Bad Advice from Career Professionals

Twice in the last two weeks, I have had inquiries from people who have worked with career coaches. Each one, as advised by the career coach, ended up with a resume that would not perform well where the recruitment process included the use of an applicant tracking system or ATS (enter "applicant tracking system" in my website's search window, "free career advice" in the right hand column, for lots more info).

Now, if these clients lived in rural or town environments, where the employers were likely small employers with no need for ATS-assisted recruitment, this would be fine.

Shockingly both clients had had help from Canadian university career centres and each one lives in a different, large metropolitan area.

Here's what not to do.

1. Do NOT create a functional resume. These don't perform at all where ATS are used to evaluate submissions. They don't even perform well when human beings review this type of resume! ATS are programmed to "read" and score reverse-chronological resumes only. And as for recruiters, they like to know specifics of what level of responsibility you held, what you did, and your impact at each position you held, not that overall you have great relationship building, leadership, and communication skills.

2. Do NOT use a fancy templated resume format. The advanced programming in some of these - tables, columns, page border, text boxes, shading, etc. - is not reliably, 100% ATS-friendly. Stick to "best practices" as described in the blog posts you'll find when you search "applicant tracking system" on my website.

It amazes me that the ATS continue to "hide in plain sight."

75% of resumes don't get through the applicant tracking system

Yes, dear readers, I've not yet covered this subject from every angle, it seems! This statistic comes from attendeding a Career Professionals of Canada members' virtual meet-up on the topic of today's resumes.

We discussed the folly of the functional resume and of resume templates, both still in wider use than we would expect today, given that both of these are quite useless when applying to positions in companies that rely on a applicant tracking system (ATS) to parse the many applicants' resumes. 

In case you're not sure what a functional resume is, it's the style with two to four functional areas highlighted (most often I have seen categories such as customer service and communications, and then a more specific-to-the-job category, for example, purchasing or technical knowledge), and then the employer names and dates are listed following these, with no further detail. And a resume template can be one you've found on the internet or one you "borrowed" from a friend's resume.

Both contribute to you scoring a very low mark on the ATS and thus both ensure you are NOT selected for an interview.

An interesting perspective came from CPC's Executive Director, Sharon Graham. Researching the ATS for her upcoming book, Sharon made a statement that I thought pointed to a profound insight. The ATS, she said, is set up to disqualify most applicants. By searching out who has made an effort to investigate the peculiarities of the ATS-friendly resume and also to include key words and phrases, by the act of selection it also disqualifies those who have not made the effort.

I'm not saying this is fair or even makes sense from the job hunter's point of view, but it is what it is. You do have every right, though, to be selected IF you put forth considerable effort, or alternatively, hire a career professional to assist you.

One more point that I want to make: not enough job hunters are aware of the need to navigate the ATS recruitment process. To drive this point I have two stories to share.

I am currently working with a client and I hear the disbelief in his voice and the hesitation of his responses to my lessons on why I wrote his resume the way I did as it relates to the ATS. Apparently he has a relative in HR and I think, perhaps, that this is where the disbelief is originating as not all companies use an ATS.

And finally, one of my colleagues has been working with a client, a company, on a recruitment related project. She was shocked when the client came up with resume templates as one of the aspects related to the project. She had to educate the client on why templates are not only ineffective in today's job hunt, but actually will disqualify the candidate (as per the above insight). The templates were scrapped and the project quickly "retooled" in response.

So, the ignorance of how the ATS works and how it impacts the job search is not only at the individual job hunter level, but also sometimes at the recruitment level!

To read the Forbes article that cites this statistic, go to "How to Get Your Resume Read by an Employer."

Why you can't get a job

One of the LinkedIn job search chats to which I responded linked to an article of very sad job search statistics. Paragraph after paragraph, numbers revealed the pitfalls of today's job hunt.

The fellow who posted it admitted to feeling quite discouraged by the facts, for example, that 427,000 resumes are posted on Monster alone each and every week; that only 25 resumes posted to a job opening will actually be reviewed by a human and of these only 4 to 6 will be interviewed; that study after study shows that recruiters spend 5 to 7 seconds scanning a resume and based on that they either trash it or choose to review it more thoroughly. "Let's just give up now" was the feeling I was getting!

But those who know me also know that I am full of hope, and more importantly, that I back the hope up with an action plan!

Here is my reply:

Those statistics are quite telling. Perhaps rather than let it get you down, think about what you need to do to overcome the challenges. As a resume writer, my clients DO get past all those hurdles and I don't have clients who are all top CEOs etc. Most of my clients are skilled, licensed professionals or management level, with some entry level as well and include electricians, IT, finance, marketing, admin assistants - you name it!
Here's what I apply to help them succeed: training in resume and cover letter strategies; up-to-date knowledge of how Applicant Tracking Systems rate resume content; and additional resources, customized to each client's need or situation that catapult my clients to the top of the heap!
It's possible. It takes either self-study or investing in a professional's assistance.
Self study, if you're interested, might include these topics: how to write a powerful and succinct summary, how to beat applicant tracking software, how to coin strong bullets, what other documents might I write to stand out. The info is out there, but always make sure your info is coming from a bonafide expert, and always apply the litmus test of common sense! It's not about being outlandish. Many of the ideas I use are quite practical and almost traditional, but they work.
I like to think that I also "sell" confidence and hope!
Don't let these statistics leave you frozen, deer in the headlights; rather, use them to your advantage. Put the odds in your favour!

If you'd like the read the article in its entirety, here is the link.

- writing masterful resumes that cut through the statistics! - Stephanie