Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Get a job by avoiding ATS

ATS is the nemesis of job applicants if their resume is not compatible with the limitations of ATS.

With the proliferation of resumes submitted for every job opening, it’s no wonder companies need help in handling the work of sorting out candidates. That’s where ATS steps in. It helps them handle application volume and minimizes hiring costs by eliminating some of the staff required to assess resumes.

But it often fails miserably because it is easily tripped up by documentation attributes that are unwittingly built into many resumes, things that have nothing to do with a candidate’s qualifications.

The fact is, talking informally with hiring managers before applying is the highest percentage way of getting hired. It’s possible to find out exactly what their hot buttons are, why they are hiring and what are their key requirements are. It is the starting point for selling skills that match requirements. It establishes rapport with the decision-maker. It provides a competitive advantage over those who don’t do it. And it avoids ATS completely.

Fortunately, there are many ways to identify hiring managers. They don’t always work but the time spent trying them is better that the time spent applying blindly applying online for a job only to face ATS before a human. Not that using job boards and company websites is a bad thing. It’s a good way to gather needed job-hunting information, just not a good way to apply.

One is to do a Google search using search words such as the logical title of the hiring manager, the company name, and perhaps a location. Search for the likely title by trying different ones. Sometimes searching for the hiring manager’s boss enables working downward to the hiring manager. Senior managers are often extremely helpful.

Another way is to do a similar search on LinkedIn. This may take you directly to the hiring manager. Read profiles. Try to learn something about them that you have in common, so it is easier to write an appealing connection request. Do not use the standard impersonal LinkedIn request, and never ask for a job. Those things rarely get positive results.

Check out the Business Chronicle for a specific city if the company location is near one. Very often there’s a wealth of information about things companies are doing, expansion plans, new products, etc., which provides the necessary leads.

Use Annual Reports and 10k’s to find top officials of the company. Reach out to them. If successful, it makes reaching out to the hiring manager by saying “So-and-so suggested I call you”. Nobody risks offending a top manager.

These are four ways to get started. They may not always work, but if you don’t try, they certainly will not!

Try the approach and see for yourself. 

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Monday, September 7, 2020

Job Seekers are Salespeople by Default

Obviously, there is no way to get a new job without selling the reasons you should be hired. The easiest way to apply is online, but it is full of obstacles you have no control over such as ATS and ghosting. This makes it the least productive way. Fortunately, given a little coaching, there is a way to job search that minimizes ghosting and ATS problems. And it results in more formal interviews and more job offers.

Avoid HR. Avoid ATS. Talk directly to hiring managers, not HR or systems you cannot control. The hiring manager is the decision-maker to sell to. Making informal contact directly with hiring managers puts you in the driver’s seat. Establish rapport. Discover the critical needs. Sell to the needs. Then edit your resume and cover letter to reflect what you have learned and send it directly to the hiring manager.

Good salespeople start first by prospecting, identifying who the decision-maker is. They prepare and internalize scripts that get them past gatekeepers. They learn what to say when initially speaking with the decision-maker and they establish rapport. They learn how to discover what the decision-makers chief pain is so they can sell their solution to the pain. They view objections as an opportunity to sell and learn how to overcome them. They make more sales than their competition. These are all trainable skills. Get a coach if you need one.

Sure, you will ultimately need to apply online which will process you through ATS and HR. If you have sold your benefits to the hiring manager well, he or she will be asking HR to set up an interview. And because you have established rapport, he or she is likely to be responsive to you, not ghost you.

Does this approach always work? NO! But it is more successful than most other approaches to job searching.

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Thursday, September 3, 2020

Create a cover letter that will get read.

There is a reason many cover letters don’t get read. One reason people consider them a waste of time is because too often they are poorly written, mundane, not unique, they say what everyone else says. They are addressed to “To whom it may be concerned”, they don't attract attention. They ask for an interview in a way that sounds more like begging, almost apologetic for bothering the reader. They don’t display confidence. They don't establish rapport.

Write a unique cover letter for each job you apply for. One letter cannot fit all jobs.

It is a business letter. Make it a formal one.

Address it to a person by name, preferably the hiring manager (the decision-maker). Make an honest effort to find out who the hiring manager is (there are many ways). It is rare you cannot get the name of the ranking HR manager at the very least.

