Monday, June 2, 2008

The Secret of Search Efficiency

Way way back in the year 2000, things changed.

They changed for the better for employers, but worse for most job seekers. Only the fortunate few who learned how to make these changes were able to make these changes work for them – and it gave them an Unfair Advantage. Sad thing is, this is still the state of today’s job markets.

What happened in 2000? 2000 was the first year that the majority of resumes were delivered digitally. And the whole game changed, but it was silent. Most job seekers still don’t understand the profound changes that occurred when hiring markets reacted to digital resumes, that affect today’s candidates.

Ever have a recruiter ask you to add something to your resume in order to better qualify for a job? Recruiters knew what was happening, because they saw it from the inside. But it didn’t benefit recruiters to train candidates to be successful in this new paradigm, as the recruiter would lose their knowledge advantage and have diminished value. Besides, recruiters work for the hiring manager, not as a career coach.

When resumes went digital, they had a major effect on employers – employers were flooded. In a growing wave in the late 1990’s and into 2000, employers started getting crushed as 3-10 times the number of resumes had to be processed for each job advertised. Worse yet, most of these additional resumes were from under or mis-qualified applicants who found it easy to just press send.

So how did employers react? They became incredibly efficient in finding applicants who met the minimum requirements.

One positive aspect of digital resumes is that they are searchable. Another positive is they can be digitally filed in a database. As employers experimented with resume databases, they found they could micro-target skill sets by doing keyword searches…just like a Google search. Employers now had thousands of applicants to choose from and could search for 10, 15, maybe 20 criteria and find 20-30 applicants with those words on their resume…just by dumb luck and sheer volume.

And what happened to the job seekers who didn’t include those words on their resume? Their resumes stayed in the black hole, never to be seen by human eyes. Ever feel like you were perfect for a job, but didn’t get the call?

So when I talk to job seekers who tell me they’ve sent 150 resumes over 6 months, and only generated 3 interviews, I ask if it feels like no one is even looking at their resume - Because with those odds, no one is looking at their resume the majority of the time.

While choosing to interview only based on meeting minimum qualifications is dysfunctional, it’s also efficient. Hiring managers figure that if they can have HR pull 20-30 resumes, and visually screen out ½ of them, the remaining 10-15 resumes should produce a good employee.

While this is an efficient process for employers, is it also efficient for applicants? Usually not – because most candidates haven’t changed their methods to react to changed employer methods.

However, for those applicants who figured out how to game this system, it’s INCREDIBLY efficient, and can get savvy job seekers interviews from 15-25% of the resumes they send.

How can you be efficient as a candidate? Here’s 6 ways:

1) Be specific in your resume, not a generalist. HR databases punish generalists, because they search for specific terms. Even managers need to stay away from describing general and leadership skills to be successful in the new paradigm.

2) Throw out cover letters. If the employer demands it, use a standard cover letter. They aren’t included in the search…employers strip them and don’t include cover letters in their database. It’s easy to customize your resume, so employers expect it, and HR databases reward it. So why would you spend any time on a cover letter when you could be customizing your resume?

3) Heavily customize your resume. Employers reward resume customization. I don’t mean just add a word or two. Write your resume specifically to show how your subject matter expertise solves the target company’s or hiring manager’s problems, and helps the target company/manager meet goals.

4) Use the target company’s own language. Don’t think that just because you’ve described your experience that it’s a match. The ACTUAL WORDS need to match to count in your favor. Cut and paste the actual words from the job description to use in your resume.

5) Make it perfect. Reviewers have a zero tolerance policy for resumes, because there are thousands of other applicants. Spelling and grammar count. Formatting, fonts, and lined up tabs and columns count.

6) There are only two times in your life when you are perfect….when you are born, and on your resume. The hiring manager expects and rewards a perfect resume, and throws out imperfection. Have 2-3 friends proofread. Have it read on screen, and have it read on paper.

Sounds like a lot of work? Sure, but you won’t have to waste your time sending so many resumes.

You won’t have time….you’ll be too busy interviewing.

Executives exploring Career Change: For a free 30 minute resume consultation, or career advice for executives, email your resume confidentially to reCareered (, and we'll schedule a time to talk.

Staff, Managers, Entrepreneurs, and career changers outside the US: Send your resume to to enroll in a free group teleseminar "Accelerate Your Job Search - tools you can use".

No comments: