In a Wall Street Journal blog post (For Job Seekers, the Black Hole Persists), there’s disappointing and perhaps disgusting proof that the resume black hole is there. Like anyone in a job search needs to read an article to know it’s there.
But for the rest of the world… there’s no question.
Thanks to Mark Mehler and team at CareerXroads, who put together a fake resume each year and send apply for jobs at companies listed on Fortune’s “best companies to work for” list, we can see how these best companies treat applicants.
If this is how the best companies treat applicants, how do the worst companies treat applicants?
To be fair, the list is of the best companies to work for, not companies who have the best, most respectful hiring process.
Employers (should) know that if you are rude and disrespectful to a job seeker during any part of the hiring process, they remember your company and form new opinions about your products and services that run deep and stay for a long time.
Here are some highlights from the blog post:
“… his CV was loaded with the keywords needed to float to the top of today’s automated job-applicant software.” So in this test, they are playing to the ATS algorithms. Note this is not about networking in, talking to the hiring manager, etc. It’s all about the resume strategy, and, optimizing the resume. Yes, do that, but also network into the company!!!
“He was also not a real person, a fact noted at the bottom of his one-page resume.” Later in the blog post you learn that only 2 out of 100 companies spotted that. Of course an ATS isn’t going to look for some statement that this is a fake resume, but from this might we deduct that 98% of companies have no human involvement for much of the process? Mark Mehler, founder of CareerXroads, suggests that “recruiters [only] read the first three paragraphs of a resume.” Lesson? Make those first three paragraphs awesome and engaging!
“…64 never sent Stein any notification that he was not being considered for the job for which he had applied.” This has bothered me for a long time. Companies, please give me ANY notification of a status update!!! I know you have legal and HR breathing down your necks to say nothing, but for goodness sake, be humane!
There’s still a lot of work to do. I’m not talking about automated technology. I’m talking about basic, respectful communication, and managing expectations.
Until that gets figured out, folks, please do not solely rely on the spray-and-pray resume blasting strategy. No JibberJobber user should ever say “I’ve sent out 1,000 resumes and I got nothing… no leads.” Maybe you will send out 1,000 resumes, but JibberJobber users should use a networking strategy that far outweighs any time spent sending emails and applying to jobs online. I know it seems harder, but this is how you’ll get closer to getting your next dream job! Make me proud!
I didn’t hire a resume writer when I was in a job search. Why? Because I couldn’t afford it.
And, because I was smart enough to write my own resume. Heck, I had worked my way through a CIS degree, and an MBA, and by that point, had had a great career. SELF MADE. I was smart, motivated, etc.
Why should I hire someone, for hundreds of dollars, to write a one or two page resume?
One or two pages. Bleh. I had written papers in college that were many times that length.
So I wrote my own resume, and I spun my wheels in a depressing job search, when the economy was strong. I got nowhere. And I didn’t understand why.
I didn’t understand that an experienced resume writer would have been able to help me understand why.
What I’ve come to learn is that a “resume writer,” many times, is much more than a resume writer. Let me rewrite that: A resume writer is much more than a typist.
When you hire a resume writer, you are hiring someone who is in your corner, rooting for you, cheering you on, and sometimes, coaching you. I’m not saying they are a coach, but if you email them and say “I am not getting anywhere… what am I doing wrong?”, they might put on their coaching hat and say something like “my other clients are doing this thing, have you tried that?”
If I had hired a resume writer, I know that writer would have said “Jason, you are doing this thing wrong… fix it!”
Resume writers are in the trenches with you. And they have been in the trenches hundreds, maybe thousands, of times. They have seen many successes, and many failures. They learn from job seekers that have gone before you. Many have seen the cycles of great economy/cruddy economy. They have an understanding of the past, and a vision of the future, and can be your lighthouse helping you navigate a seemingly hopeless and dangerous journey.
