Category Archives: Uncategorized

Calling BS on Some Career Coach “Advice”

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It’s time again for me to post another episode of “Squirrelly Career Advice” as offered by some career professionals. Whenever I spot banal platitudes that offer zero value for those desperate for some tidbit of wisdom to help them move forward with a new job or career, I will call BS on it here.

In this installment, I highlight the completely useless utterings by several career coaches in a recent post at a theundercoverrecruiter.com, which usually has great content. Here is a sample of the career advice they gave:

  • “You can do anything you put your mind to.”
  • “Ensure you get credit for any good work that you do.”
  • “You can’t afford to take your eye off the ball…always ensure you have options.”
  • “What you achieve is up to you.”
  • “Follow your passion.”
  • “Join relevant industry organizations and get to know people.”
  • “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

How’s that for getting you to the next step in your job search or career? I half expected to see, “No matter where you go, there you are” listed as advice. I certainly hope clients aren’t paying for such Poor Richard’s Alamanac-type witty quips because they devalue time-tested expertise provided by all career professionals. The truly top career strategists noticeably move the needle for their clients in all media channels at all times. They have social proof of their ability to effect positive change forward for people who come to them for their wisdom, insight, and experience.

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Donn LeVie Jr. helps meeting managers, conference coordinators, and professional development managers reach SuperStar status. Donn is a keynote speaker, career strategies seminar leader, and award-winning author. He has nearly 30 years experience in various hiring manager positions for such Fortune 500 companies as Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others. In addition, Donn has worked for the federal government (U.S. Dept. of Commerce – NOAA) and taught at the University of Houston Downtown College (Dept. of Natural Science and Mathematics).

Donn is the author of Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition), which was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Award (Business:Careers) and the GOLD MEDAL WINNER of the 2012 Global eBook Award for (Business:Employment). He is also the author of Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted, which was the RUNNER-UP of the 2016 International Book Award (Business:Careers) and the SILVER MEDAL WINNER of the 2016 Global eBook Award (Business:Employment).

Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

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Career Plan vs. Career Strategy: What’s the Difference?

strategy vs. plan

When it comes to the terms “career plan” versus “career strategy” is there a difference? It depends on who you ask. Some see the plan subservient to the strategy; others (like me) see just the opposite. While to some, it may be a matter of semantics, a career plan in today’s economy and job market is like sailing from Galveston to Tampa using dead reckoning as navigation. You have a plan, you know from standing on the bow of your sailboat in Galveston Bay with a compass, sailing charts, LORAN, and GPS at the ready that Tampa is “out there, a few degrees south of due east.” Well, that kind of planning will get you just beyond the Texas coastline, but even with such great tools, you still have to make adjustments along the way to account for currents, tides, wind, storms, angry white whales, and other navigational obstacles to end up in Tampa and not Havana.

How you account for these weather and navigation challenges is your strategy, and each involves specific tactics to be successful.

where-will-you-be-in-5-yearsNowadays you don’t hear the question: “Where do you want to be in 5 years?” much anymore. That’s an interview question about planning. “Still working” would be an acceptable answer in this job market, but having a plan with well thought out steps along the way for contingencies is, of course, a wise move. I always expected to have a career in the earth sciences when I graduated and worked as a research geological oceanographer for NOAA and then on to Phillips Petroleum as an exploration geologist. But then conditions beyond my control intervened, even with my best laid plans, and I was forced to consider other options when the price for a barrel of oil fell to around $10.00. Time for a complete career change, which took about one year to land that first job in a new career (not my first career change, either).

What are those tangible and intangible qualities that could translate into another career if you were forced into such a situation due to layoffs or the desire to do something else? What skills, knowledge, and expertise (don’t forget “soft” skills) that you now possess can add value to a secondary area of interest should it have to be a primary one? Take inventory now of those tools in the toolbox that can be a lifesaver should the need arise.

Even the best sailboat captain has an orange life vest stowed away down below.

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

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My name is  Donn LeVie Jr. and I’m a former hiring manager for Fortune 500 companies (Phillips Petroleum, Motorola, Intel Corporation, and others) and have worked in the federal government (NOAA) and in academia as an adjunct faculty lecturer in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics for the University of Houston (Downtown Campus). I am the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), Runner-Up of the 2016 International Book Award for Business: Careers, and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).  

I lead career strategy seminars (for job seekers and for hiring managers wanting to know how to spot talent) at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations. I also offer a Career Engagement Evaluation subscription program to associations as a member benefit.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a professional development seminar for conference attendees? My 2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact me directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com for more information or use the Contact page on this blog.

 

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Do Companies Keep Your Résumé “on File”?

RayLiotta

Here’s the answer: Some do, most don’t today. In pre-Internet days, if you applied for a job and didn’t get the offer, more than likely you received a form rejection letter from HR that stated something like, “We will keep your résumé on file for XX months…” It’s probable that a real person reviewed that résumé as well.

I once got a great job with Motorola Semiconductor Products Sector in Austin in 1994 because a hiring manager I interviewed with in early 1993 held on to my résumé and forwarded to the hiring manager that hired me as a project team leader. They did it the Old School way.

It’s a different story today for the most part. Once the dumping ground for solicited and unsolicited résumés and job applications, many medium and large HR departments have been forced to devote more resources to implementing Federal employment law and related legislation; talent retention and training; HR information systems; implementing and managing the Affordable Care Act; and employee benefit/assistance/compensation packages; employment/recruitment/placement; and so on. More and more today, résumé screening gets relegated to jobbots (software applications also called applicant tracking systems), and rejection letters (or email) just are too far down the list of “things to do.”

Why do some companies make the promise to hold on to your résumé for a few months (or even years)? There are a few possibilities:

  • They really will hold on to your résumé if you in fact made the hiring manager’s “short list”
  • They may keep it to see if you’d be a good fit for a different position in the company
  • If the promise is to keep your résumé for a few years, it’s possible that your résumé may be so bad that they don’t what to hear from you for future positions.
  • They make the empty promise in rejection letters as a practice

Hiring managers are under increasing pressure to do a better job identifying stellar talent because the cost (and paperwork) of hiring the wrong person is skyrocketing. Besides managing projects and teams as a first priority, the manager with hiring responsibility first spends around 10 seconds scanning the top 2/3 of page 1. If there’s nothing there to grab the hiring manager’s interest, he or she’s off to the next candidate résumé.

If your cover letter states that you’re “looking forward to hearing from you soon…” you may be waiting awhile. Don’t let grass grow under you; you have to keep moving forward even if you think the company/hiring manager/HR will keep your résumé on file. If they do contact you down the road, it will likely be an email or a phone call so be sure that information on your cover letter and résumé is correct and current. A swift response will be in your best interest (don’t expect a company today to put a 50-cent stamp on a letter and send it through snail mail – that’s Old School!).

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

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Former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). He leads career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2016-2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com.

Don’t miss out on Donn’s blog posts…follow him now on Twitter @donnlevie and join in the jobs/career conversations at the Strategic Career Engagement LinkedIn discussion group.

 

The Power and Necessity of Constitutional Hermeneutics

united states constitution

“The Constitution, or any text, should be interpreted [n]either strictly [n]or sloppily; it should be interpreted reasonably.”

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

(This post is quite different from my usual career strategy musings, but I have discovered that even with advice for job and career success, we subconsciously interpret and evaluate that information through a variety of filters that influence which advice we accept and/or reject . As an admirer of Justice Scalia and his wit, insight, and opinions – in addition to being a student of hermeneutics – I felt that his recent passing warranted a brief look into the factors that influence Constitutional interpretation. I hope you find that this post sheds some light on the difficult task that confronts SCOTUS. )

The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a towering Constitutional scholar of the highest degree. He has been called an originalist, which is someone who subscribes to the principle of interpretation which views the Constitution’s meaning as fixed as of the time of enactment. The term hermeneutics has been traditionally defined as the discipline that deals with principles of interpretation (most often associated with biblical interpretation) used primarily for ancient documents.

Judicial interpretation comes in two forms: Constitutional and Statutory, and has several rules of interpretation as well as a half-dozen theories of interpretation that usually pit Living Constitution proponents against those favoring Original Intent.

