Tuesday, October 25, 2016

5 Reasons ATS will reject your resume

Do you ever ask yourself why your job application got rejected? Are you frustrated by not even receiving a response? You may have thought you were the "perfect" candidate.

There is a lot of information about the causes of ATS rejection and non-response. Some of it is correct and some of it is conjecture passed on to you with good intentions but without a real understanding how ATS extracts information from your resume. The following are the key reasons for either rejection or non-response to your application.

Qualification. Many times applicants are simply not qualified. And sometimes qualified candidates get rejected for the wrong reasons. The written content may be right-on, but the document may contain attributes that ATS cannot handle.

Key words. Sometimes people ignore using key words "exactly as written" in job descriptions. Or they fail to use them in context in other parts of their resume. ATS checks to see if you have have the right keywords and that you demonstrate you understand them by using them in context.

ATS parsers. ATS parsers extract information from your resume. If you pass scrutiny it presents the information to HR for review in one common format for all candidates.  But ATS cannot extract text located inside graphics. This is important because we all use shortcut tools provided by word processing software to make document creation easier to do.

However, shortcut tools typically introduce graphic boxes into the document for us to type information into. And we don't even realize what's happening. All we know is it looks good and is easy to do.  Borders, headers, footers, tables, charts and text boxes are typical examples. 

For instance, if you put your name and contact information in a header, ATS cannot read it and will not know who you are or how to contact you. If skills or other information is listed in a table, ATS will not know it is there. If you put an outside border around your resume, nothing will be read. These are common things that cause rejection or non-response.

Columns. Some people use text columns or tables to format a resume. ATS parsing software reads data across the full page, one line at a time. This jumbles columnar information into sentences that make no sense.

For instance if I were to write this:
Some people use text columns or tables to format a resume.
ATS parsing software reads data across the full page, one line at a time.

ATS would read this:
Some people use text ATS parsing software reads columns or tables to format a data a across the full page, resume. one line at a time.

PDF files. Although some providers claim they can read ATS files, most cannot. What they fail to say is "converted PDF file" variants. There are two basic types of PDF files, Native and Scanned. And there are many variants. How are you to know if your file is a converted PDF file? And how are you to know if your resume will be scrutinized by an ATS that is capable of reading "converted" PDF files? The only safe thing to do is not to submit your resume as a PDF file. Submit only Word *.doc or plain text *.txt files.

The takeaway is this. Maximize your job application success by making sure you are qualified before you apply. Use keywords exactly as written in job descriptions. Do not use word processing creation tools. And use txt or doc files to apply online.

If you like this post, please share it in your feed. It helps the article to be seen by more people in need of this kind of career help.  And follow me on LinkedIn or visit bit.ly/1TEqj93 to get a free review of your resume. Thanks! 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

6 things you can do to avoid being rejected when you apply for a job

Do you fit the job like a cat in a box? Are a lot of your job applications being rejected? Maybe there are some things you can do to fix the problem.

People tell me it happens a lot even though they rewrite their resume many times. Very often they don't even get a response. Many times they have paid a professional resume writer and still get rejected. There are many reasons applicants get rejected or don't get any feedback.

Sometimes the job has been filled or cancelled and the posting has not been updated.

Some companies simply are rude. While it is a fact that companies are overwhelmed by the volume of applicants, that should not be a reason for failing to respond to you. Some companies seem not to care. Some recruiters are overworked or apathetic regarding responding to you. It makes you wonder if you'd want to work there.

Or your resume may not be compatible with the Applicant Tracking System software the company uses. You may not even realize you are introducing problems for the ATS extraction process as you create your resume.

And you may not be qualified despite feeling you are great fit. Most people don't fit every one of the "requirements" stated in a job description. It could be that the one thing you don't fit is key. It's also possible there is a requirement that has not been documented in the job posting or the requirements have changed but the job description has not.

Here are some suggestions of things you can do to improve your chances of getting an interview.

