Candidates are very concerned about the screening process they hit when they submit to posted openings, and how to get their résumé to the top of the pile. One critical aspect is keywords. My good friend Alex Freund wrote a simple, step-by-step approach to this in his blog - you can read it here:
Sometimes I hear people giving advice to put those keywords in a special section of the résumé, in white text so they don’t print. Resist!
Many internal and external recruiters and HR people have caught on to that, and immediately look for ‘hidden’ text that might have been put there simply to improve the hits on a screening program. Many screening programs highlight words that were otherwise hidden, so that the report points those out specially. In either case, you have likely just eliminated yourself from any further consideration, and damaged your professional reputation to boot. (Have you ever noticed those porn sites that use all sorts of unrelated keywords on their pages and postings to increase their search results? Do you want to be equated with that?)
Others try having a keyword section in their résumé, hoping to increase the scores in the screening routines. If that section is at the very end of the résumé, it may be OK, but at the same time it definitely detracts from the professional appearance of your résumé.
The best way is to carefully use those keywords in your various job-related bullets, and in your opening profile.
For the 3 questions your résumé MUST answer to grab a hiring manager’s attention, see this article:
And while you’re here, click on the “Résumé” menu item for a host of articles on how to make the most of your résumé …
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I was reading Abby Kohut’s excellent book, Absolutely Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets, and came across this statement:
“Prepare a good reason for any gaps on your resume in addition to an explanation of what activities you were involved in that may have enhanced your career, including personal activities. Gaps are typically not the reason why candidates are rejected. It’s the inability to explain them sufficiently, and or a lack of confidence about them that is likely to be a concern for recruiters.”
I concur 100%.
Candidates are always worried about their flaws. This is natural. However, it’s generally not the flaws themselves that hold them back, it’s how they deal with them.
If you present with confidence, and have a good response to questions about your flaw, that will go a long way to minimizing the impact of that flaw.
For example, consider this most difficult situation - where a candidate was actually fired (unfairly) from their last job - this post walks through how to deal with that simply and with confidence:
The key in these cases is to not dwell on the flaw, and to focus on the future - what you can do, what you hope to do, what you have learned from the problem that will ensure it will never happen again - whatever answer best fits your situation. Make it simple, and then shift attention to what you can confidently do.
One other point: Any time there is a gap or other flaw in your background, you are going to be much easier to screen out when you are trying to come through the front door, competing head to head with every other candidate who knows about an opening. The busy HR screener or recruiter who is thumbing quickly through 100’s of résumés to find the handful to present to a hiring manager is that much more likely to take a pass on yours.
This cries out for even more emphasis on networking. When you talk to someone outside of the “is he / she qualified for this job” evaluation mode, you have a chance to get that person engaged. You can talk about your package. You can explain (briefly) the flaw in context. And you can get then thinking about why you would be a great candidate, so that you can come into being evaluated for a position with a supporter.
For more on how to make this networking happen, see these articles:
As I prepared for this tele-class (see http://www.JHACareers.com/10Traps.htm for
details), even my ‘quick list’ of traps quickly grew to exceed 50! The
class promises to be a content-rich hour…I’ve compressed as
many as I can down into 10 themes, and perhaps this will
need to lead to another “10 More Traps” tele-class in the near future!
One of the most critical traps that I
will get into in much more depth is the “If it ain’t broke,
don’t fix it” syndrome.
In a search, there is so much
frustration and anxiety, and so many people share so many suggestions
(wanted or unwanted) about the search that there is a tendency to start
to screen out the negative comments. For example, I was talking to a
new client one time and pointed out to her serious defects in her
résumé. It was, frankly, an extremely poor résumé. Even though I gave
her specific, concrete feedback on the flaws and what was needed to fix
it, she insisted it didn’t need any attention, and didn’t want to spend
any time working on it. Her comment:
“I’ve had HR people tell me what a good résumé I have.”
I moved on to talking to her about
networking (which she REALLY wanted help on), and how we would go about
turning her into a master networker. Again, she balked at the details
of what I was suggesting. By the end of our first session together, I
simply handed her back her check, telling her that neither of us would
be happy with how things turned out if we continued to work together.
I don’t advise simply jumping at every
‘constructive’ criticism you receive, automatically changing everything
you are doing just because one person said so. However, you need to
always be seeking to step out of your current comfort zone,
experimenting with new thinking, new strategies and approaches that
lead to an expanded comfort zone. This is how true growth and success
Carefully probe the criticism or
suggestion being offered, and explore why that person is offering it,
their level of expertise with the issue at hand, what their context and
rationale are, and how that fits to your situation. Go back and
compare to other, perhaps conflicting, advice you’ve received, and give
both some examination. Find ways to experiment with either way in your
search, and see what seems to work.
The worst thing you can do is assume
“it ain’t broke,” particularly if you’ve been searching for several
months and aren’t building the steady stream of referrals and
interviews for the sort of position you want!
And by the way, as to that client who
didn’t want to change what she did…the friend who first referred her
ran into her a few weeks later, and asked her how things were going.
She said she was very happy with her progress. (She had admitted to me
that her ‘progress’ was 1 interview in 7 months! And this was a few
years back, when the economy was booming.) Over the next several
months, I happened to see her in various coffee shops in the middle of
the day, not dressed in business attire, so clearly she had not landed
in the interim.
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I just came across this posting to a variety of networking groups to which I belong:
“As you probably already know recruiters usually have the best jobs in the
market, the ones that are not posted. The ones only the recruiter can
get because of his or her relationship with the
A good recruiter can be worth more than GOLD to a client
company. Most CEO’s will tell you they are only as good as their
people. Ever get frustrated with recruiters not calling you back or
following up after you have submitted your resume? Want to get
The facts are that recruiters are commission driven and
they work on what they think can close fast. It’s just the nature of
the business; if recruiters don’t get people hired then they don’t eat.
Sure some companies pay base salary’s but that is for rent not
If you want to get the attention and get noticed then you
haft to be willing to help the process along.
five tips here:
While these are good points, they are mostly from the recruiter’s point of view.
As a candidate you want to also make sure you
are working with very good recruiters in your specific field. As with any
profession, there are a small percentage of very strong performers, a large
percentage who are average, and a large percentage who aren’t all that good.
You want to work primarily with the top recruiters.
You want to be
sure that they have a strong track record of placements in your industry, in
your specific job, at your compensation level. Just as you would expect a
quality recruiter to interview you before agreeing to present you, you should
expect to interview them before agreeing to be presented.
For more on
how to work effectively with recruiters (from the candidate’s point of view),
see this article: