Signal to Noise Ratio - How "Noisy" is Your Resume?


I’m reading #TerryO’Reilly’s recent book on marketing. Titled #ThisIKnow, its subtitle “Marketing Lessons from Under the Influence” refers to his long-running #CBCRadio show on marketing. (Think of the irony: the radio show with no ads runs a show about ads! Love it!)

O’Reilly and #SethGodin, another master marketer, are favourite writers. I’ve often written on a Seth Godin blog post in the past, and this morning I opened another that I need to share. It’s titled Signal to Noise Ratio. It’s about substance vs. perhaps, nonsense. Or juicy info vs. boring? A strong signal, good info, overcomes or cuts through noise.

His blog brought to mind something I had learned in a 2-part webinar I took earlier this year. The webinar dealt with #applicanttrackingsystems, or ATS, the software that many - and increasing numbers of - employers use to evaluate resumes. They use ATS to whittle down the applicants to be considered to a manageable number.

As ATS evolve - they’ve been around since around 1998 (!) - they improve. Once able to “read” only plain text documents in Courier font (that’s the one in which letters are widely spaced), most now read PDF or Word documents in a variety of fonts.

The newest improvement is AI or #artificialintelligence. Programming artificial intelligence into #ATS will be a welcome improvement. AI will once again allow the resume’s writer to use some creativity, use synonyms, and not worry so much about the lack of interpretation or “reading between the lines” that has characterized ATS to date.

And AI, I learned, identifies a noise ratio! I do not know details, but the most up-to-date ATS (there is more than one product in the market) somehow recognize “fluff.” For this reason, your #resume must have a strong “signal” to noise ratio.

What is “noise” in a resume? I’m not 100% certain until those who conduct ATS research are ready to host another resume-writers’ ATS-update webinar. Maybe I’ll have concrete info in 2019.

However, here’s what I do know, judging by my clients’ #jobsearch successes.

  • Your resume cannot, should not, must not “read” like a job posting. That’s not a resume’s function. That’s a job posting.

  • Your resume must be personalized to your actual experience. Personalizing your resume means you include facts that describe your work environment, provide context that sets the premise for the story, and otherwise paint a quick but useful picture of each position you have held.

Your resume simply has to dig deeper to define your value. There’s little value in creating a list of the tasks you did in each job! Judging by the many resumes I have reviewed in my business, that tactic will only put you on par with the vast majority of applicants. That will not inspire a recruiter to call you. Nor will it get you past those ATS that are enabled with AI.

So how do you feel your resume scores in the noise to signal ration? Are you sending a resounding signal that will inspire a recruiter to select you as a potential interviewee? Or is the noise overwhelmingly keeping you from that coveted list?

Automation Job Losses vs New Growth Opportunites

Taking a Break from Writing Resumes with Some Tree Love

Taking a Break from Writing Resumes with Some Tree Love

Human Resources Director Canada today announced that Manulife is cutting 700 jobs as part of its digital business transformation. Most of the losses will be absorbed through attrition, but not all.

The automation of services, such as access to your own information, has long been moving away from the need to phone in. On-line self-help services are not at all new. But with the sophistication of Artificial Intelligence or AI, more and more types of information can be at one's fingertips.

Even in my own small corner of the business world, AI is making an impact. The newest versions of Applicant Tracking Software, the systems that many companies rely on to help automate parts of the recruitment process, are AI-enhanced. Progressing from the archaic "ASCII" resume version, an unattractive, plain-text, Courier font document, today's ATS-friendly resumes look positively radiant in comparison! Shaded lines and colour are fine, as are some enhanced features.

On the other side of the job search spectrum, I see that marijuana is having quite an impact. In my boutique resume service I have had two clients in one week - and more in the last year - seeking to apply to a few medical marijuana facilities. (On another note, I have a neighbour who has made an obscene amount of money from purchasing medical marijuana stocks, but that's a topic for an investment blog!)

From "field hands" to senior execs, there's a living to be earned in this employment newcomer.

That's me. I love tree hugging and getting "grounded." We all need a break!

Whatever your situation, New Leaf Resumes would love to help. Give me a call at 778 269 5627 and let's talk. 

Mixing the old with the new - screendoors and resumes

A few weeks ago my husband, Richard, and I visited my mom. She lives on her own, although at 80+, it's getting harder and harder for her to do so without help.

On this visit, I got my husband to replace the handle on her screen door. (I almost wrote "we replaced," but quite honestly, I didn't even watch, never mind help!)

A visit to the local Canadian Tire, new handle, random tools, and assorted paraphernalia in hand, Richard began his work.

By the end it was clear that not all of the old stuff would work with the new stuff and hubby couldn't use all the new parts. His solution was a hodge podge, but at least the handle was no longer a  hard to grip and uninviting looking handle, and the door could lock.

So often it's best to replace something in its entirety.

