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Is Your Resume ATS-Friendly?
by Karen Hoyt on 

Did you know that 85% of resumes are never read by humans?  Over the years, technology has made applying for positions easier, and as a result, companies have had to find a way to keep up with the hundreds—sometimes thousands—of resumes they receive for each job opening. Since it’s next to impossible for human eyes to read through every application, an ATS, or applicant tracking system, allows them to upload all of the resumes into one database.  Each one is assigned a score based on how well it meets the criteria, so only resumes with a high enough score will pass and make it to the next phase of the application process.

 

So how can you be sure your resume is ATS compatible?  Since there are quite a few systems out there, you can never be 100 percent sure, but here are some basic guidelines:

 

Follow directions

If the job lead says to attach a Word doc, attach a Word doc.  If it says to copy/paste your resume as plain text into a text field, copy/paste plain text.  Nothing will get your resume rejected faster than ticking the system off—and, quite frankly, if you can’t follow directions when you’re applying for a job, you’re probably not going to be very good at it after you’re hired.


No templates

The resume templates found in Word are handy, but since they require you to enter your info using fields and tables, they can confuse an ATS.  You’re better off starting from scratch.


Keep it simple

Don’t confuse the system with borders, horizontal lines, tables, and text boxes.  Plain text is best—and be sure to use a standard font like Times New Roman, Calibri, or Arial since it’s sometimes difficult for software to discern letters of “fancier” fonts.


Make your sections obvious

An ATS needs to differentiate between different sections of your resume to know where to dump what data, so here's where white space is key.  Don’t make your margins or font too small to try to fit everything on one or two pages—it’s better to go to three pages than to have your resume rejected because the system can’t read it.  Try to keep margins at .75” to 1” and use 10- to 12-point font.  Also, use standard section headings like “Summary,” “Experience,” and “Education” so the software knows where to find everything.  


Stay consistent

ATS software is programmed to pick up on patterns, so if your first position lists the company first, followed by the title, years of employment, and duties, the rest of your positions should follow the same format.  This will increase your chances of the right data going to the right place.


No headers or footers

Since some filtering software ignores headers and footers, don’t use them for important information like your name, phone number, etc.


Use the right keywords

Are the words used in the job lead also in your resume?  If a requirement is familiarity with Sarbanes-Oxley, don’t just put that you have “knowledge of federal securities laws.”  Make sure the words “Sarbanes-Oxley” are actually on your resume—and while you’re at it, make sure “Sarbox” and “SOX” are listed, too, since they are common abbreviations.


No cheating

ATS software is pretty sophisticated these days, so don’t try to increase your ranking by entering multiple keywords in the document properties or “hiding” them in the document by using white text.  You’ll get a better ranking if keywords are used in context instead of just listed.  In fact, your resume might get rejected if the ATS thinks you’re “gaming the system.”


Don’t rely on spell check

Spell check is an extremely useful tool, but it doesn’t know what you meant to type, and neither does an ATS.  If you were a manager, but you typed “manger,” spell check isn’t going to throw up a red flag since “manger” is a word, too.  So proofreading is key!

 

Again, no format is foolproof, but having the basics down will greatly increase your chances of being contacted by an actual human being.  And if you’re worried about your resume “looking pretty,” feel free to take hard copies of a more aesthetically pleasing version with you to the interview!


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Searching for a Job During the Holidays
by Jim Wolf on 

You may have heard there’s no point in conducting a job search during the holidays because leads dry up and decision makers aren’t available.  The truth is, most hiring managers and recruiters say their postings and searchSearching for a Job During the Holidays assignments either increase or stay the same.  And since there are a lot more opportunities for networking during the holidays, it’s actually an opportune time to get your name out there!  Consider the following tips to keep your search on the move:

 

Party Time

Parties, holiday events, conferences, etc., are all ideal for networking.  Attend as many events as you can reasonably fit into your calendar.  Make it a point to listen more than you talk.  Work the entire room and don’t forget to have your business cards ready to share!

 

Holiday Greetings

A basic “Happy Holidays” or “Happy New Year” card is a nice reminder that you're still in a job search (don't forget to include your business card).  If you prefer a more eco-friendly approach, consider sending a short inspirational email message as a holiday greeting to your entire network.  If possible, don’t send the emails en masse—consider a quick personal note for each.

 

Be Found

Update your LinkedIn profile and build on the contacts you currently have.  Remember, every time you add a contact or update to your profile, your LinkedIn connections get an update about YOU, which is a great way to stay on their mind!

 

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

If your holiday travels include destinations that are potential job targets, plan ahead by notifying potential employers and letting them know you’ll be in town.  As an out-of-towner, you have an advantage over someone local since your time will be limited and people will be more accommodating. 

 

Quiet Time

Take a step back to revisit every aspect of your search (resume, LinkedIn profile, target companies, activities, automated job searches, etc.).  Take time to assess what you really want from a new job and your career overall.  Seeing it on paper is a good first step in outlining a strategy that will serve as a road map for the New Year.

 

Nobody Likes a Grinch

Exude confidence with a positive attitude and demeanor everywhere you’re seen, heard, or read!  Get excited about the opportunities ahead of you and get into the holiday spirit.  The excitement will rub off on the people around you and help you stand out among the desperate masses.


And Most Importantly...Relax

It’s also important to take some time for you and your family, so don’t forget to relax and enjoy the holiday season.  Use holiday events to schmooze with family, friends, and acquaintances.


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Evaluating a Job Offer
by Scott_Bensinger on 

If you're considering changing jobs, you're not alone. Today, few people stay with one employer until retirement. It's likely that at some point during your career, you'll be looking for a new job. You may be looking to make more money or seeking greater career opportunities. Or, you may be forced to look for new employment if your company restructures. WhateverEvaluating the job offer the reason, you'll eventually be faced with an important decision: When you receive an offer, should you take it?  You can find the job that's right for you by following a few sensible steps.


How does the salary offer stack up?

What if the salary you've been offered is less than you expected? First, find out how frequently you can expect performance reviews and/or pay increases. Expect the company to increase your salary at least annually. To fully evaluate the salary being offered, compare it with the average pay of other professionals working in the same field. You can do this by talking to others who hold similar jobs, calling a recruiter (i.e., a headhunter), or doing research at your local library or on the Internet. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good source for this information.


Bonuses and other benefits

Next, ask about bonuses, commissions, and profit-sharing plans that can increase your total income. Find out what benefits the company offers and how much of the cost you'll bear as an employee. Don't overlook the value of good employee benefits. They can add the equivalent of thousands of dollars to your base pay. Ask to look over the benefits package available to new employees. Also, find out what opportunities exist for you to move up in the company. This includes determining what the company's goals are and the type of employee that the company values.


Personal and professional consequences

Will you be better off financially if you take the job? Will you work a lot of overtime, and is the scheduling somewhat flexible? Must you travel extensively? Consider the related costs of taking the job, including the cost of transportation, new clothes, a cell phone, increased day-care expenses, and the cost of your spouse leaving his or her job if you are required to relocate. Also, take a look at the company's work environment. You may be getting a good salary and great benefits, but you may still be unhappy if the work environment doesn't suit you. Try to meet the individuals you will be closely working with. It may also be helpful to find out something about the company's key executives and to read a copy of the mission statement.


Deciding whether to accept the job offer

You've spent a lot of time and energy researching and evaluating a potential job, but the hardest part is yet to come: Now that you have received a job offer, you must decide whether to accept it. Review the information you've gathered. Think back to the interview, paying close attention to your feelings and intuition about the company, the position, and the people you came in contact with. Consider not only the salary and benefits you've been offered, but also the future opportunities you might expect with the company. How strong is the company financially, and is it part of a growing industry? Decide if you would be happy and excited working there. If you're having trouble making a decision, make a list of the pros and cons. It may soon become clear whether the positives outweigh the negatives, or vice versa.


