applicant tracking systems

High-Impact Resume Strategies For Creative Professionals

iStockphoto.com |  scyther5

iStockphoto.com | scyther5

The most substantial asset graphic designers, art directors, interior designers, photographers, fine artists, marketers, and other creative professionals possess is their ability to translate a concept into an attractive visual presentation. It is both their tool and their trade.

When meeting with hiring managers or potential clients, creatives need to demonstrate their ideas and experience in a professional fashion.

The first piece of work such an applicant usually presents is their resume. A beautifully designed resume, with nice fonts, illustrations, layouts, and graphics can quickly demonstrate to a hiring manager at an advertising agency or within a corporate marketing department a candidate’s visual design and copy writing skills.

But, the realities of the corporate job application process get in the way. Companies often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to gather and sort resumes, and on top of the challenges they present to every applicant, they can even more quickly derail applications for creative professionals.

Creative professionals tend to focus on form, building complex layouts in programs such as Adobe InDesign that incorporate graphic illustrations and other elements. Applicant tracking platforms, on the other hand, generally require a plain, simple design in order to parse resume data – this means a resume created in Microsoft Word, with a single column of text. These systems often disregard (or can’t read) anything presented in text boxes, graphics, or tables, and recruiters will generally pass over resumes that the system hasn’t been able to fully understand. A resume with a complex design will appear at the bottom of the applicant tracking system’s ranking of the applicants against the job description.

So, how can creative professionals increase their chances of securing an interview and, ultimately, the job?

  • Build an ATS-Friendly Version of Your Resume. In order to make it easier for the applicant tracking system to parse the data and, hopefully, give your resume a higher ranking, use a single-column format. Don’t include large tables or graphics, as these can make a resume hard to scan. Even if you follow these guidelines, there could still be issues parsing data – if so, try saving your resume as a .txt file and uploading that version. And use your ATS-friendly resume for all online applications.

  • Keep a Graphically-Designed Version of Your Resume Handy, Too. Yes, you’ll want to have two versions, because the hiring manager will use the designed version to evaluate your creative eye. If the applicant tracking system lets you upload attachments along with your resume, absolutely upload your graphically-designed resume, along with samples of your work. And print out copies of this resume to hand out during an interview.

  • Develop Your Portfolio and Put it Online. A nicely designed portfolio of your work is a fantastic way to highlight your skills and achievements. Create an online version with your best work samples, and include a URL link to your portfolio in the header of your resume. You can also post this in your LinkedIn profile for greater exposure.

  • Don’t Rely Solely on Your Online Application. There’s a lot you can do to get noticed. After applying online, try to identify the decision-maker for the position on LinkedIn. Then send him or her a brief note – via LinkedIn or through email – to inform them that you’ve applied online, and ask where you can send your resume and portfolio samples. A well-timed message can potentially improve your changes of being seen by the hiring manager, regardless of how the applicant tracking system scores your resume.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

Why Is Applying To Jobs Online So Darn Complicated?

iStockphoto.com |  SIphotography

iStockphoto.com | SIphotography

Why is applying to jobs online so darn…. complicated?

Don’t believe me? Try it. Visit an employer’s career portal and select a posted position. Then click the “Apply Now” button.

Buckle in, because this is where it gets rough. Prepare to be bombarded with an endless procession of requests, mandatory fields, and seemingly arbitrary data to complete:

—>Create a Username and Password (required)
—>Upload your resume (required)
—>Enter your contact information (required)
—>Enter your address (required)
—>How did you hear about this position? (required)
—>What are your salary requirements? (required)
—>What is your willingness to travel? (required)
—>What is your willingness to relocate? (required)

… and on. And on. And on.

Then you’re asked to enter all the employment and education data from your resume that the system seemed to parse out of your resume when you uploaded it. Manually. Field by field.

In the end, you’re looking at investing around 30 minutes for each online application you fill out. It’s a process that’s painful and demoralizing, especially considering that thousands of other job seekers are applying online to the same job and the chances of your resume being seen by a human being are pretty darn low.

Why would employers do it this way?

Why would they put in place a process that is so deliberately opaque and difficult to navigate?

As someone who spent almost two decades as a recruiter, I can assure you that companies usually try to build hiring process with the best of intentions.

They want to be an employer of choice, and they want people to feel good about applying to their company.

But they also want their recruiters to be as efficient as possible. And with the average corporate recruiter responsible for filling an active load of 20 or 30 open positions, maximizing their time is essential.

So companies invest in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). They use these system to store job descriptions, approve and process new jobs, and collect job applications.

The latest ATSs are pretty powerful technology. From an employer’s standpoint, one of the most valuable features of an ATS is the ability to incorporate extensive screening criteria so the system can review each application and rank each one against the criteria in the job description.

Look at it this way – how valuable is it for an employer to have the system sort through the thousands of applications, and provide the recruiter with a short list of 20 to 30 applicants who check all the boxes?

It’s great for the company in the sense that their recruiters are saving dozens of hours that would have been sifting through resumes. But if the ATS doesn’t have a strong data engine to parse, pull, and synthesize data from the resumes, employers will usually default to pushing that work on the applicants in the form of additional fields to complete. And ATSs make it very easy to add screening questions to an online job application – hence, the litany of qualifying questions and endless mandatory fields to fill in. This also doesn’t help the candidate experience.