It's this way with resumes, too. An old version, maybe a template in its origins, with new bits and pieces added over the years, and perhaps more than one author along the way, often looks rather hodge-podgey. Rather than looking crisply designed, it feels random; rather than reading smoothly, it seems quite haphazard. It's like the difference between a fine, coordinated suit and tie versus your well-worn, at-home "comfies"; between a $40 and $7 bottle of wine; between a fun sundress from your local bargain shop and a custom made outfit.

Not much of a first impression, is it?

It's also this way with resumes that I first wrote for clients years ago. Recently a client from 2009 returned for a resume update. He said that he had added a few things over the years, but he now felt that it really needed my touch. And it did, from formatting to content, need my touch.

Since our initial work about eight years ago software has evolved, and the recruitment process has changed. His old version was no longer compatible with today's norms, not in the version of Word nor in the need to appease applicant tracking systems.

I overhauled it top to bottom, finessing even previously composed bullets (as many were shortened or even removed to keep his resume to two pages), ensured it met each of today's requirements. My client is once again ready to further his career as a top-notch Tool and Die Maker.

If your resume is anything other than pristine and crisp in its appearance and ultra-influential and targeted in its content, might I suggest that that may be the reason that you are not landing interviews? Sometimes it's not because recruiters don't know anything; sometimes it's because we are unwilling to spend the money on an entirely new "screen door"!


Does it matter where you get your job search advice?

Sometimes I am booked a few months in advance and must refer clients who prefer more immediate assistance to colleagues. I have sourced only two resume writers whose writing quality - grammar, strategy, composition - I admire. These two also have "high touch" client service similar to my own. And their resumes "look nice" too, with pristine spacing and formatting. :-)

Last week, one of these referred clients, whose resume was written by one of these colleagues, reached out to me. "I'm not landing any interviews" was his message, and he asked if I would review the document.

Now, in the past, I've had a few of my own clients contact me with a similar lament. In each case I was able to identify what the actual issue was and was confident of doing so for this referred client.

Here's the story.

The original resume was strategized to land the client entry into an MBA program, which it did.

Post graduation, the client sought out input from the MBA program's career coach, and then launched his job search.

On opening his resume, I immediately saw an issue. Knowing my colleague's style, I had a hard time understanding why he would have elected to do this one particular thing, which was problematic in today's recruitment process. You see, page one had no name and no contact info.

Probing the client, I discovered that it was the career coach who advised him to make room on page one to add a few lines of content by removing his name and contact info because, after all, "your name, phone, and email are on page two and three."

What this career coach wasn't aware of is the implications of the use of applicant tracking systems (ATS), so prevalent in today's recruitment process. He wasn't aware that ATS have certain formatting as well as content requirements.

I suggested to this client that once he amends this issue, he will likely see an immediate relief from his non-performing resume.

Also, because the original resume was strategized to the MBA program requirements, not this new job search, I made a few suggestions for "tweaks" that will quickly fix that issue too.

The lesson here? It does matter where you get your job search input. Although I do not give "advice," I do advise with reasoned and seasoned insights into questions of resume strategy, interview coaching, and job search tactics. Not all resume writers are equal in their own pursuit of professional development and thus not all information is accurate.

When looking for expertise, be sure to consider more than price point; you must look deep into credentials to determine whether you can trust a professional's credibility.

Resume Strategy - Perception and Influence

It's funny how perception works. I have to admit that I'm impressed by the quality of goods conceived and manufactured in Germany. I noted that about myself just the other day when a friend told me about amazing wall mounted beds she had seen decades ago while visiting relatives in Germany. Apparently wall bed features that I had seen on a current youtube video, which prompted our conversation and which I thought were so terribly clever and modern, she had seen way back when.

Who knows where my perception began? That's what makes us all so unique and so human.

Everyone can be influenced, and no less so recruiters as they review resumes.

In a recent resume, I influenced perception with simple phrases that prefaced bullets that addressed the skills or knowledge to which I wanted to draw to the recruiter's attention.

Given that the resume skim-through lasts only 15 seconds or so, I also bolded these phrases for an easy scannability factor. And, these phrases echoed language from the job posting, which would impress the non-human applicant tracking software that increasingly has "first dibs" on reviewing resume content.

In this client's case, as a Director if IT, the phrases included the following:

Risk Aware/Averse Methodology - and the rest of the bullet gave specifics to how this candidate identifies risk, along with an example of how his method saved hundreds of thousands of dollars

Market Competitiveness - important to his field of expertise, this bullet demonstrated how the projects he had worked on ensured his employer's competitiveness in the market

Unprecedented Projects - this bullet, which anchored the page as the last bullet, would sell almost anyone on his value as it focused attention on the unique and special projects - as well as their results -  that he had worked on

There were others, but this gives you an idea of how the simple use of job-specific words can have the desired influence on an important reader's reaction.

As for the wall mounted bed, in the linked youtube video, you'll see that it's not only practical, but also has fine benefits in terms of space saving and time saving features. The amazing engineering allows a room to have double-purpose and eliminates the need to rearrange adjoining furniture or other paraphernalia. Easy peasy and good for those bedtimes where you're too tired or too lazy to rearrange stuff to get your bed out.

BTW, how influential is your resume? Are your features and benefits immediately visible?