Grab attention quickly. State the logical reason an interview should happen, choosing compelling words. Do not ask or beg, call to action.

Demonstrate confidence; do not use words like “I think”. Demonstrate that you know what you are saying.

Research the company and the hiring manager. Establish rapport and align yourself with them by telling them how you fit in with what they are doing, or their company philosophy.

Close the sale. Establish that you will call them if you do not hear back in some specific time-period . Tell them up front so they will expect it! That makes it easy to get past gatekeepers.

Do not forget your manners. Thank people for their help and attention.

Sign "Respectfully", your name.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

What to do when you’re hunkered down for the duration

During WWII (we number then now you know) many people planted Victory Gardens to grow things for the war effort and to supplement their own food needs. Guess what. We’re at war again, only this time we’re the troops and the enemy is Covid-19.

So one of the things the better half of our family has done is to plant some cool weather “starter plants” in an outside garden they created. On the inside, they decided to start some plants from seed that they would nurse and plant outside when the weather warms up. They bought some kits through Amazon and now have a mini-nursery that looks somewhat like the real commercial thing.

Try it. You just might have some fun.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

What to do while social distancing

OK, I get it. I’m practicing social distancing, cleaning and sanitizing like it’s a religion. I don’t want to become infected and I sure don’t want to be a germ-taxi that gets others infected. You could call me a Coroniac. You too, I hope.

The personal, financial and other impacts of this pandemic is unnerving at the least. Social distancing is a necessary part of the solution and it has repercussions on all of us. 

In order to maintain my sanity, I have found that keeping myself busy with something that is necessary and worthwhile, whether it is home-schooling, fixing something that I’ve been putting off, working on a hobby, or something else.

Here are some ideas that might help you:
-Establish a daily routine. Your old one has been interrupted, and everyone needs one.

-Take time to breathe some fresh air.

-Clean, then disinfect what you’ve cleaned, whether it’s yourself or surfaces and Stay Well my friends. 

-Exercise any way you can, regularly.

-Update your resume to be ready for the recovery. Even if you are fortunate to still be employed there’s nothing like being ready to make a change in the future.

-If you’re a consultant, update your marketing materials or your dossier.

-If you’ve been job searching without success, get some help learning why and what you can do about it. Besides your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile, consider things like your improving your search strategy, interviewing skills, salary negotiation and other skills.

-Learn how to enable your resume to pass safely through Applicant Tracking System software when you apply for jobs.

-Find out how to learn about jobs that are not listed anywhere; be ready when the tide turns.

-Learn good networking technique while social distancing.

-Help others. Think about what you can do for others without having to make close contact. 

I mention these things because I’m a resource for some of them if you need help. It’s what I do. Shout out to Karl (that’s me) at kl@hoochresumes, or just visit my website, 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

On Being Likable

The most likable people generate their own positive attitude. Their attitude does not depend on everything going well and everyone being grateful for their good work. Their attitude is positive simply because it is positive. It's infectious. They're fun to be around. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Why doesn't the "Founder/Director of Some Title" approach on LinkedIn work?

Don't become the guy in this picture.

You know the drill. You've got a huge gap in your most recent employment and you need to fill it, so you post your most recent job as Founder/ Director of Whatever Title. Your dates of employment say you've been out of work many years.

These are the things you say you are doing in this job:
*Attending networking events
*Researching Industry Leaders
*Tracking Industry Trends
*Participating in Industry Discussions

Ok, that gives you a placeholder, but what else does it say to readers?

It screams "Avoid me. No one wants me. I've been overlooked for years. Something is wrong with me and everyone knows it."

Founder/Director of Some Title is not a job and it fails to take the place of real employment. Everyone knows that. It's a lot of words that futilely intend to mask reality.

In addition it tells the reader I've not been performing my primary skill for a long time. I may not be current with my trade.

So it's not a creative way of describing what has been going on in my life. I'm doing what many other unemployed people are doing, the same way they do it, using the same words they use, copying from a LinkedIn format because I have no idea what else to do.