Resume writers get a thrill when you email them and say you landed a job. They share that huge win with their Facebook friends (I’m friends with many on Facebook, and see these messages shared regularly). It’s a second payday for them. Sure, they charge money, and they should. This is not charity work. They are experts at what they do. More important, they bring value to you…. and they should be rewarded for that. Their first payday is when you pay them money. Their second payday is when you say “I landed!!” Honestly, I’m not sure which is worth more to a resume writer. In many cases, the second payday is more meaningful.
Think I’m blowing smoke yet? I’m not. I know these people. I’ve been to conferences with them. I email them. I have broken bread with them. They genuinely care about your success, as much as they care about being experts in their field. They want to bring their best game to you, so you can move forward in your career.
Recently I saw a Facebook message from my friend in Wisconsin, Julie Walraven. This message shows her passion and excitement, and level of concern that she puts into her client relationship. This message could just have easily been shared by Charlotte Weeks in Chicago, or Adrian Kelly in Australia, or Dawn Bugni in North Carolina or Shahrzad Arasteh in Maryland or Kelly McClelland in Florida or Robyn Feldberg in Texas or Ann Brody in Chicago or Carrie Luber in New York or… the list could go on and on. These career professionals are not mere typists (although they do that very well). Here’s Julie’s Facebook post:
Find the right resume writer, career coach, or career counselor, and I guarantee they will echo this same enthusiasm and commitment to your success.
This is a course on what to do with your resume… how to use it to self-market, and basic understanding of the resume as a marketing tool.
Remember, for any Jason Alba course you watch on Pluralsight, and as many times as you watch it, you can get an additional 7 days of JibberJobber Premium… no limit! Follow these steps (or scroll down and watch the new video below the image to see exactly how to watch this for free, and get additional Premium on JibberJobber!).
Here’s Pluralsight’s announcement on Facebook:
Not sure if I’ve had anything on Facebook associated to me with that many likes!
When I see stuff like this it reminds me of when I first learned about it, when I was a job seeker, thinking how unfair it was that I had my stupid Excel spreadsheet to track my job search, and the people I was sending my resume to and interviewing with had sophisticated software. No more! Now the playing field is leveled, since you can use JibberJobber…. !
Want to see what an ATS is/does/looks like? I found this company while poking around the internet and started digging around. I went to the Tour link and saw this 1:30 video. If you are wondering what HR and recruiters might be using to figure out if you are worthy of an interview. Here’s the video:
Remember, this does not apply to every company you apply to. Some will use an ATS, some will not (even if they have it). My recommendation is still to network into the company before you play the “resume black hole” game. That’s not a fun game.
Let’s dig into the post from yesterday, and dissect some of Louise Kursmark’s advice. It’s a short article, but there’s simple stuff that every job seeker needs to be doing. Lines from her post are in bold, my comments are not bold, and indented.
>> I think that obsession(with gaming the ATS systems) is a distraction from the real work of job search.
Again, you are hiding from the job search. There is no silver bullet. ATS is one tiny aspect of the job search, don’t become obsessed with gaming it.
>> Even if your resume is a perfect match for the job posting, you have a very small chance of being chosen for an interview.
Why? Because statistically, jobs posted online are not real jobs that are begging real people to apply. Some (probably those from big companies) have already been filled with internal candidates, but are posted just to satisfy regulations or policy. Others are, unfortunately, and without integrity, fake jobs that are luring people in just to collect names and numbers. Sometimes they are just feeling out the market, and seeing what’s out there. But for the real ones… have you heard how many people apply to openings? It’s way to many, really. And those that are getting through are not necessarily the right candidates. Many right candidates are getting weeded out through errors in the logic of the automated system. They don’t call it the “resume black hole” for nothing.
>> … it’s easy to spend a lot of fruitless time trying to rise to the top of a very large pool.
Lots and lots of people are playing this losing game. Why throw your hat into a system that is proven to be so ineffective and discouraging, and really, one that doesn’t really work? Especially when there are more effective ways to land a job.
>> My advice: Have a keyword-rich, simply formatted resume that stands a reasonable chance of making it through the ATS.
And here is the simple truth about what you need for a resume. Keyword rich and simple format. That’s it. Do that, then MOVE ON to the next part of your job search strategy!