  • Above all else, don’t camp on job boards and don't apply to everything that looks remotely warm. Yes, it is the easiest way to job search. It is also the least effective way. It leads to frustration and extends your search. There are far more productive ways of spending your valuable time.
  • Target companies and jobs you know you are qualified for. If it's a stretch you are probably wasting your time. There are probably others for which it is not a stretch.  
  • Tune your resume to each job you apply for. One resume does not fit all. Don't broadcast yours to everyone hoping it will "stick to the wall".
  • When you identify an opportunity, make voice contact directly with the hiring manager in an informal manner. Establish rapport and learn what problems need to be solved. The real needs may not be described in the job posting. Once you understand the key problems and have had a chance to talk about how you can fix them, then it's time to edit your resume and cover letter to be responsive to those needs. Do this before you apply.
  • Spend some time learning how to identify who the hiring managers are. There are many ways of doing this. One good one is to get introduced by current employees of your target company. Learn how to find them. Alternatively, cold call if necessary. And there are more ways. Get help if you need it. Learn how to use the many resources available to you.
  • Learn how to write scripts for your calls if you don't already know how. You need one for getting past the gatekeepers and one for engaging the hiring manager. Get help with what to say and not to say. Spend plenty of role playing time practicing your scripts. Make your mistakes during role playing when it doesn't count and learn from your mistakes before you start calling.
  • Make sure your resume is compatible with ATS. If you need to, get competent professional resume writing help from people who understand what causes ATS parsing software to abort some resumes. A simple test to see if a resume writer can help you is to ask for examples of what specific things they will do to make your resume ATS-compatible. Having the right keywords is critical, but only part of the solution. Ask for specific examples that go beyond just  keywords. The real test is to ask if they will guarantee your resume will not be rejected by ATS because of documentation incompatibility issues. If they hesitate on any answers or don't understand what you are asking, pass. 

Do you have any comments or questions?  

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Monday, October 17, 2016

How to get past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

Most people tell me applying for a job online is beyond frustrating.

First you get asked to fill out a long list of questions. Many of the answers are already on your resume so why are you being asked?

Then there may be confusing directions about how to submit your resume. They may ask you to cut and paste your resume into a particular place. They may say they want an ASCII resume. What's that? (ASCII is a character coding standard all computers use to translate text and other characters into binary data that computers can read.)

They may simply ask you to upload your resume or attach it to an email. What about your cover letter? What do you do with that? And after you've run through this gauntlet you may not get a response.

A company's decision to use ATS software on the front end of the hiring process is the reason for most of these problems. That long list of questions is the tell-tale sign the company is using ATS software to pre-screen applicants. Companies that use ATS give you the 'privilege' of performing that task for them. It's called replacing the cost of people with automation. And if you don't answer all the questions your application might not be considered.

No amount of trickery will get you past this cumbersome process. But there are things you can do to be one of the lucky ones who gets a call from HR. Just follow these guidelines:

1. Don't submit a fancy resume. Keep it simple, no graphics, no fancy fonts, no fancy formatting. ATS systems do not have eyes. They cannot see what humans see. You can create a fancy version of your resume to hand out to humans at interviews or when networking but don't apply for a job with it.

2. Focus on your accomplishments and the results of your work, particularly those things that are relevant to what the hiring manager needs. Quantify your results as often as possible. Numbers attract attention.

3. Save your resume as a Word (doc) file. Also save it as a plain text file (txt). An ASCII file is the same as a txt file. Yes, txt files are butt-ugly, but computers are blind. Submit your resume as either a doc or txt file. All ATS systems can read these two. Computers and ATS actually prefer a text file. Saving your resume as a txt file removes all formatting which ATS likes.

Some people will tell you to submit PDF files, arguing that they can protect the file from editing, by a recruiter for instance. The fact is every PDF file can be edited, protected or not. One just needs to know how. They will tell you ATS can also read PDF files, but don't count on it. Most ATS software cannot read PDF's.

4. Watch out for spelling and grammar errors. Usually ATS will check spelling at the very least. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to resumes. You could get rejected for spelling errors.

5. And there's more to consider, specifically document attributes. A document attribute can be a feature, like a bullet, a header or footer, a table, a text box, a line, color, shading, etc. It could also be a formatting or organizing feature. Many attributes will cause major problems with ATS. Generally speaking, if your word processor provides you with a tool that makes document creation easy, don't use it because it will invariably introduce an attribute that cannot be read by ATS, or will be read incorrectly. Find a work-around for simplification tools, for example use tabs instead of tables. Using tabs and getting everything lined up like a nice table can be difficult, which is why word processors provide you with tools to make it easy.

6. Organize your resume the way ATS wants to see it. As mentioned above, simplicity is best. ATS will be looking for sections from which it can extract information, for instance Summary, Skills, Experience, and Education. It's advisable not to use variations of these. If you held more than one position with a company, restate the company name and dates above each position held.

If you choose to apply online, these suggestions will help you get through the ATS screen. By the way, often ATS will place the information it extracts from your resume in its own formatted document. This document is what will be submitted to HR for human review, not your actual resume. The reason is so that all candidates can be compared in a common format. Of course HR can pull up your resume as you submitted it if they choose to.   

There is an alternative approach to applying online to consider. That is making voice contact with the hiring manager before applying on line. That approach is more effective than simply applying online. I discuss the rationale and coach the 'how to' skills required for this approach in other posts I have written.

Every company has its own hiring process and company protocols. What frustrating things have you run into?