When one becomes unemployed it's critical to figure out how to market oneself in a way that generates interest. If marketing services is not ones forte, it's critical to get professional help immediately. The "Founder/Director" approach is a red flag to readers. It's simply not good marketing. And the longer that image is portrayed, the less likely something good will come out of it.

Once a lot of time has passed it may actually be too late to turn things around. So if marketing services is not your forte it would be wise to get help from a professional as early as possible. Many people seek help while they are happily employed; It's smart to be prepared for things that are out of your control, even unexpected. There's simply too much competition to do otherwise.

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Thursday, July 25, 2019

How's your job search progressing?

Are you getting many interviews? If not, do you understand why not?

If you're getting interviews but frequently seem to come in second or suddenly communication stops, why?

If you are doing it all yourself, more power to you. Hopefully you are a good writer, you understand hiring practices, and you know how to sail past ATS. Hopefully also, you have expertise in how to advertise and market yourself, how to interview, and how to close and negotiate compensation.

If, after realistic self-assessment, you are uncertain or uncomfortable performing any of these things, you might seriously consider getting professional help. Cost is always a consideration, but so also is procrastination. Time is against you. The longer one is unemployed, the more difficult it is to become employed again.

Just my thoughts.

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Candidates who monopolize interviews are not likely to have an additional one.

Listening is critical in interviews. It's more important than talking. The best way to listen is with your mouth shut.

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who talked so much you couldn't get a word in? Of course you have. People who monopolize tend to want to build lots of background minutia before they get to the point. They talk fast, take quick gasps for air so they can keep talking, repeat themselves, often stray into side points, and take what seems like forever to get to the point. They seem to fear you will not understand their message without all the background details. And they're afraid they will forget to tell you something if they get interrupted. A simple answer or a "yes" or "no" doesn't seem to be in their vocabulary.

Conversation goes two-ways. Dissertations are one-way. Job interviews are the last place to make the mistake of monopolizing conversation. Interviewers often try to get rid of people who monopolize.

Monopolizing is the process of taking control, dominating, shutting out, and not sharing. Not only is it boring, it is rude and disrespectful. Monopolizing is deadly in an interview situation. It connotes desperation. It conveys an inability to summarize things in a crisp, concise manner. It describes disorganization of thought. Monopolizing defeats the exchange of thoughts and ideas.

It's also a deadly mistake for an interviewer to make. If interviewers monopolize, particularly hiring managers, they will learn nothing about the candidate and have no ability to decide if the candidate can do the job. They will come across as desperate to find someone for the job. And the candidate will not be left with positive feelings. Plain and simply it's poor interviewing technique.

Sometimes the candidate who monopolizes is a good friend or family member, one you don't want to offend by telling them what they're doing wrong. Well perhaps it's a mistake not to be brutally honest, particularly if they are preparing for a job interview.

When candidates monopolize conversations, there's not likely to be an additional interview.

Share this thought with job seekers you know who tend to monopolize conversations.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Salary Negotiation

If you do not know what you are worth, or
What you will say when the salary question is asked,
You are not ready to apply for the job!
One of the things that make us feel weak as negotiators is the sense that the other side has more information than we do. When you have done your homework this is rarely the case. If the other side has a need they believe you can satisfy they will not want to lose you. They would not be talking about salary if they did not believe they might want to make you an offer. For certain they don’t know what your needs are. Use that to your advantage.
The salary question is often asked much too early to negotiate a fair conclusion. The question often comes during the online application process, and if not then, it may be asked in the initial screening call. Otherwise it will certainly happen somewhere in the interview process.
What am I worth?
There is more information available today to help you assess your worth than ever before. Find your comfort zone by researching what similar jobs pay in the location of the job. Do this before you apply because later you will be at a distinct disadvantage.
Your comfort zone is the take home pay required to sustain your living style. Don't ignore the value of benefits, your out-of-pocket costs of benefits and of course, taxes.
When asked, should you give a high, low, middle, or range number? Most salary negotiators recommend fending off giving a number at all until such time as you have enough information to make a decision. That time is not when you fill out the online application or when the company makes its first call to you. You do not yet have enough information from the company to make an intelligent decision.
There are some who recommend starting with a high but reasonable number to plant an “anchor” in the ground. The Anchor argument is based on human behavior. When you plant a high stake in the ground, even an unreasonable one, people tend to become fixated on it. It affects their judgment which can result in a higher offer than they were thinking of making. But, be aware that sometimes you will be dismissed as being unreasonable.
There are numerous theories and no one correct answer for everyone. The answer comes down to what you are comfortable with. You won't be comfortable unless you have done research on what you are worth in the location of the job and you understand all other compensation factors.

