Another example of employer hiring process dysfunction in can be seen in conflicting criteria for different stages of hiring processes.
Employer pre-screen processes are based on objective criteria – Key words, spelling, grammar and visible minimum criteria. But hiring manager and 4th audience (peers, boss, team) decision processes are almost wholly subjective, based mainly on gut feel.
Is it any wonder that it’s so difficult for candidates to get through the screening process, when different audiences look for criteria that are polar opposites of one another? Employers use objective criteria to award interviews, but subjective criteria to choose the winning candidate.
It wasn’t always this conflicted of a process, but along the way it became broken. It might help to first understand how this part of the hiring process came unglued before I offer career advice about how to use dysfunction to win.
Applicant flooding and government regulation combined at about the same time to create a dual crisis for mid-sized and large employers (and recruiters). Job boards were flooding employers and recruiters with candidates, many of them who didn’t meet minimum job criteria. At the same time, government EEOC regulation got some new teeth thanks to the Patriot Act, which called for Department of Labor audits for worker documentation – and along with it, compliance with fair hiring laws. A year later, Congress passed laws requiring company external auditors to certify that companies had processes to keep in compliance with major government regulations (and that they weren’t being circumvented).
So companies were flooded with resumes, they had to prove they had processes to show fair (translate to objective) hiring practices, and we were still in a nasty recession. So companies automated this process, put an extra layer of human review on it, added in minority candidate quotas and called it pre-screening. These processes combined with employee referral bonuses, ensured that few resumes circumvented an initial objective review – ensuring that resumes forwarded to hiring managers met minimum criteria and weren’t just white males, to keep the G-men happy.
But the real hiring process always was and still is subjective.
For example, two separate studies by Harvard and University of Toledo proved that 98% of hiring managers made hiring decisions within the first 2-30 seconds of an interview – using the rest of the interview to prove themselves correct (see: “Interview In A Snap” at http://www.recareered.com/blog/2010/05/21/interview-in-a-snap-best-of-recareered/).
Hiring managers make decisions on who to interview in the same way. Since they understand the position and responsibilities, and someone else already assured the resume met minimum criteria, the hiring manager can focus on who will provide the most value and best fit – both subjective criteria.
To make it past the objective pre-screen and to also be selected by the subjective hiring manager, a winning resume is a little Jekyll and a little Hyde. For today’s career advice, here’s 9 steps to construct a resume that satisfies both audiences:
- Keywords: Human eyes only see about 2-3% of resumes submitted, ranked by keywords, in a similar way to Google. A good recruiter/screener/HR rep will select 7-10 criteria to search for (If no candidates turn up, they will run progressive searches with one fewer criteria until they have enough matches). This means candidates need to anticipate and include keywords that will be included in a search for a specific opportunity. Using the same resume, or one with just a few tweaks means that you hope the words in your resume magically match the search criteria – the odds stink.
- Criteria: Include minimum criteria in your resume – not your cover letter. Make the criteria easy to see in the top half of your first page – that’s what people see on screen in the average 15 seconds they spend deciding if a candidate will get an interview. 96% of candidates demonstrate they match criteria in a cover letter – But only 3% of hiring managers/HR reps/recruiters make interview decisions based on cover letters. Most make the interview decision based on the resume (only 10% even read a cover letter).
- Maximize Effectiveness Of Resume Real Estate: Interview decisions are made quickly, during a human scan averaging 15 seconds – basically the top half of your first page. Select short bullets instead of paragraphs, because the human eye can’t pick up details while scanning a paragraph. Forget summaries and objective statements – instead include a crystal clear, very concise, single line personal branding statement. List key skills at the end of the resume, and include criteria within the bulletpoints of your experience.
- Shrink The Unimportant, Expand The Important: If your last position isn’t relevant to your target job, shrink it and don’t include much detail – if any. Instead, expand recent positions that relate to your target job.
- Expand The Important And Move Up The Page: See Shrink the unimportant above.
- Demonstrate WIFT (What’s In it For Them): Include bullet points that demonstrate you’ve solved problems and met goals that are important to the employer. Resumes are not autobiographies – Just because you’re proud of an accomplishment, won’t mean that the employer will care.
- Ignore Responsibilities: Your resume shouldn’t read like a job description. Your next employer wants to hire someone who can solve the most important problems, meet the most important goals, and eliminate pain. Do advance research to understand these issues, and you can likely explain your accomplishments as solutions to some very similar problems.
- Tempt with Value: Value raises interest – solving a problem is interesting when it makes a billion or 10%+. Not so interesting when it makes five bucks. Translate everything to dollars, especially in for profit companies. Estimate, even guesstimate where necessary to interpret accomplishments as bottom line effects on your department, office, division, company, or line item. Use percentages when they give a more compelling number. Show you can think about the bottom line, and that you earned your past employers a massive ROI on their investment in you.
- Create Fit: Avoid jargon acronyms and phrases from past employers. Research the company and talk to enough inside contacts and you’ll start hearing the target company’s jargon, acronyms and key phrases. Use your target company’s own language to explain your accomplishments to create the subjective impression that you “get it”, you understand the company, you can communicate with team members and you fit.
These 9 steps take time – you probably won’t be able to send as many resumes, but you’ll have drastically increased odds on the ones you do send. Using these methods have doubled my private clients’ response rates … or more in some cases.
Readers – Examine your current resume critically. How many of these 8 steps are you really using? How many are you using well?
Recruiters & Employers – please chime in with your thoughts on the Jekyll and Hyde resume? Will it work in your candidate selection process?-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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