resume, cover letter, screening, job, career, Laine Bodnar, Laine Jaremey, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation

The secret things resume screeners look for

Searching for a job is a job in itself! We put hours into our resumes. We often think that this effort won’t go to waste, as many of us assume that the person who reviews our resume will spend lots of time doing so. However, a study of the people who screen resumes revealed that they do so for only six seconds on average.

Yes, I said six seconds. To put that in perspective, it probably took you nearly 25 seconds to read the first paragraph of this blog post.

So, how do you get a person who reviews resumes, also called a resume screener, to take a longer look and consider you for the job?

Understanding the information that a resume screener is looking for, and providing them with it in an efficient manner, is critical.

Person typing on keyboard next to yellow watch

Focus on key areas of your resume

There are four key parts of your resume that resume screeners hone-in on to check if you’re a good fit for the job. These sections, and things to think about as you prepare them, are below:

  1. Work objective or career summary – In the interest of space, you may only include one of these sections at the top of your resume. Here you can highlight the value that you can bring to the organization right off the bat. Review the job description to understand key words and make sure they’re present here too.
  2. Relevant skills and qualifications – Are your skills and qualifications tailored to the job you’re applying for?
  3. Employment history – Have you demonstrated an upward trajectory in past roles with promotions at the same company, or when moving from one company to another? Are the jobs relevant to the position you’re applying for? Are there gaps in your employment history that you should proactively explain?
  4. Industry experience – Are your previous jobs in the same industry as the company that you’re applying to work at? If not, demonstrate how you’ve gained knowledge of the industry, and showcase transferable skills. 

Attention to detail matters too

If the role you’re applying for requires attention to detail and accuracy – and let’s face it, most jobs do! – you must review your resume with a fine-tooth comb. Common red flags for resume screeners include:

  • Incorrect company name or job title – Yes, this sounds obvious. But if you’re applying for more than one job, or if you’ve older versions of your resume, it can be easy to accidentally submit a document with incorrect information in these fields.
  • Errors – Typos and grammatical errors are prime examples. Factual errors, like discrepancies in past job titles between your resume and cover letter, or incorrect dates of previous employment, should also be avoided. Consider asking a trusted friend or family member, or a third-party resume/career services consultant, to proofread your documents to reduce errors.
  • Skimping on your accomplishments – Connect the dots for the screener by clearly stating your achievements in previous roles and make a positive impression early in the hiring process. This can be done in both your cover letter and resume, but don’t be too repetitive between the two.

Job candidates should also know that some companies use software, not people, to vet resumes as they are received. Learn more about how this software examines resumes here.

What other tips do you have for catching the attention of resume screeners? Share in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey
Video

Stand out with these 3 traits

A resume can get your foot in the door when you’re looking for a job. But, oftentimes hiring managers want a new hire to fulfill criteria that can’t be expressed on paper. Why? These traits will help hiring managers ensure that the candidate will benefit the organization in ways that go beyond just fulfilling their role.

What are employers looking for when they hire someone new? Emily Heward, co-founder of branding agency Red Antler, explains the top things she looks for in the video from Inc.com, available here.

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What are the three traits she looks for?

  1. Enthusiasm about your industry, your work and the company
  2. The ability to ask thoughtful, challenging questions
  3. Kindness

You can demonstrate these traits to a potential employer in different ways. Try:

  • Before even applying for a job, consider scheduling an informational interview with someone at the organization
  • Carefully crafting a tailored cover letter (learn more about that here)
  • Mindfully conveying these traits in an interview
  • Sending a thank you email or hand-written note after an informational interview or formal interview

Do you agree with the top traits that Emily Heward suggests? What other ways could you express these traits? Please your thoughts in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Inc.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

When searching for a job, what’s in a name?

I recently heard about a new process in Canada’s federal government that will help reduce bias around who is contacted following a job application in an interview on Toronto’s Metro Morning.

Six federal departments are piloting a blind recruitment strategy with the goal of increasing equity and diversity in its workforce. This process will remove any identifying information like names and educational institutions from resumes and job applications.

Research on bias in the hiring process reveals the reason behind this project. A research report compiled by Ryerson University and the University of Toronto,  by Dr. Rupa Banerjee, an associate professor at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management, uncovered the extent to which these biases impact hiring decisions.

Dr. Banerjee reported that the study found that people with Asian-sounding names (such as Lei Xi or Hina Chaudhry) and Canadian education and work experience receive 42 per cent less call backs than people with Anglo-sounding names (like Greg Johnson or Emily Brown) and the same Canadian education and work experience.

While I was listening to the interview, I was curious about if researchers had pinpointed why some of the reasons why such biases exist. Dr. Banerjee explained that implicit bias enables people to make quick decisions (it’s important to note that she mentioned that biases don’t necessarily make someone racist). For example, in the study, bias might have impacted hiring managers’ assumptions around a candidate with an Asian-sounding name’s mastery of the English language and ability to assimilate with a workplace’s culture. In reality, we know these things aren’t necessarily linked.

The results of the Government of Canada’s pilot project will provide a recent, Canadian case study on a blind hiring strategy works. Ideally, the makeup of the staff in the six departments will become more diverse as the project goes on. Roles will be filled with the best possible candidates, no matter their names or backgrounds.

If this pilot is successful, I would hope that the practice of blind hiring will spill over to other federal government departments, levels of government, and even the private sector. This would result in the job application process being more fair and equitable for everyone.

What are your thoughts on this blind hiring pilot project?

Image credit: Besttemplates.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts and Punctuation, Laine Jaremey
Video

How do I write a cover letter?

Once you’ve spent hours refining and proofreading your resume, writing a cover letter can seem like very challenging and time-consuming task.