>> Then, spend less time applying to posted openings and more time getting referrals into the companies you’re interested in.
Get out of the resume black hole and go compete in a different space… the competition is much easier, and nicer, because too many people are afraid to network, or are doing it entirely wrong. Be the person who learns to love it (you don’t have to be an extrovert to love networking), and do it RIGHT! Also, to Louise’s points, do this purposefully and strategically, not haphazardly.
>> Use your network to find a connection, ask for an introduction, and start a dialogue.
This, my friends, is networking. This is more effective than going to network meetings, being nervous or shy, and then going home thinking “I networked!” You may have, but what Louise is suggesting is to do it right, and go deeper, and be relationship-focused.
>> Rather than applying for a job, have a conversation about the company’s needs and how someone with your background might be able to help.
>> Become a real person rather than a piece of paper or collection of keywords.
You do this by focusing on conversations, relationships and real networking, rather than throwing your resume into the black hole…
>> Even if you don’t (get interviews), you’ve built another strand in your web of connections that will ultimately lead you to your next job.
Building these strands, or let’s go further and say this fabric, is what I call career management. It is having strong relationships over time, not just during this hard transition, and it is helping people understand who you are (and how they can help you)… it is long-term. It is the new “job security,” and it’s all in your control. It’s why I say you need to use JibberJobber, forever! (yes, a little fanatical there, but I get to do that on my own blog :))
>> And isn’t it more satisfying to have a colleague-to-colleague business discussion than to be judged (and rejected) based on a mysterious set of keyword qualifications?
You know who has control over the keywords? NOT YOU! You have control over, which means influence on, your relationships and communication, but not on the arbitrary keywords that someone chose. And you don’t have control over who else applies, or how their resumes compare to yours in the ATS black box logic. Work on what you can control… !
I love Louise’s no-nonsense advice… thanks again for letting me share it!
For a few years the new buzz word in training for resume writers is how to write a resume to get through the ATS system.
ATS is “applicant tracking system,” which is kind of like JibberJobber for the recruiter. They aren’t tracking a relationship with YOU as much as they are tracking specific job openings, who applies, and who gets to have an interview with a human.
I guess that is tracking you, kind of. But only as far as that specific opportunity goes. There is no relationship nurturing going on… it’s all about filling open jobs, and weeding out the high percentage of people who shouldn’t have applied in the first place.
You can imagine how resume writers want to write a resume that will get through the ATS, and eventually get to the live person. I haven’t completely wrapped my brain around the technology, but I’ve understood that most jobs people are hired for are with companies that are smaller, and might not even know what ATS means. I’ve focused my advice more on networking into a job than on monkeying around with your resume to get it better (which I call “hiding from your job search,” since you can do that for days and weeks and not really get any closer to getting an interview).
But I keep my ears open to what the experts are saying, and am always looking for any information I can share with you. When I saw this article on LinkedIn from Louise Kursmark, I knew it would have important information. I think this is a super-important perspective because she is a well-known resume writer who has trained hundreds, maybe thousands, of resume writers. Louise gave me permission to repost her article here (original post)… I hope this helps you with your job search strategy today!
ATS: I Couldn’t Care Less
ATS – Applicant Tracking Systems – cause a lot of twitter and chatter among job seekers and resume writers. I might even call it an obsession about finding the keywords, mimicking the job posting, and designing the document to get through the automated screener.
Personally, I think that obsession is a distraction from the real work of job search.
Even if your resume is a perfect match for the job posting, you have a very small chance of being chosen for an interview. That’s because your resume is one of dozens or even hundreds competing for just a handful of top slots. It’s likely at least a few other candidates will have qualifications that are slightly stronger or a background that’s just a bit closer to the ideal specified by the recruiter or employer.
So it’s easy to spend a lot of fruitless time trying to rise to the top of a very large pool. And when you don’t, you feel frustrated, discouraged, maybe even depressed and angry.