My Personal Opinion on Negotiating:
1.    Know what you are worth and what you can live with. Start from a realistic place.
2.    Decide ahead of time how you will answer when the salary question is first asked and practice your answer.
3.    Keep your answer brief and succinct. Talking too much usually works against you. Listen carefully for objections.
4.    Probe objections with questions. Keep the adversary talking. Understanding objections will prepare you to respond, again briefly and succinctly.
5.    Understand what benefits they offer and what your costs will be to provide them yourself. Understand what they don't offer.
6.    Use silence and body language to your advantage if the negotiator takes an unreasonable position. Silence implies you don’t like what you just heard. It worries your adversary.
7.    Learn closing techniques used in sales – how to use them, how to recognize when they are being used on you and how to respond.
8.    Keep your cool. Don't lose control of your temper if things go badly.
9.    Get everything in writing!
10. I'm a fan of the anchoring approach, but it's not for everyone.

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Sunday, November 18, 2018

To win a new job, do things differently.

Horses don't win by being like all the other horses. Something sets them apart. The same thing is true about job candidates.

Differentiation is the key to rising above others. When it comes to job searching, the winner is the one who is clearly different from the competition.

Differentiate your resume from the others.
Focus on the results of your work, how you made things better. You'll get interviewed because of your results, not just your responsibilities.
Tell the hiring manager how you can help fix his/her problems, not what you want. 
Make your resume easy to read. Use bullets, not paragraphs.
Cite keywords about the job and use them in context.
Don't waste space talking about your objectives. The job you are applying for is your objective.
Avoid the 40+ ATS parsing killers.
Be crisp and concise. No one will read a biography of your experience.
Don't appear careless. Watch your spelling and grammar.
Make your resume look professional. Appearances count. 

 Differentiate your search tactics from your competition.
Do what others won't do. Don't rely on others to do for you what you should do yourself.
Talk directly to the hiring manager before you apply. It is the most effective way to get a job. Applying on job boards is the least effective.
Get referred by an employee.
Network effectively. It's not just about me, me, me.
Find out how recruiters work and are motivated. Don't rely upon them.
Create a complete LinkedIn Profile. It's a valuable, free inbound marketing tool. Make it possible for people to find you by making it complete.
Readers are likely to pass over profiles that don't include a picture. A Picture sets the readers mood to liking you. Upload a smiling head shot of you, just you, in your profile. They are not interested in your child, motorcycle, friends, etc.

 Differentiate your search skills.
Want to really be different? Learn how to identify hiring managers, how to make informal voice contact with them and how to get past their gatekeepers.
Learn good interviewing technique., for instance, don't monopolize conversations.
Master salary negotiation.
Because you are seeking a job you need to sell the reasons for being hired. Learn closing skills. 

 Differentiate your cover letter.
Always write an individualized cover letter that addresses the hiring manager's needs.
Direct it to the hiring manager by name, never "To whom it may concern" or something else equally impersonal.
Don't ask for an interview, say why it is important.
Establish rapport with the company and manager by aligning yourself  with them.

 Differentiate how you job search:
Procrastination is a killer. Don't let jobs go stale.
Plan your day each day. Do different things and set aside time for each. 
Stay healthy and invigorated; spend some time on yourself.
Focus on not being part of the herd.
Strengthen your weaknesses through practice; role play, live; videotape; make mistakes when it doesn't matter.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Show me a consistently successful leader who is a pessimist.

Pessimism paralyzes. It paralyzes business. It impacts human interactions. It infects the workplace. It stymies finding solutions to problems. It kills interviews!

Nobody wants to be near a chronic pessimist. They're not fun to be with.

Optimism is the elixir that keeps things moving forward. Optimists are resourceful. They have positive attitudes. They are more likable, more fun to be with. People like to be near them. Optimists generate optimism in others. They motivate. Optimism fuels positive interviews!