But, it doesn’t need to be.  It’s important to remember that a cover letter is your first opportunity to build a relationship via a piece of paper (or email) with the person who’s doing the hiring, as described by Aimee Bateman, founder of Careercake.com. Therefore, a cover letter is just as important as your resume, as it allows you to shine some light on your professionalism and personality.

Check out some other tips for developing a stellar cover letter in Aimee’s video, below.

Do you agree with Aimee?  Do you have any other tips for writing a great cover letter?

Image credit: Pixabay.com.

Resume, cover letter, job interview, career, public relations, project management, Pencil Skirts & Punctuation, Laine Jaremey

How to use the right keywords to get your resume past hiring software

In some organizations, hiring managers are looking for candidates for several different departments, looking to fill many diverse roles. It would take ages for them to review all of the resumes manually, and this would result roles not being filled in a timely manner.

As a solution, a tool referred to as a human resources (HR) software program can help to filter the resumes and cover letters that are submitted. Not only does this save time, but it allows hiring managers ensure that everyone who moves on in the interview process has a minimum level of experience.

???????????????????????????????How do these software programs work? Usually, they’re algorithms that help to identify keywords in resumes and cover letters that are relevant to the experience required for the job. The good news is that you’ve probably already seen these keywords – they’re typically listed throughout the job description.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail shares how to get your resume past these electronic screening programs.

Here’s an example of how a well-qualified candidate may not have been considered had she not incorporated an important keyword into her resume:

“I helped a lady recently who wanted to work as risk analyst in a bank. She had an MBA, a background in accounting, she was fully qualified for the job. I did a quick keyword search of the word ‘risk’ in the job posting, and it showed up 17 times. Then I went to her resume, and it showed up once, on the second page. That would never get through.” – Pamela Paterson, resume coach and author of Get the Job: Optimize Your Resume for the Online Job Search.

The goal is to write your resume in such a way that it will get through the system and into the hands of a human who will consider you for the job.

The three things to remember when you’re writing a resume that will be reviewed by a software algorithm are:

Tip 1: Highlight the keywords – Make sure the recurring terms in a job description, like skills, responsibilities, training/certifications, commonly-used abbreviations and action words, are used in your resume and cover letter.

Tip 2: Keep it simple – Avoid PDFs, and use traditional headers and basic formatting.

Tip 3: Time matters – If you’ve had different roles in the same company, treat each as its own job and identify the dates you were in that role. This may be a cue to the filter that you have the required amount of work experience.

What if you’re searching for a similar job at different companies? You can probably use the same version of your cover letter and resume. But never assume that a generic resume will get you past the first round of review by the software algorithm and into the hands of a hiring manager. Take a careful look at the job description for each company to find keywords that are frequently used. If a job description isn’t available, review the company’s website or online newsroom for clues about the keywords you should include.

What does this all mean? How you write your resume needs to constantly evolve to adapt to the new digital tools used in the job search process.

Do you have any tips for incorporating keywords into your resume or cover letter? Share them in the comments.

Image credits: Pixabay.com; Creative Commons.

“So, you want to be a pubic relations specialist?”

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This question was asked to a fellow student by the career development course instructor at my public relations certificate program after the instructor reviewed a draft of her resume. A missed “L” in what was supposed to be the word “public” not only implied this student was looking for an entirely different career, but also earned her a failing grade on the resume assignment.

The importance of proofreading

Not all typos in a resume or cover letter will be so hilarious, but they can all guarantee the same result – a potential employer or manager will question your attention to detail and seriousness about your own career. Hence the failing grade in the above example, as the instructor wanted to drive home this key message.

Remember the following tips as you proofread your resume or cover letter:

  • Spelling: When drafting a resume or cover letter using Pages, Word and even Gmail, these programs provide the luxury of highlighting spelling errors.  On many devices, the software automatically corrects typos for us. I don’t know about you, but I’ve pretty much stopped using the actual spell check tool. However, it’s important to do a formal spell check to ensure you don’t become blind to some of the obvious errors. Remember to check the context of how a word is spelled, as you may have accidentally typed something that’s technically spelled correctly, although you wanted to say something entirely different (for example, the spelling of “public” and “pubic” in the above example).
  • Punctuation: Let’s be honest. Sometimes it can be tricky to use punctuation marks correctly, especially if you don’t write that often. When in doubt when writing your resume, stick with direct, simple sentences that incorporate action words. Avoid using confusing phrases with extra commas or dashes that may distract the reader from the overall piece.
  • Proper names: Remember to double-check proper names. This may include the name of your high school or university, the name of a company or employer, a reference, or even the person you’re addressing the cover letter to.
  • Using numbers: If possible, avoid starting a sentence with a number, but if you have to, spell it out. Also, a rule of thumb is to spell the number out if it’s nine or below, and to use the numerical form if the number is 10 or higher.
  • Contact information: Lastly, make sure you thoroughly check even the taken-for-granted details, including your phone number and email address. You may have reviewed your resume or cover letter many times, so your eyes may just glaze over the contact information. It would be a shame if you lost out on a job or volunteer opportunity because the hiring manager couldn’t get in touch to tell you how awesome you are!

As a communications professional, I usually defer to the Canadian Press (CP) Stylebook if I’m unsure of the spelling, Canadian spelling or proper usage of a word or phrase. To quickly confirm a word’s proper spelling or usage, you can also look it up in a top-tier media outlet, such as the Globe and Mail or National Post to see how journalists and editors use or spell a word, at they typically follow the CP Stylebook as well.

What tips do you have for proofreading your resume or cover letter?

Image credit: Pixabay.com.