Negotiating a better offer

Sometimes you really want the job you've been offered, but you find the salary, benefits, or hours unfavorable. In this case, it's time to negotiate. You may be reluctant to negotiate because you fear that the company will rescind the offer or respond negatively. However, if you truly want the job but find the offer unacceptable, you may as well negotiate for a better offer rather than walk away from a great opportunity without trying. The first step in negotiating is to tell your potential employer specifically what it is that you want. State the amount of money you want or the exact hours you wish to work. Make it clear that if the company accepts your terms, you are willing and able to accept its offer immediately.


What happens next? It's possible that the company will accept your counteroffer. Or, the company may reject it, because either company policy does not allow negotiation or the company is unwilling to move from its original offer. The company may make you a second offer, typically a compromise between its first offer and your counteroffer. In either case, the ball is back in your court. If you still can't decide whether to take the job, ask for a day or two to think about it. Take your time. Accepting a new job is a big step.


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Chronological vs. Functional: Which Resume Should You Choose?
by Karen Hoyt on 

I’m often asked which is better, a chronological or functional resume…and the
answer is, “It depends.”  Most people need a chronological resume, i.e., oneResume writing that lists your titles, companies, responsibilities, and accomplishments in reverse chronological order.  But are you planning to change career fields?  Do you have large gaps in your employment history?  A functional resume focuses on your transferable skills by relating each to a previous responsibility or accomplishment--while your work history on a chronological resume is, well, chronological.

 

In a chronological resume, you typically start with a summary paragraph that includes an overview of your career along with soft skills like problem solving, adaptability, communication skills, conflict resolution, etc.  Then you list your experience in reverse chronological order, including company names, titles, tenure, and the responsibilities and accomplishments associated with each job.  Finally, you would list your education, any specialized training, professional affiliations, and/or community involvement.

 

A functional resume may start with a summary paragraph, but it’s typically followed by an accomplishments/capabilities section, and here’s where you list all of your transferable skills and achievements.  You can list information from multiple positions here.  If you used to be a manager in retail, but would like to move into human resources, you can explain how you hired, trained, and coached employees and responded to employee relations issues, i.e., HR duties.  If you were in education and you’re considering a career in sales, you would list responsibilities and accomplishments related to your presentation and interpersonal skills.  This will also allow the reader to determine the extent of your experience if your former titles don’t make it that obvious.  Next you’ll list your employment history (company, title, tenure), followed by your education, any specialized training, professional affiliations, and/or community involvement.

 

And there’s a third option:  the hybrid.  This format is a lot like the chronological resume, except that instead of listing your accomplishments under each corresponding position, you put them all in an accomplishments section following the summary.  Many people prefer this format because it puts your achievements front and center.  Since the average reader’s attention span is about 10 seconds, this can be extremely valuable.

 

So there are obviously a lot of things to consider when creating your resume.  Decide what your goals are and you’ll be able to create a document that gets you noticed and sets you apart from other candidates.


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Gaining Family Support for Business Ownership
by Chris Coleman on 

When thinking about starting a business, it’s critical to start with aFamily support for business ownership conversation with your spouse/partner, family members, or anyone involved in the decision.  It sounds like simple advice, but it’s one area where I continually see individuals make a mistake.  They went on the Internet, clicked on “more information” regarding franchising, a rep shared some encouraging information with them, they spent hours researching the market competition, and then, BOOM—the dinner table veto.

 

Many people think they’re helping their spouse by doing preliminary research.  “If all looks good, I’ll bring him/her up to speed.”  But would you look for a new house alone?  No (I hope), you would go on the journey together.  Major life-changing decisions, like starting a business, need to start with all parties involved.  So sit down and have the conversation about business ownership FIRST!  Then cover some of the expectations:


  • Is now the right time?
  • What do we want to accomplish (more free time, control, money, etc.)?
  • How much can we afford to invest (time and money)?
  • Can we cover living expenses during the ramp-up?
  • When can we reasonably expect to make some money?


You don’t need to come away from the conversation with a well-refined plan of attack.  The goal is to surface any apprehensions your spouse or family members may have toward the idea.  It’s common for one party to be more risk-adverse than the other, so an open mind and support is what you are looking for. 


Visit my web site for information on some of the other critical areas you should think about when considering business ownership.


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