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Send your resume to kl@hoochresumes.com for a FREE estimate Today! 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

3 key questions the hiring manager is thinking

How can a job seeker best prepare a job search? The best answer is to focus on what the hiring manager needs are. Prepare by focusing everything you do on answering the key question on every hiring manager's mind.

Can you solve my problem?

"What can you do for me? How can you help resolve my problem?"

"What have you accomplished that is relevant to the problem I need solved"? 

"What are your key skills and competencies"? 

In reviewing a resumes these are the fundamental questions in the hiring managers mind. In many situations there are other important qualifications as well, like "What are your relevant certifications?" Often having the right current certification is more important than education. And "What is your education background?" 

The question every job applicant should be asking is

Does my resume respond to the hiring managers' specific need?

Things to remember: People do not read resumes, they skim them, they search for things they need. And they spend only a few seconds searching. To avoid rejection, the answers to the hiring managers' key questions should be in the first half of the first page of the resume.

Human nature being what it is we tend to focus on ourselves and lose sight of the purpose of a resume. Often we focus our resume only on our titles, scope of work, responsibilities, etc. And why not? 

While those things are important, they will be ignored if the hiring manger can't find answers to their fundamental questions. Too often we introduce extraneous information, space wasting fluff that has little bearing on the task described in a job description. It's important that we not get distracted from answering the hiring managers' needs by introducing fluff.

By focusing our resume on the accomplishments and results of our work that are relevant to the hiring managers' problem, preferably quantified, we will have prioritized the most important information about ourselves. These are the items that should receive the highest position under each job held. 

The takeaway is this: Focus your resume and your entire search preparation on the hiring manager's needs, not just your own. Find out what the hiring manager's needs are and feed them.

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Send your resume to kl@hoochresumes.com for a FREE estimate Today! Then let's talk, no obligations! And visit my website at bit.ly/1TEqj93.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Skip the job ad, what does the hiring manager REALLY need done?

Recently I was asked how to increase the odds that a resume will result in a formal interview with the hiring manager. The answer is easy. Making it happen takes some initiative.

A resume certainly is about the candidate. It is also about telling the hiring manager how one can help resolve his or her key problems. Resumes that win interviews are focused on the hiring manager's needs, not the candidate's. Good resumes demonstrate how the candidate can help resolve specific things the hiring manager needs done by clearly stating the candidates relevant achievements.

So the key is the hiring manager, not the company recruiter. The best a recruiter can do is find a candidate, interview and recommend that the hiring manager interview a candidate. Why not turn the process around? Find and speak to the hiring manager, and then apply through the company protocols.

One can increase the probability of getting a formal interview by first having an informal conversation with the hiring manager to find out what the real issues are that need to be fixed. Then a resume can be edited to be sure it addresses why the candidate is best suited to help fix the hiring managers key needs.

My most successful clients call the hiring manager before editing their resume and applying for the job. Does it always work? No. But it beats applying first and hoping. There are several reasons why it works.
·         It establishes a rapport with the hiring manager and demonstrates admirable qualities like taking initiative and action rather than passively waiting and wondering.
·         It eliminates doubt. When reading an advertised job description one has to wonder "Is this a real job? Is it a description for an old job that is being reused for this one? Does it reflect what  the hiring manager REALLY needs done?"
·         It enables one to edit the resume and prioritize keywords and accomplishments that are relevant to the need.
·         And it makes writing a cover letter a much easier task by allowing one to reiterate key points the hiring manager liked from the conversation.

And there is not a better way to achieve competitive advantage then to speak to the hiring manager before applying!

What about editing the resume? Here are some thoughts.

·         Don't think only about your own needs. Think about accomplishments you have achieved that will help the manager of this job.

·         Focus on your achievements and the results of your work. How did the things you have done keep business going smoothly or improve something?

·         Keep in mind a resume is an advertisement, not a biography. Avoid excessive description of your responsibilities and history. Responsibilities, positions and even job titles may not be as important as you think if you have not described the results of your work.

·         Format for skimming, not reading. People skim through resumes, quickly glancing for key words, numbers, and phrases that interest them. Make it easy for them to find them without bolding, italicizing, or adding color. Position them where they will almost jump out at the reader.

·         Keep your resume relevant to the described job. Avoid writing paragraphs. Paragraphs are not as easily skimmed by eye as crisp bullet statements. Remove words and sentences that are not relevant to the position you are applying for.

·         Spelling and grammar are important. So is neat, orderly formatting. Avoid appearing ignorant or careless.

The takeaway is this: The best odds for getting an interview is talking to the hiring manager informally before applying for the job. Then the resume and cover letter can be edited to make them most attractive to the hiring manager. A significant bonus is the competitive advantage this approach achieves.

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Send your resume to kl@hoochresumes.com for a FREE estimate Today! Then let's talk, no obligations! And visit my website at bit.ly/1TEqj93.