Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If It's Not On Your Resume, It Doesn't Exist

Do you feel like your resume is invisible to hiring managers, recruiters, and HR reps? If it feels like your applications are invisible, you're probably right.

"If it's not on your resume, it doesn't exist" was a common saying from my recruiting days, and it explains why many candidates feel invisible. By looking inside common hiring practices, you can see there are some good reasons for this saying.

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Remember that everyone in the hiring process is over tasked in most companies, and their hiring practices typically try to make the process of choosing candidates more efficient (not more effective in most companies - hiring effectiveness is more important during times of candidate shortages).

Hiring managers (and therefore recruiters and HR reps) believe what they see on a resume as the candidate's representation of themselves. Cover letters or marketing pieces are seen as "seller's fluff". In the 15 seconds that the average reviewer spends to make an interview/non interview decision, they are typically making that decision based on one document.

This is probably one of the reasons that a recent poll I've run over the past two years shows that 96%+ of hiring managers make their decisions based on resumes (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-your-cover-letter-obsolete-tradition.html).

Yet why is it so difficult for candidates to accept this? Most candidates use a standard resume - and if they customize anything, their customization is in a document other than their resume. Why do just under 96% of candidates try to differentiate themselves with documents other than their resume (see the same study referenced in the paragraph above)?

I think there are a few reasons:
  • Old habits are hard to break - Job search is a time of turmoil, and discomfort for most of us. Even the process of passive search, while you already have a job is uncomfortable for most job seekers. Human nature drives candidates to processes they are familiar with, processes that they were trained to do, even if it was in a different era, even if things have dramatically changed today. It's comfortable, something familiar, during a process where little is familiar. All that's find, but those comfortable methods don't work well, which becomes especially apparent during a recession (see: http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/10/are-you-buying-mac-cheese-of-job-search.html).
  • Failure of educational institutions - Most job seekers gain the majority of their job search knowledge from when they graduate college, or possibly grad school. Unfortunately, university placement departments don't teach students how to search for a job - rather, they teach students how to use just their own placement process. Most major schools publish a book or database of resumes, that they sell to major employers. Universities teach students how to create a resume that fits the school's standardized process, but they don't do much to show students how to job search outside of the universities placement process. A few years ago, I tested my own undergraduate and graduate university's web resources for job search and found them still routed in the same processes they taught back in the '80s. University of Illinois and Northwestern University still teach the same processes and don't prepare students with skills that prepare students for the real world. It's not just these two schools - I've sampled web resources from many of the nation's top colleges, and few cover job search skills in the real world (see http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/02/unfair-advantage.html).
  • Failure of coaches, recruiters, and outplacement - Most coaches and recruiters continue to address job search using these same strategies of static resume/custom cover letter. Why do they advise candidates to use these techniques, when they know from their backgrounds as insiders, that they no longer work? - Because it's easy for candidates to consume. Teaching new methods to candidates takes time, patience, and an expectation of push back. Most service providers don't want to take the time to deal with candidate reeducation, because they are structured on volume.
  • Candidate confusion - Candidates get so much information, from so many places, often conflicting, that it's difficult to know what to believe and what to ignore.
  • Too much work - Most candidates have been so trained to send volume, rather than very targeted resumes, that they focus on how long a customization strategy takes. Candidates typically take a volume approach over a highly focused, high response rate alternative.

Maybe a more important question is how can you make sure the important details are on your resume, and that they are seen by reviewers? I write daily content detailing methods on this very problem, but let me give a few highlights. Review my archives for more - there are one or two articles most weeks that focus on helping candidates solve this problem.