Optimistic job seekers are much more likely to compete successfully and win the new job. Interviewers are sensitive to a candidate’s personality; they will be looking for optimists. Given two equally qualified candidates, the pessimist will be the loser! It follows that when business requires reduction in force, given two equal employees, the pessimist will be the first to be laid off.

Unfortunately, pessimistic job seekers do not always view themselves as being pessimistic. There are signs one can see in themselves. Do people tend to gravitate away from or toward me. Do they listen intently or dismissively. Do I usually smile or frown. If the signs of pessimism are there, it would be smart to consciously work on building an optimistic attitude.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Two resumes to use, the beauty and the beast.

It's a good idea to have two files of your resume. Actually it's really wise to have 3 files.

When you apply for a position you are likely to need either a Word document or a Plain Text document. These two, the beauty and the beast, are essential job searching documents. A third file enhanced specifically for handing out to people is valuable for interviewing and networking, but not good for applying for a job.

The vast majority of companies today use Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software to screen the resumes of job candidates and only sends those that score highest to a human for further review. It is most likely ATS will review your resume almost instantly when you apply, before a human ever sees it. It will establish a score for your candidacy and pass only the highest scored resumes on to HR for further action.

All ATS can read Word or Plain Text resumes. After creating and saving your Word document, it should also be saved as a plain text file so that all formatting is removed. This butt-ugly document is the safest to use for ATS scrutiny and is actually preferred by ATS. The Word file is also quite acceptable as long as issues that can cause problems for ATS are removed.

If application instructions ask specifically for a plain text file, don't assume a Rich Text Format file will work. It is simply not the same. Alternatively, instructions may say it's ok to apply with a PDF file. Then a PDF file is safe to apply with, otherwise don't assume it is.

It's important to realize ATS may cause you to be rejected even if you are well qualified. Ridiculous as that may seem there are over 40 reasons why it may happen.

One key reason is graphics. We can see graphics; ATS can only read the binary code that represents what we see in a resume. Since it cannot perceive beauty there is no reason to get fancy. ATS may become confused by graphics and completely ignore associated text information.

Since PDF files are nothing more than graphical representations of a document, is it any wonder some ATS software cannot handle PDF files properly? Is it also any wonder that sometimes ATS cannot handle the typical templates offered for writing resumes? Templates provide graphic boxes to enter information into.

Word processing tools are another problem for ATS. We all use word processing software to create documents. The tools make document creation easy by providing simple ways to create the features we want. Boxes are used that become invisible to the human eye, and make information located inside them potentially lost to ATS.

If these issues were not enough, some ATS parsing software is also particular about other matters that seem trivial to us, such as what section titles information is located in, the order of information it is looking for, nesting of sequential jobs under one company, and more.

The takeaway is this: The safest way to avoid rejection or non-response to a job application is to assure the resume is compatible with all ATS software.

Resumes that are enhanced with graphics, including PDF files, are a good idea to have available. However, they should only be used as handouts for interviews and networking, not for application purposes.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Is your job like stale bread?

Have you planned your escape?
One fact of life is this: Change is inevitable.
If you don’t like the way things are going, relax, it will change.
If you do like the way things are going, don't relax, it will change.
The Boy Scout's creed is savvy guidance for everyone. Be prepared.
Whether you are happily employed, passively searching or actively searching, resume preparation is like having catastrophe insurance. You don’t really want to pay for it but you can’t ignore the possibility you may need it.
Think about poor Joe. He'd been working for his company for 7 years, had good reviews, a good relationship with his boss, and suddenly one day was told the company had been sold and his job was eliminated. Many people who are about to lose their job have no idea it's coming.
For others there may be warning signs. Jasmine was a product manager with a good reputation. When her product reached end of life she was assigned to a new product where a product manager was already in place. She thought maybe she was to take over his role. But the relationship between she and her boss seemed to have changed. She was no longer included in certain meetings or discussions. And there were other signs of impending problems. Finally she got word she was being let go with no really rational explanation. Hey, it happens.
For years neither Joe nor Jasmine felt the need to have their resumes brought up to date. Neither was aware of ATS. Neither was aware of how contemporary resumes are written. Both of their resumes had been written in "old-school" fashion.
Joe worked hard on his resume. He felt it would be only weeks, maybe a couple of months, before he had a new job. Seven months later he came to me for help. Four months after that he got a new job but he had to take a small step down to land it. By then his severance had long since run out and he was in financial trouble. This forced him to accept the lower position.
Jasmine on the other hand got help immediately. We updated her resume, made sure it was compatible with ATS, and in seven weeks she was in a new job with strong potential for advancement.
Situations similar to these happen every day. Procrastination about becoming prepared extends job searches. Some situations are better, many are worse. The obvious message is "Be Prepared" regardless of your current situation.
Things will change. 
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Monday, August 20, 2018

