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?

Exciting News to Share

September was an excellent month for recognition of my work, and I would love to share the two stories with you.

I have belonged to Career Professionals of Canada since 2007. As a fledgling writer, in my very first year as a full time, self-employed resume strategist, I was recognized with four awards - three for resume categories and one for professional contributions. Although I skipped a few years, not submitting any resumes for adjudication, since that time, I have earned another five awards for both resumes and employment interview coaching.

This year I once again won the best technical resume category. I am grateful for having my work recognized.


The second story again begins in 2007 when I submitted a technical resume to an opportunity to have a resume included in a soon to be published U.S. book, "Directory of Professional Resume Writers" (published by JIST Works and written and compiled by Louise Kursmark). Still a newbie, I fought with myself for a few days, alternating arguments of  "who do you think you are?" with "if you don't try you won't know." Thankfully the optimistic voice won out and my sample was accepted as one of only 40 or so resumes in the book

Since that time, Louise and Wendy Enelow, who often partner on projects, have been the source of more opportunities. I've had my resume samples included in their training packages and had a resume included in their first major publication, Modernize Your Resume (early 2016).

Early last week I learned that three of my cover letters were accepted into their next publication, Modernize Your Job Search Letters, due out in December. Here's part of the email content:

We are delighted to tell you that we’ve chosen to feature your work in our upcoming book, MODERNIZE YOUR JOB SEARCH LETTERS: Get Noticed … Get Hired.

Our decision was not easy because we received about 4X the number of letters we could publish! We made our selections based on your creative approach, powerful language, and spot-on strategy for the letter(s) that we will be featuring.

I have to admit that the recognition is important to me. I love to write and I am thrilled that my work  significantly impacts my clients' job searches.

Along with hearing back from clients with individual success stories, the recognition from impartial sources, industry leaders, also validates my efforts, reassuring me that my ongoing training - reading, self-study, webinars, conferences - is well worth it.

Thank you for letting me share! With gratitude, Stephanie