Are you a Netflix watcher? Are you part of the new breed of television watchers who likes to binge on three episodes a night of your favorite show? If you are, and you are job searching, it might be time to Netflix, or customize, your resume.
Netflix started a whole new era of television. Whether you watch Orange is the New Black or Lilyhammer, or House of Cards, Netflix-only programming has shifted the way millions of people watch original shows. Viewers demanded the customization of shows and high-quality offerings, and the success of Netflix and its innovative and unique television series and programming continues to grow.
This phenomenon is similar to the job searching shift to customizing resumes and the need to get your applications past computer screening devices when you want to secure a job interview. If your goal is to have a potential employer binge on your cover letter and resume and enjoy them so much that he or she is willing to email you to set up an interview, you need to know as much as possible about how companies sort resumes.
Today, most large to medium-sized companies sort applications by using tracking systems that scan resumes for keywords and expressions before considering a candidate as qualified and therefore worth an interview. Why companies use resume scanners include statistics, disclosed by Amiee Groth, in a 2012 article for the Business Insider.
She reported that 50% of job applicants are not qualified for the jobs they are applying for; as a result of that information about 90% of companies now use scanners.
In Paul Hill’s book The Panic Free Job Search, he called it “direct marketing”. According to Hill “You are the hunter. You take control of your outcomes. You do not sit back and wait; you strategize and take action.” Taking action can start with the following five tips that can help you pass resume scanners and screeners:
- Use exact key words and expressions from the job posting. Scanners want you to mimic keywords from the job description as much as possible. For example, if the job posting states “must have 3 years experience” and your resume states “over 5 years experience”, change the digit 5 to the digit 3. Speak the language of the reader and remember that initially the reader is a scanner not a human being.
- Research the company website. Before applying to a job posting, try to research the company by reading its website to get a sense of the company culture. For example, are certain words used to describe the company’s values? If a company has stated an interest in environmental sustainability, include relevant volunteer work on your resume. The company might have programmed related keywords into the scanner but not the job posting, so if you mention shared values, you might get one step ahead of other applicants.
- Remember KISS: keep it simple and streamlined. The formatting of your resume and cover letter should be all in the same size font, preferably size 12, and in the same font style, preferably Times New Roman or Arial. Many scanners don’t accept BLOCK letters, so instead use bold and underlining for your section titles. The best approach is to not perplex the scanner software. Keep your resume simple and streamlined.
- Give value to all your education. Sometimes people start studying toward a university degree and then because life happens, have to drop out before completion. If this happened to you, value can still be added to your professional development without lying and stating that you have a degree. For example, if you studied one year in the commerce program at Ryerson University and had to drop out before achieving your degree, your resume can state “Ryerson University, one year coursework in Accounting and Finance, toward Bachelor of Commerce Degree. It is also important to note that many screening systems assign higher scores to certain elite universities and community colleges. If you did not get your degree from a top Canadian university but you attended a continuing education evening class or a Saturday seminar at one, include this type of qualification on your resume.
- Make it clear that you are qualified. Your customized resume might be read at first by a scanner system, but eventually you want a person to finally review your application. Statistics show that the average human resources professional spends seven seconds glancing at each application to see if the candidate is qualified. If it is not obvious that you are qualified, your application will be tossed in the shredder and not in the “to be considered” file. If your resume does not connect the dots between job requirements and your qualifications, your application will not move forward, so be clear and concise, and demonstrate genuine interest in the position by making sure your qualifications are highlighted.
These are only five ways to customize your resume. If you want to learn more about how to target your applications, consider contacting the Centre for Education & Training (www.tcet.com) to see if you qualify to have a Career Specialist assist you.
Recruiters, Career Counselors and Job Coaches might tell you different things about how to write, or fix your resume; yet one thing most will agree on is the importance of customizing your application. Just like Netflix watchers, employers demand customization if they are going to binge on your application!