Here are 8 ways to make sure your best points exist in the eye of the reader, because they are easily found on your resume:

  1. Create a great Fishing Resume - A "Fishing Resume" is a template, or a resume to be used when you don't know who the target company is. It's what you might send blindly to a recruiter, or submit to a blind ad with little detail. Your goal should be to minimize sending "Fishing Resumes", because you'll get enough background details on companies and positions to send customized resumes (see "Response Resumes" below). A Fishing Resume is also a template that's your starting point for further customization (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/09/differentiate-your-resume-with-winning.html).
  2. Research - Use research to gain public and non-public information on your target company, to understand their goals, problems, roadblocks, and opportunities (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/05/4-killer-ways-to-use-research.html).
  3. Guerrilla Job Search - Get inside your target companies, to get inside information. You're not using it to pick stocks, so this isn't illegal, but it's a way to get a huge edge on other candidates. Use Guerrilla Job Search tactics to have truly informational conversations with company insiders to better understand goals, problems, opportunities, and roadblocks inside your target company. Understand how each of these affect your target department and target hiring manager. Gain an understanding of communication and personality style of the hiring manager. Most candidates (if they do this at all) wait until they are preparing for an interview to get inside a company to ask questions. But the earlier in the process you talk to your network inside your target company the better chance you have of getting an interview, being a finalist, and getting an offer - because you can tailor the first impression you set specifically to fit the company, department, and hiring manager (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/11/guerrilla-job-search-tactics.html).
  4. Customize a tailored Response Resume - A "Response Resume" is a resume that you've customized to a specific company, opportunity, ad, department, and hiring manager. I've found that if a candidate customizes, they rarely go beyond customizing for what's in the ad. While that's important to gain Resume Search Optimization advantages, if that's all you do then you are leaving many potential advantages on the table. Use research and Guerrilla Job Search tactics to demonstrate that you've already solved similar problems that the company/department/hiring manager currently has in order to gain big advantages over your competition (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/09/differentiate-your-resume-with-winning.html).
  5. Very Targeted approach - This strategy will take more time per resume, and require much more up-front preparation. It also generates a significantly higher response rate, a greater number of interviews, and a better chance of giving the first impression of a top candidate, making it well worth the extra work, when done correctly. In order to allow yourself the time to research, prepare, and customize well, send fewer resumes, focusing on opportunities where you are a very close fit. Ignore "what you could do", instead focusing on"what you do better than anyone else" (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/03/tip-of-day-send-fewer-resumes.html).
  6. Make it a quick read - The average hiring manger, recruiter, and HR rep spends 15 seconds scanning your resume. In order to get interviews, your reader has to clearly and quickly see that you are a good fit for the job - in 15 seconds (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2008/03/15-seconds.html).
  7. Make great use of your resume's real estate - In just 15 seconds, your reader gains the majority of their impression based on the top half of your first page. Why do so many candidates put the best stuff on page 2? Learn how to make effective use of your resume real estate at http://recareered.blogspot.com/2010/02/10-ways-to-manage-your-resume-real.html.
  8. Include the 3 things the hiring manager is looking for - Your next hiring manager looks for three basic things on your resume. Make sure these are clearly and easily seen (http://recareered.blogspot.com/2009/12/3-things-your-next-employer-will-search.html).

Stop being invisible to the hiring managers, recruiters, and HR reps who read your resume. Make sure your best points are on your resume, that they are relevant to your target company's issues, and that they can be easily and clearly seen by your reader.

Any suggestions from the audience on how to gain gain visibility with your readers?

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Related Articles:
Job Seekers - Tell your readers WIFT (What's In it For Them)
Employer Value Statements Make Your Resume Sizzle

Email your request to phil.reCareered@gmail.com to enroll in a free group teleseminar "Accelerate Your Job Search - tools you can use".

Source: http://reCareered.blogspot.com


Patsy Redd said...

Could you please comment on how someone who has recently earned an Associate Degree who is looking to start in a new field but also has a long work history in a variety of past jobs should handle this on a resume?

Phil Rosenberg said...


Thanks for your question. Here's how I might be able to answer you.

I offer readers the chance to win a free resume review ($400 value). I'm looking for people who would like to have their resume or video resume critiqued, published on my blog and republished to major publications.

If you are interested in submitting your resume (or video resume) for public review, please email your resume and acknowledge your approval that your resume (or video resume) may be published publicly. Please send to phil.reCareered@gmail.com.