Unfortunately, when it comes to companies that rely on ATS platforms for their hiring, there’s not much you can do to avoid the online application gauntlet. In fact, many employers tell applicants they won’t even talk to them unless they’ve first filled out an application online.

But there are actions you can take to make your online application more effective:

  1. Make sure your resume is ATS-friendly. In order to make it easier for the ATS to parse the data in your resume and hopefully avoid excessive re-typing, use a single-column format. Don’t include large tables or graphics as these can make a resume hard to scan. Even if you follow these guidelines, there could still be issues parsing data – if so, try saving your resume as a .txt file and uploading that version.

  2. Improve your chances with the search filters. You’ve heard about keywords - the technical and soft skills listed in the job description. Before uploading your resume, read the job description. Really read it. Identify the skills the company is looking for in this particular role and sprinkle these into the text of your resume.

  3. Don’t rely on your online application alone – shake a tree. There’s a lot you can do to get noticed. After applying online (sorry, you’ve got to play the game), try to identify the decision maker for the position on LinkedIn. Then send them a brief note – via LinkedIn or through email – to inform them that you’ve applied online, you have the qualifications for the role, and would love to connect with them. Your well-timed message can potentially put your candidacy front of center, regardless of how the ATS scores your resume.

  4. Work your network. It’s a big world out there, and there’s the possibility you know someone (or someone who knows someone) at the employer who can put your resume securely into the hands of the hiring manager. At many companies, good referrals carry more weight than a random online application.

  5. Let LinkedIn do the work for you. This is about playing the long game, generating interest in employers so that they pursue you and you spend less time chasing online job ads. Companies pay a lot of money for LinkedIn subscriptions that enable them to mine the system for passive candidates. Invest time in building a strong LinkedIn profile, loaded with keywords and accomplishments so that you’ll show up in their searches. And constantly grow and nurture your network with high-impact connections so that you elevate your online brand.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.

5 Incidental Factors Impacting Your Job Search

iStockphoto.com ( Anetlanda)

iStockphoto.com (Anetlanda)

 

  1. If a company doesn't call you for an interview after applying for a job, it may not be about your qualifications. It could, however, be a comment on the sheer volume of applicants. A recruiter at a well known technology company told me she receives over 10,000 applicants (yes, that's four zeroes) for each job. Even if your resume checks all the boxes for essential skills and qualifications, this tidal wave of candidates can overwhelm your chances of getting a look by the recruiter. If you want to improve your chances of getting noticed, it helps to tweak your resume's keywords and terminology to better align with the job posting, and to network with key decision makers at the employer.
     
  2. Find the recruitment process exasperating? So does the recruiter. As companies push to do more with less, recruiters have increased responsibility. The typical recruiter works on filling 30 open jobs simultaneously. That's includes managing the process for 300,000 candidates (30 jobs x 10,000 applicants) from the initial job posting, filtering resumes, screening candidates, arranging and conducting interviews, preparing and negotiating the offer, and ensuring the person they hire shows up to work, as well as balancing the needs, demands, and biases of hiring managers. Recruiters spend as much time on customer service and internal negotiation as they do on recruitment. While there's no excuse for sloppy followup, bear in mind that it's incredibly stressful work and it's inevitable that things will fall through the cracks from time to time.
     
  3. There's a positive bias for "Passive" job seekers. There are two types of candidates considered for job opportunities – Active job seekers, as the word implies, actively apply to job postings online, while Passive job seekers are individuals who aren't looking tochange jobs and wouldn't have considered looking for a new position if someone hadn't tried to recruit them. Passive job seekers are believed to be more valuable – hiring managers often (incorrectly) rationalize this as, "If the person is actively looking for a job, how successful in their current job can they truly be?" Which is why companies pay dearly for premium subscriptions to LinkedIn, which they use to reach out to presumably Passive job seekers (just take a look at LinkedIn's marketing materials if you need further proof). It's absolutely in any job hunter's best interest to have a highly polished, keyword-loaded LinkedIn profile that increases the odds of a recruiter viewing their profile during searches.
     
  4. Companies often post internal positions for the whole world to see - because they have to. Many people think of these as "fake jobs," but they're really not. Company policy, union rules, or local law may dictate the practice of posting internal positions. While this can be frustrating to outside job seekers, the intention to provide current employees additional opportunities for growth and development should be considered a positive in terms of fostering employee engagement. Bear in mind that while the hiring manager may intend to hire an internal candidate for the specific role, a better qualified external may change their mind. If you're interested in a role and you have the qualifications, by all means apply; the intended internal candidate may fall through, and at minimum your resume will be in the company's database for future opportunities.
     
  5. Employers don't hold back on providing interview feedback out of arrogance or laziness. It's usually because they're crazy busy, and because they're afraid of offending by providing negative feedback in a potentially inappropriate or illegal manner and don't want to get sued by a disgruntled candidate. Human Resources departments often advise employees against providing feedback on these grounds. The lack of feedback may leave you feeling unfulfilled and disappointed, but it's important to preserve your professional brand to an employer, so don't push the issue.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.