASCII/text format and you have a scannable resume.

Why doesn’t a scannable resume need a keyword category?
When Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) and resume databases came about, the technology was fairly primitive and computing power was much more limited. Because of these issues, the early databases would only search the top 5 lines or so of the resume for keywords specified by the searcher. It saved on computing power to search only part of the resume rather than the entire document. Keyword categories at the top of the resume had a purpose – to catch those search efforts.

Technology advances exponentially, and since the nineties when the first HRIS systems came about, computing power has exploded. HRIS and resume databases now search entire resumes for keywords rather than just the top third. If a resume is written powerfully with lots of industry-specific buzzwords and job-specific nouns, keywords are automatically incorporated into the content of the resume so keyword categories are no longer needed.

How are resumes searched?
Have you ever thought about this? Most people don’t so they fill their resumes with useless words like “goal-oriented”, “excellent communication skills”, and “multi-tasker”. Think about it. Recruiters are not going to be searching on these terms or other “soft-skill” terms. They are going to be searching on industry- and job-specific nouns. A strong resume will be filled with such words to automatically be “keyword rich”.

Why do I need both a scannable and a regular version?
Let’s face it – job search is now electronically based. Resumes are uploaded to databases, stored in HRIS systems, and emailed to companies or recruiters. It is logistically impossible for companies to handle paper-based resumes anymore. Many, especially those with employee counts over 75, will actually refuse to accept paper resumes mailed the traditional way. Recruiters aren’t really thrilled to receive them either because they, too, use resume management systems to handle the tons of resumes they receive. You need a scannable version to send for the benefit of the resume databases and you need a Word version for the recruiter to print or for you to take as a hardcopy to interviews. A smart job seeker sends both versions to recruiters or to employers via email.

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