My advice: Have a keyword-rich, simply formatted resume that stands a reasonable chance of making it through the ATS. Then, spend less time applying to posted openings and more time getting referrals into the companies you’re interested in.
Use your network to find a connection, ask for an introduction, and start a dialogue. Rather than applying for a job, have a conversation about the company’s needs and how someone with your background might be able to help. Become a real person rather than a piece of paper or collection of keywords.
Chances are very good that you’ll be able to parlay many of those conversations into actual interviews for real jobs. Even if you don’t, you’ve built another strand in your web of connections that will ultimately lead you to your next job.
And isn’t it more satisfying to have a colleague-to-colleague business discussion than to be judged (and rejected) based on a mysterious set of keyword qualifications?
Thank you, Louise, for a real perspective and great advice! There really is no way around doing some of the hard work in the job search!
Last week I was doing a LinkedIn consultation with a professional who had taken time (a couple of years?) off to care for her father. She has had a fantastic, awesome career, but didn’t know how to explain her years off. She asked me how to explain this, and I reached out to career professionals in the Career Directors LinkedIn Group for advice. The experience these professionals have is broad and deep, which is why I like getting input from different professionals. Below is what I learned. I hope this can help you if you are in this situation:
Hi Jason – I would also use a sabbatical statement such as the ones Don provided. I also might just insert a statement such as:
“Took two-year leave to serve as caretaker for parent. Stayed current on industry trends and learning to remain fully prepared for next corporate challenge.”
Employers want to know that your knowledge is up-to-date as far as their needs, and that your skills aren’t rusty. There are plenty of free online courses to help even those very immersed in their caretaker roles.
Jason — I don’t think it requires a big explanation. I would either put “Family sabbatical,” “Personal Sabbatical” or “Professional Sabbatical” without adding anything else in either resume or cover letter. It just accounts for the time. And I only use years, not months/years.
There are millions and millions of Baby Boomers taking care of parents (myself included). And over the past several years I have worked with many people who have relocated, quit their jobs or took part-time work to handle what their parents need.
It is very common now and nothing your client should be nervous about. You never know that maybe the person reading would have given their eye teeth to be able to take time off work rather than feeling guilty that their job was keeping them from doing it..
I moved my mother with Alzheimer’s into assisted living in January. I was at part-time work until about the end of July because none of her affairs were in order. And I’m still dealing with two attorneys, etc. even though I’m close to full time work now. I would have had to quit a corporate job.
But in the first half of the year there was absolutely no way I could have been doing anything related to my work for keeping up with my industry or anything else. I was up to 3 am, 5 am and more trying to sell my mother’s home and everything else. I would not have been able to even think about online coursework because it frankly was not my top priority and I was exhausted.
And I wouldn’t include “fully resolved” because I think it then puts the reader in a slightly awkward position of assuming that mom or dad actually died.
Jason, I try to be as straightforward as possible, composing a quote based on the client’s circumstance. Also, I usually refer to it as a “professional leave” or “career break” because I feel the word “sabbatical” has some nuances that don’t necessarily apply to every situation.
I place the quote under the Professional Experience heading.
2012 to Oct. 2014: “I took a professional leave to attend to my terminally ill brother; following his passing, I engaged in a variety of professional development opportunities to maintain credentials and volunteer roles to keep abreast of industry trends.”
You get the gist. It may be wordy and it may be slightly shocking, but on the other hand, it leaves nothing to the imagination of the reader. Plus, the dates will (ideally) be captured by ATS.
Thanks to Don, Mary, Irene and Christine for sharing their thoughts – if you have a different idea, please share it in the comments below!
I get Liz Handlin’s newsletter. She gave me permission to post this from her newsletter… I thought it was interesting. Liz says these are her questions and his answers over coffee (learn more about Jeff Browning here):
Liz says “Jeff may see more resumes than any other recruiter in Texas so his perspective on what a resume should say and how it should look is crucial information for job seekers.”
Nine times out of ten, when someone asks me to look at their resume, I’m assuming it’s because they want me to make an introduction, or help them find a job. I don’t assume it’s because they really want my feedback on their resume.
Maybe you have truer intentions, and only want feedback on the resume, but the truth is, I’m not the person to give it to you. My brain and resumes don’t mix very well. They are too formal, with boundaries that I think are dumb. I can point out glaring issues, but so can most people. Why are you taking up my time (and potential help) by asking me for something that doesn’t make sense.
It’s like asking your neighbors to check your oil in your car. You can do it, you can learn to do it, or you can find someone qualified to do it. But you don’t ask all of your neighbors to check your oil, right?
If you really want my help with your job search, find out how I can help you, and then ask for that! It might be networking, introductions, sitting down and giving you ideas, participating in a mock interview, or a host of other things. But don’t let the first request be “will you look at my resume?”
There comes a time when you have to stop hiding behind “I’m working on my resume” and realize you simply need to have the right conversations with the right people. And you don’t need to use your resume to do that.
Julie Walraven of Design Resumes has a great post titled The Chief Cause Of Many Poor Hiring Decisions. She starts off with CareerBuilder’s new stat about how long hiring managers spend reviewing resumes…as we know, it’s pathetically low.
But then Julie takes her post in an unexpected direction: how long SHE, as a professional resume writer (she is certified and has been doing this, afaik, for over two decades): she will easily spend six hours creating a resume. Usually that is for an entry-level person. It’s not unusual for her to spend ten or more hours designing a resume.
Julie is a resume expert, having investing more than 10,000 hours in her trade to claim expertise. When I lost my job I spent a couple of weeks fumbling around trying to piece together my own resume. I had no expertise, experience or training… just an attitude that if I could put myself through two degrees, I could certainly write a one or two page document!
I didn’t understand that a resume was not simply a list with work history, dates and some “cool” action verbs. I thought I could easily put that document together… but what I didn’t realize was what a great resume really is.
A great, even an excellent resume, is a marketing document. Coincidentally, a sucky resume is also a marketing document – it just screams: don’t hire me!
A resume is not a standard business document for filing away in a three ring binder, simply to be forgotten. Your resume has a very specific purpose. What’s more, the “judge” of your resume is going to take your days, weeks, and for some of you, months of work and give it a cursory 30 or 120 seconds… it’s almost an atrocity!
But really, spending less than two minutes really is NOT an atrocity.
You see, it’s not about YOU. It’s not about the amount of work you put in. It’s not about how amazing you are, how clever you are, or how dumb the viewer is for not “getting” how brilliant you are.
This is all about THEM. Pursuing you will reflect on them and could have an impact on their career. Are they capable of hiring the RIGHT person? Can they hire the BEST person? Or will they hire a dud, or a lemon? This could cost them their job! Hiring the wrong person could sink the entire company!
If an expert, like Julie Walraven, spends six hours to develop the most basic of resumes, which she can only do because she has over ten thousand+ hours of writing resumes, what makes you think that you, or I, without this expertise, can “throw something together” in a few hours, and have it be good enough (much less great!)?
The mistakes I would make would undoubtedly cause my resume to be in the “under-ten-seconds-and-then-throw-away” pile. Whether that is a typo or a grammar mistake, or not using the best word(s) to put us in the right light, it will cost me.
I know there are people out there, including one of my favorite recruiters (Steve Levy… read his blog!) who say that we must write our own resumes, and hiring a resume writer is as good as hiring a charlatan (those are my words, but that’s the message I hear from him). I agree that we should do a lot of work to help get the resume done. We should put our hearts into it. We should spend time going through our past, listing our accomplishments, and doing the very hard work of self- and career-evaluation.
But I still think we should run it past a real resume writer who will polish our final marketing document so that it gets more time, and more respect, from the person evaluating whether they should bring you in for an interview or not. (professional resume writers are not merely polishers. They are experts in creating perhaps the most important marketing document at this point in your career)
Convinced you need resume help? I suggest considering either of these two options:
We’re working on creating an list of specialized resume writers that you can reach out to on your own… stay tuned
The point is, make sure that you are putting enough time and resources into getting this marketing document put together the right way.