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8 March, 2017 Posted by John G. Self Posted in Career Management, Career Networking, Leadership, Podcast
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Applicant Tracking Systems, Common Job Search Mistakes, Leadership Pillars [PODCAST]

Posted March 8th, 2017 | Author: John G. Self
listensubscribe-itunesListen to today’s podcast here, read the transcript below or subscribe and listen on iTunes.
Hello everyone, I am John Self.  Today: career management advice in three parts.   We begin with some new technology that will help you master the dreaded ATS — applicant tracking system scanners.

Then we will visit — well, actually revisit — some of the most common mistakes candidates make with their resumes and in their interviews;

And we will finish with a brief essay on two of the most important pillars of leadership that are today under attack.


We begin today with the dreaded Applicant Tracking Systems, those electronic screening systems that, if you believe all the complaints from job seekers, seem to eat more resumes than saving them to a database.

These systems are fraught with daunting hurdles for applicants.

Aside from some a vague and hard to define formatting peculiarities, some systems recognize only certain typefaces.  Others do not like bold formatting design, thereby rejecting the resume on the front end of the process.  Moreover, candidate resumes that manage to avoid those two challenges frequently fall out of the hunt because their resumes do not have the correct keywords in their applications.

Aine Cain, writing for Business Insider, reports there is a new software program that will help you optimize your resume’s attractiveness in terms of keywords.  The program is the brainchild of James Hu of Jobscan.  Like many of you, he was frustrated with the process until he figured out that some recruiters — or at least the scanners — were making initial selection choices based on certain keywords.  In an email to Ms. Cain he wrote that he began trying to optimize his resume based on what keywords the recruiters might looking for  to select candidates.  The problem with his manual approach, and many of you may already know this, is that it can take an hour or more to identify the top keywords and then tailor the resume to meet them.

To save other job hunters the drudgery, the pain, of manually trying to outsmart the ATS, he created Jobscan in 2o13.  This online service scans resumes and compares them with the keywords in a specific job description.  Since he went live, Jobscan has reviewed more than 2 million resumes, Ms. Cain reports.

You get five free scans, or 25 if you qualify for the ranks of the long-term, unemployed.  Hu’s system is familiar with the top six ATS programs on the market and that covers about 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.

Sounds great, right?  OK, but this is no ticket to get lazy with customizing your resume.  In order to achieve optimal success you still must customize your resume for every job you pursue.

Ms. Cain, a Business Insider employee, tested Jobscan against a posting for an opening in her own company.  She used her standard resume and the results were a little startling.  Even though she already worked there, her resume had a 35 percent match.

The good news is that Jobscan provides you a report to show you where your resume and keyword choice is coming up short.

So my advice is check out Jobscan.  It could save you time and a lot of frustration.


For some of my regular readers and listeners, I know that on certain subjects you think of me as a broken record — I keep repeating myself.  So be it.  Guilty as charged.  So let’s look as some common mistakes candidates make with their resume:

First:  Incomplete contact information, including no email, no telephone number, and a failure to include your LinkedIn profile URL.  Make your email and the LinkedIn URL active links which makes it a little easier on a busy recruiter.

Second:  Inappropriate use of degrees and other credentials.  The most common mistake here is the use of a non-terminal graduate degree following your name.  The most common is MBA.  Terminal degrees are those like PhD, MD, DDS, or Doctorate of Education or Public Health.  It is acceptable to use these after your name but the master’s degrees typically should be listed with your earlier academic credentials.

If you are in a professional society or association, it is not appropriate to list the initials of that organization after your name.  If you are certified in engineering, architecture, public accounting or in healthcare management, for example, those organizations have credentials you can use after your name but they all have guidelines of what and how to list the appropriate credential.  Follow those to avoid getting embarrassed.

Third:  When listing your telephone numbers, identify what is what — cell, home or office.  Recruiters take protecting your confidentiality seriously so we want to know where the call is going so as to avoid saying something that might comprise the confidentiality of your job search. Just place an (H), (C) or (O) after each number.  This is helpful and the recruiters will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Fourth:  When listing a job on your resume, you should include the following:

  • The name of the enterprise, what it does — provide a description — and where it is located, city and state.  Do not assume the recruiter will know
  • Your dates of employment.  Recruiters prefer that you use month and year because we are looking for employment gaps.  Gaps are hard to hide so you might as well be forthright, especially if you are an executive at a senior level
  • List your title and scope of responsibility.  Summarize it in two to four sentences
  • Quantify your accomplishments and list those with bullets, leading with the most impactful at every position.  Do not intermingle scope of responsibility statements with accomplishments. This is one of the most common mistakes candidates make

And Finally: Do not send the same generic resume to every job you are applying for. Customize your resume to address the specific needs of the potential employer. This can be easily accomplished by creating a Professional Summary.  This will do wonders for advancing your candidacy in the search process.  Remember, the resume is your first interview.