3 Resume Writing Tips

Understand what makes a good advertisement cause a reader to take action.

A resume is the starting point of job searching. All too often the resume causes rejection or non-response, making it the ending point of the search as well. Writing skill is certainly critical but it's not the only consideration for creating a resume that postures the candidate in a professional way. Three gross mistakes can jeopardize an otherwise excellent job candidate.

Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software may reject you regardless of your qualifications:
How your resume is prepared is often the cause of rejection by ATS before a human ever sees it.

It's not just what is written, but how it is created. There are over 40 resume attributes that are potential ATS issues. One example: Don't use tables; ATS may not read information contained in tables.

People will often reject you and move on to the next resume if your resume is difficult to read quickly:
On the first pass most people really do not actually read resumes!

At best people scan very quickly looking for keywords and data they are interested in. The first 5 seconds are critical. In that brief time they look at your name, contact information, personal brand, skills, and the results of your work. Sometimes who you have worked for is important to them, but not always.

Resumes are merely advertisements. If they find nothing that interests them they are likely to reject you without further review. It's usually a final, binary decision because there are simply too many other resumes to read. 

Further scanning, perhaps 25 more seconds, occurs only for the few people who pass the initial review. A more detailed review by a human occurs only for the top candidates. Even those companies who do not use ATS may reject or fail to respond if a human reader is unable to quickly find points of interest.

To be effective resumes must address the specific needs of the hiring manager:
Edit your resume to be responsive to the critical needs of each job. If you don't it is certain some of your competition will.

One resume usually does not fit all jobs. Tailoring resumes to be responsive to each hiring manager is challenging and intensive work, but necessary for success. 

These are just a few considerations for writing an effective resume. If you use a resume writer make certain he or she is a good writer, understands what causes all possible problems for ATS (not just the need for keywords), and understands advertising.  

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Monday, July 9, 2018

The realities of job searching today: Rough road ahead.

Job search effectiveness is strongly affected by a few basic facts:
·        Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software may reject you regardless of your qualifications:
How your resume is prepared is often the cause of rejection by ATS before a human ever sees it.
Even those companies who do not use ATS may reject or fail to respond if a human reader is unable to quickly find points of interest in a resume. All potential ATS issues should be eliminated. When your resume is re-written the writer should guarantee you will not be rejected because of document creation attributes built into your resume. You should also be provided with written guidelines for preventing over 40 attributes that can cause ATS issues when you edit the resume in the future.
·        People will often reject you and move on to the next resume if your resume is difficult to read quickly:
On the first pass most people really do not actually read resumes!
At best they scan very quickly looking for keywords and data they are interested in. The first 5 seconds are critical. In that brief time they look at your name, contact information, location, personal brand, skills, and the results of your work on the first page. If they find nothing that interests them they are likely to reject you without further review. It is a final, binary decision because there are simply too many other resumes to read. Further scanning, perhaps 25 more seconds, occurs only for the few people who pass the initial review.  A more detailed review occurs for the top candidates.
·        One resume usually does not fit all jobs:
If you don't edit your resume to be responsive to the hiring manager's critical needs of each job, I can assure you your competition will.
Be prepared to edit your resume for each position you apply to so that it is responsive to the specific needs of each hiring manager.
·        Differentiation is the key to getting hired:
Focus on differentiating you from your competition. Differentiate by quickly demonstrating how well you performed on the job. Show the results of your work, what you accomplished that supported or improved the business. This is the key to getting interviews and ultimately the job.

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