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."

The Pinnacle of a Messed Up Resume

I'm celebrating my 10th anniversary this year as founder and owner of New Leaf Resumes. Not at all sure how to commemorate the year (I am open to ideas!), the milestone has prompted me to reflect on many aspects of small business ownership and on how recruitment has evolved.

And of course I've thought about how many resumes I have written or how many have crossed my desk for free assessments. A conservative estimate would be around 3,000.

I thought I had seen it all.

And then last week I saw a resume that was sooooo messed up it boggled my mind. Almost every resume rule was broken. (There are rules that can be broken, but some should not.)

Actually, it's not only resume rules that were stretched until they snapped, it was graphic design and document creation norms that were ignored to the point of folly.

Here is a list of what I found - and be sure to check yours against this list as this resume is by no means unique in its lack of attention to detail.

1. Font sizes: I counted eight font sizes, from too small to read to overly large.

2. Inconsistency: A complete lack of consistency in capitablizations, bolding, sizes of font for headings (I counted three different sizes in the headings) vs. the body of content (five sizes in the body), and the inexplicable use of two font colours. There were also  haphazard uses of underlining, tables, and italics, as well as small cap style vs regular font style. Finally, the margins were not equal.

3. Formatting: Here's a rule NOT to break as it relates to the ability of applicant tracking systems (ATS) to read, evaluate, and score your resume. This resume had tables within tables and a text box. All continue to be "no-no's."

4. Proofreading: I found the numbers 1 to 3 in the left hand margin, serving no purpose. I found verbs in first person (promote) and the third person (develops). Some bullets ended with periods and others did not.

(Surprisingly the grammatical strucutre and spelling, where most people have a few errors, were excellent.)

I think that this job hunter would have noticed the details derailing his/her resume if s/he had printed the pages. Things just look different on the screen vs in print.

Without fail, I print out each client's resume for this reason. What looks great on the screen sometimes does not translate well on the printed page. Had the job hunter taken this step, s/he may not have noticed every fault, but surely the many fonts sizes, which created such a visual confusion. would have popped out.

Job hunters take note: give either the ATS or recruiter a reason to throw you out of the race and you will be! Today's job search is a serious competition. Put forward anything less than your best and you are wasting your time.

I'm glad to say that this job hunter is choosing to work with a professional.