In actual interviews, here are some of common issues we encounter:

First:  Poor preparation. Candidates simply are not doing adequate homework to prepare themselves for the interview.  Good recruiters usually sense this within the first few minutes of the interview and that is not the type of first impression you want to leave.

Your interview prep should cover these issues:

  1. Knowing the client’s business, their market, as well as their challenges.  If you know this is advance you can craft answers that will highlight your ability to help them solve their problems.
  2. Any hiccups in your prior employment — things like layoffs, terminations or an embarrassing misstep that created a lot of publicity in the press.  You cannot possibly be effective in dealing with these types of questions unless you are prepared and you have rehearsed how you will respond.   Winging an answer to one of these questions is a bad idea and it will probably get you eliminated from the search.

C:  You must be able to sell yourself to the prospective employer.   Be prepared to provide quantifiable examples of your success, especially when that success plays directly to the needs of the employer.    In other words, if you want a particular job, you must do a better job telling your value story than any of the other candidates.

Now, here is why this important:  Most candidates do not invest that much time in interview prep and that is a big disadvantage.   You can differentiate yourself from your competitors in such an important way with thoughtful interview preparation.

Second: a surprising number of candidates are not self aware.  For some, it is just the way they are wired but for most, this lack of self awareness is fueled by nerves and lack of preparation and this adds up to a noticeable lack of self confidence which, in turn, hampers their ability to be an effective communicator.

Other self awareness issues include:

  • Failure to communicate your real interest in the position — you should not assume people will figure out on their own that you really do want the job
  • Failure to maintain personal energy throughout the interview.  This has cost so many candidates the chance to advance — the interviewer just did not feel a sense of energy or urgency.  That is a terrible way to get yourself eliminated
  • Failure to be inclusive, especially when you are being interviewed during a luncheon  or by a panel  can be especially treacherous, so here are a few tips:
  1. When you are asked a question, maintain eye contact with that individual.  As you start to answer the question, keep that eye contact for a very brief period and then begin to connect with other members of the panel by making eye contact with them; include them in your answer.
  2. Be wary of complicated questions that could require a detailed response.  This situation has tripped up more than a few candidates in a panel interview.  They get bogged down in the details and the rest of the panel resents the fact they did not get to answer their question.  They usually blame the candidate, not their colleague who asked the question.  So here is an idea, compliment the person for asking an insightful question.  Say something like “we could talk for a long time on this but I know there are others who have questions and we have limited time, so let me give you a brief summary of thinking on this and later, I will be happy to continue that discussion if you are interested.

In a lunch interview, remember this:  the whole day is an interview.  There are typically no time outs.  Be on your guard at lunch.  Mind your manners and pay more attention to the questions and comments than your lunch.  Focus on setting the table for sustainable relationships.

That is being self aware.  Candidates who are not prepared for the interview usually also struggle with self awareness.

Next up, an important leadership quality is under attack and if you are not concerned, you should be.  That is next on SelfPerspective.

Today, for whatever reason, trust and   truth, are under attack.

Facts support truth and this is where we seem to be having a problem.

Let me be clear, my thoughts and concerns are not directed at anyone or any political party or anyone’s communication strategy.

But what happens in government and the media can, and will, spill over into the workplace.

Here is what I am talking about:  There are consequences when we elect to ignore facts.

Tactically, the wrong decision can be made with devastating consequences both financially, and in people’s daily lives.

OR we can send the wrong message which could generate a response that impacts the image of our business or standing in the community.

When we as a society begin to argue that the facts do not matter, we are, in effect, on a very slippery slope in the realm of leadership.   In business, this mindset can have a corrosive effect on our employees.

Social scientists call this the “backfire effect” and it is becoming more prevalent in society as well as in business.  What this means is that when presented with facts that challenge deeply held beliefs, people — our employees or our supporters — resist change.  Presenting the facts “backfires” and has the opposite effect on people.

Reinforcing your case for change by using facts, actually may make people believe you less, according to a 2010 study conducted by Brendam Nyhan and Jason Reifler.

Business executives have an important stake in this evolving trend; it is not confined to the world of public policy or religion. It is and will continue to expand into the workplace

Once we decide that facts are not as important as the outcome, we begin to cloud reality and erode one of the essential pillars of a civil society. When we act as though facts do not matter, we send the wrong message to our followers —whether that be our employers or our supporters —  and we begin to distance ourselves from an immutable truth:

Effective leadership is built on trust and the foundation for trust is the truth and this is a formula we must all protect.

If you have any questions or comments, let us know.  You can email us at asktherecruiter@johngself.com.

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© 2017 John Gregory Self

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