While the majority of us have never taken a course in hermeneutics (or heard the term before), we’ve been using hermeneutics all our lives as we read newspapers, blogs, or analyze some event. The everyday use of hermeneutics involves a complex, unconscious blend of language and history. Our understanding is limited by our familiarity with language or facts presented to us. Imagine an astrophysicist trying to have a conversation about gravity waves with a homeless person on the subway! As we’ve seen on cable news or late-night comedy shows, people who fail to keep up with history or domestic political developments won’t be able to comprehend political cartoons or op-ed pieces.

The problem is compounded when a document or event is separated from the interpreter by time, language, and culture (a term called distanciation). For example, reading Shakespeare with a contemporary linguistic filter often obscures the true meaning of a passage as it was written at the time. In Othello, Iago uses the term “a foregone conclusion” in addressing Othello. In contemporary linguistics, the meaning is “an inevitable result.” However, in Elizabethan times, the expression meant “a previous experience.”

The complex integration of time, history, and language has given rise to what is called grammatico-historical exegesis, which suggests the significant role grammatical and cultural context have in which the text was written. This term is rarely used outside of the field of biblical/ancient document interpretation; however, it captures the very essence of the challenges Constitutional interpretation presents. Major influences for interpretation include the literary setting, the history of interpretation, present significance (the application of the text vs. its meaning), authorial intention, and others that involve careful analysis of grammar, logic, and presuppositions.

If the Constitution is considered the foundational document of law for the United States, and adopted as the model of law for other countries, a “reasonable interpretation” requires the careful application of hermeneutics. Recognizing and acknowledging the overburden of time, language, history, and culture brings the interpretation as close as possible to original intent.

Justice Scalia respected the idea that the Constitution’s meaning was fixed as of the time of enactment. Extracting that original meaning is the challenge. The most important work required today is to know when a reasonable, legitimate interpretation goes beyond the intent of what the author(s) have revealed in the original paragraphs. To interject an unfiltered explication is to clothe a passage in contemporary attire to serve other interests, much the way the Greeks consulted the oracles of their day for their own personal service.

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Former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). He leads career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2016-2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com.

Don’t miss out on Donn’s blog posts…follow him now on Twitter @donnlevie and join in the jobs/career conversations at the Strategic Career Engagement LinkedIn discussion group.

Playing Powerball: What the Numbers Say About Us

powerball-lottery-winning-numbers-879614Playing Powerball tells us a lot about how some people use math, rationality, and education in general when buying lottery tickets. (source: The Week, February 12, 2016)

  • 54% of ticket sales come from 5 percent of players who tend to be poor and uneducated.
  • “Buying lottery tickets exacerbates the very poverty that purchasers are hoping to escape,” Emily Haisley, financial expert.
  • In most states, 60% of ticket revenue goes to jackpot, winners surrender 40% in taxes, lottery company and ticket retailers get a cut, and the remainder – about 25 to 30% go to the state’s coffers.
  • State governments use lottery proceeds for the general fund, despite the promise of state officials promising to pour proceeds into education.
  • People with household incomes below $25,000 spend an average of $583 a year on the lottery; people with household incomes over $100,000 a year spend $289 on the lottery. (1999 Duke University study)
  • College dropouts spend about $700 on lottery tickets; people with degrees only $178.
  • Studies show that poorer players are 25% more likely than richer players to consider a lottery ticket a genuine investment and to greatly overestimate their chance of winning.
  • State lotteries have become viable sources of state’s budgets whereby lawmakers consider it political suicide to do anything that interferes with that revenue stream.
  • “Politicians view lotteries as a victimless source of revenue,” says tax expert David Brunori.

But if you must play…

Here are some suggestions on maximzing your chances of not having to share the jackpot if you do get lucky:

  • Don’t pick numbers between 1 and 31 (something about the statistics favoring higher numbers)
  • Don’t pick obvious combinations, such as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
  • Be sure to check your tickets: $2 billion worth of prizes went unclaimed in 2015.
  • Create a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) to avoid having to publicly identify yourself as a lottery winner and avoid the harrassment from long-lost friends and relatives, financial “advisors.”
  • Buy early in the lottery cycle so you can “extend the pleasure of anticipation.” I could say more but I have to finish entering the HGTV Dream Home Giveaway…

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Want to receive a free copy of my Career Strategy Tip Sheets? You get 5 bundled tip sheets (PDF) for career strategy, cover letters, résumés, job interview, and salary negotiation. Just let me know your thoughts on this or any blog post–or let me know of a career topic you’d like me to discuss from the hiring manager’s perspective.

ALL TIP SHEET COVERS TOGETHER







Former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers). He leads career strategy seminars at conferences, business/trade schools, colleges and universities, and U.S. military veterans organizations.

Does your conference need a keynote speaker or a career strategies seminar for conference attendees? Donn’s 2016-2017 engagement calendar is starting to fill up…contact him directly at donnlevie@austin.rr.com.

Don’t miss out on Donn’s blog posts…follow him now on Twitter @donnlevie and join in the jobs/career conversations at the Strategic Career Engagement LinkedIn discussion group.

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Comparing Public and Private Sector Organizational Values

Public-sector-vs_-private-sectorWhen people want to transition from careers in the public sector to opportunities in the private sector, they have to embrace new ways of how they approach these positions. It’s not just getting used to new organizational structure, goals/objectives, and required skills, but such transitions require rethinking which values are important and which ones are less so.

Let’s review the results of research that compared most/least important values in the public sector with those in the private sector (according to public sector executives).

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The rankings were influenced slightly by gender and age of respondents, years of employment, previous working experience in the other sector, and organization culture. Other studies have shown that younger public sector employees plane more importance on career work values than older employees, though work values are also influenced by personal preferences. Low ranking values does not imply such values are not important, but only that they were seldom mentioned as organizational values in decision making.

Further analysis revealed that “profitability, innovativeness, and honesty” are clear private sector values while “lawfulness, impartiality, and incorruptibility” are clear public sector values. Common core values were revealed to be “accountability, expertise, reliability, efficiency, and effectiveness.”

The ranking of such values may differ when subjects from other job functions are tested; the same could be said for the generalizations of the study results for other countries because values and ethics are tightly correlated with cultural traditions and preferences.

Nevertheless, the comparisons and contrasts provide a basic values map for individuals seeking to transition careers from one sector to the other.

(from Public Administration Vol. 86, No. 2 2008 (465 – 482).

Former Fortune 500 hiring manager Donn LeVie Jr. is the author of the newly released Strategic Career Engagement (September 2015), and the book that reset the rules for successful job and career strategies:  Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (June 2012, Winner of the 2012 Global eBook Award and Winner of the 2012 International Book Award for Jobs/Careers).

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The Ladders New Automated Résumé Review Tool: A Brief Review

Criteria evaluated with The Ladders Resume Review tool

Criteria evaluated with The Ladders Resume Review tool

The Ladders has made a great step forward for job seekers by creating the automated Résumé Review tool (located here: http://tinyurl.com/nul9hc9). As the above figure shows, the sections evaluated are : Length and Structure; Design; Contact Information; Professional Summary; Employment History; Education and Certification. Areas that pass the review are highlighted with a green icon while areas that should be augmented are highlighted with a red icon. Click on the appropriate icons and you get more information on what was good and what additional information may be necessary. Of course, the suggestions are based on the criteria defined by The Ladders.

Ladders Resume Review tool 2The tool also assesses where you are in your career based on information (job titles, job description) on your résumé. I uploaded the last résumé I used for a contracting position, and was surprised to find that the tool underestimated my experience level and management experience.

The tool also suggested that I add quantitative information to some accomplishments (my résumé has always included that information when that data was available); however, some bulleted accomplishments don’t easily lend themselves to quantitative value or the data simply is not available.

The tool also suggested that I add “at least 4” bullets to the older (>12 years) positions but then it also suggested I shorten the length of my résumé (which was just over 2 pages in length). If I added 4 bullet list items to the older positions (and former professions that had no bearing on my current profession), my résumé would have easily exceeded 3 pages in length.  There’s just no need to list that much information for older positions.

The tool doesn’t check for publications to your credit, foreign language abilities, patents or trademarks, and doesn’t seem to be able to differentiate reverse-chronological formats from functional or combination formats. For these reasons (and others I have written about in Strategic Career Engagement: The Definitive Guide for Getting Hired and Promoted and Confessions of a Hiring Manager Rev. 2.0 (Second Edition)), your particular résumé must address your unique expertise and value-add to get on the hiring manager’s short list.

It’s impossible for any automated tool to be a “one size fits all” solution. However, I have to give The Ladders Résumé Review tool a “thumbs up” as a good tool for ensuring that résumés contain the fundamental information hiring managers are looking for.

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Avoid Becoming a “Cubicle Crawler” at Your New Job

We’ve all seen them in the workplace… the co-workers who just have to flit from one cubicle to another to have their audience for whatever it is they need to interrupt you and others for, because what they have to say is always more important than any work you may be involved with. You unknowingly may be one or have been the victim of one.

Such on-the-job social butterflies rarely consider their sudden presence at your cube as an “interruption”—unless you specifically tell them that it is.

I am a morning person, and when I worked as a manager, I needed the quiet of early morning hours to write, edit, or plan out meetings and “to do” lists for myself and my team.  I do my best work from early in the morning to about 2pm, and then I hit the doldrums.

Early in my career when cube crawlers interrupted my work, that’s time I didn’t get back, which sometimes forced me to work through lunch, work late, or take work home. I later learned the only way to prevent such occurrences is to politely nip it in the bud early before it becomes a habit. Once it’s a habit with such people, it becomes part of their—and your—routine.

Most people realize intuitively the opportunities for socializing during work hours: getting coffee at the community pot, in the lunchroom getting a snack or having lunch, at the networked printer or copier—wherever people naturally gather in “common” areas. Your cubicle/office should not be one of those places on a regular basis.

Once you allow a so-called cubicle crawler to establish a presence, don’t be surprised if it turns into an infestation. Other cubicle crawlers have this uncanny knack for discovering new feeding grounds and pretty soon you have a crowd gathering.

It’s not as though these folks don’t have work to do; it’s just that their daily need for social interaction early in the morning (or any other time during the day) seems to outweigh your need for arriving at work early—to get work done. While such inconsiderate behavior may be oblivious to the offending party, others may notice it for what it is. Your submitting to these interruptions could be perceived as willful cooperation by others, so the best approach is to tactfully explain your reasons for coming to work early or for just not being open to interruptions when you are at work in your cubicle or office.

If you think you may have such tendencies, please respect the work habits of others; their presence at work is not for your indulgence. If you are being bothered by such behavior, the sooner you initiate the request to stop the interruptions, the quicker the situation becomes a non-issue for everyone involved.

My first experience with a cube crawler was a former supervisor of mine when I worked in the oil business. He walked the hallways with a mouthful of chewing tobacco and spit cup in one hand, looking for an opportunity to park himself in someone’s office and become an unwelcome addition to the existing office furniture. His topic of conversation typically focused on off-color subjects. I discovered that the quickest way to have him to leave my office was to ask a geology- or geophysics-related question, or to spread out my geologic maps on the work table and show him what I’d been working on. You could almost feel the breeze from the wake he created while exiting my office. Too bad he rarely took his spit cup with him on the way out. Eventually, everyone in the group developed coping mechanisms to keep this supervisor out of their offices.

My last experience was with a hiring consultant who was the first one in the office every morning at 6 am; my mistake was being the second person in the office right after him. You’d think this person would know better or have caught on early through my polite hints that I was busy from the moment I sat down at my desk. But no, he barely gave me time to turn on the computer and check email before he was at my cube with “Whatcha got goin’ on today?”

If I simply acknowledged him without turning around at my desk, he would stand there looking out the office window and tell me what the weather was going to do for the next few days, putting the Weather Channel forecasts to shame.  I either had to tell him I was too busy to chat or eventually he would get the message himself that I was in fact focusing on my work.

He got the nickname “coffee room troll” because as soon as anyone walked in the small coffee room near his cube, he was out of it in a flash trying to chat up another victim who only wanted some caffeine to kick-start his or her morning in solitude. He did cause some concern once when he would note when people arrived at work. He would corner them in the coffee room or hallway and say, “Looks like you got a late start this morning…you didn’t get your first cup of coffee until 8:35 when you usually get it at 8:17…” or “Are you keeping banker’s hours? You didn’t flip on the lights until 6:45 when you usually turn them on at 6:37…” That kind of attention was enough to warrant a conversation with upper management about that type of behavior. Soon after, his contract was terminated on the spot.

For the first few weeks, you’ll be under the microscope to see how well you fit into the team dynamic and the office or corporate culture. Focus on the criteria that helps you strengthen your personal brand and your place on the team.

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Rise of the Machines! “Job Bots” and Résumé Screening

Not all résumés get an initial screening by hiring managers or recruiters. Once the dumping ground for solicited and unsolicited résumés and job applications, many big company HR departments have been forced lately to devote more resources to employment law and related legislation, implementing the Affordable Care Act, and employee benefit packages. As a result, many HR departments are turning to résumé- and job application-screening software, thanks to the overwhelming number of such documents they receive. It’s a good idea to know how these systems (called Applicant Tracking System or ATS) work so you can make your résumé more relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Most of these systems incorporate a specific software application called a “bot.” A bot (Internet-speak for “robot”) is an automated application used to perform simple and repetitive tasks that would be time-consuming, mundane, or impossible for a human to perform. Bots can be used for productive tasks, but they are also frequently used for malicious purposes, such as identity theft or to launch denial of service attacks.

“Job bots” are software applications embedded in applicant tracking systems used by human resource departments or third-party providers since the late 1990s to screen pools of online applications and online résumé submissions. As far back as 2001, some job bots were able to search 300,000 résumés in 10 seconds. The Resumix system is used by the Federal Government to screen online applications and résumés. Resumix and other such job bots filter these documents through tens or hundreds of thousands of “Knowledge-Skill-Ability” terms (called KSAs) to determine whether an application or résumé meets the essential and preferable skills for a  particular job vacancy.

The automated application-résumé screening process is designed to reject as many unqualified applications as possible. If you’ve ever been surprised (or angry) when you received a rejection letter stating that you “did not have the required minimum experience,” even though you may have worked in an identical position for years, it’s likely you were the victim of a job bot. The job bot in the application tracking system is programmed to look for specific information (job title, functional skills, years of experience) and if your experience is not formatted in the expected manner, it doesn’t exist as far as the job bot is concerned.

How Job Bots Work

Here’s a brief overview of how the job bot software analyzes your résumé.

  1. HR receives your résumé (along with hundreds of others)
  2. Your résumé is run through a computer program called a parser, which removes styling and formatting (bold typeface, underlining, bullets, etc.), and separates text into recognizable strings of characters for additional analysis
  3. The parser assigns meaning and context to résumé content, separating phrases into information types, such as contact information, functional skills, experience, education, language skills, etc.
  4. Employer uses keywords to search candidates, matching terms are searched from the results collected in Step 3.
  5. Your résumé is scored based on relevancy, which is the semantic matching of employer search terms and your experience.
  6. (Optional): If it makes it this far, your résumé may be further “filtered” by persons who may or may not be familiar with your specific, unique knowledge or expertise. In such cases, they are instructed to forward to a higher-level reviewer  to determine whether it should be forwarded to a hiring manager. I don’t know about you, but leaving that decision in their hands makes me just a bit nervous.

Structuring your résumé really does require some forethought, the right experience, a distinctive writing style to overcome the barriers presented by these job bots. A résumé not optimized for these ATSs and job bots risks never being viewed by human eyes.

(More) Bad News About Job Bots

According to a 2012 CIO magazine article, job bots are error-prone apps that eliminate “75 percent of job-seekers’ chances of landing an interview as soon as they submit their résumés, no matter how qualified they may be.”  Peter Cappelli, author of Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs states that job bots are inexpensive but “not very effective in finding the people companies want.”

Job bot accuracy depends on the decision rules used in parsing applications and résumés, which in turn depends on the quality and extent of research performed to determine appropriate KSAs for a particular function or position.

While the “scrubbing” of applications and résumés by many ATSs can remove potential bias (age, gender, ethnicity for example), it’s possible that information linked to these factors may not be ignored.

Another problem is that humans can spot talent better than any software algorithm, and this is especially true as more fields become technology driven where the types and degrees of specialization require a trained eye to spot.  According to an HR acquaintance, “A great résumé gets noticed, but at most companies it’s about who referred you.”

Getting Past the Job Bots

The goal is to get your résumé past the job-bot gatekeepers and low-level human screeners, and into the hands of a hiring manager. Here are some suggestions for getting your résumé past ATS and job bots:

  1. Don’t just focus on words in the job description. Read it carefully to identify themes, repeated phrases, and jargon, but key words are not always obvious. Without the right key words (or enough of them), your résumé will likely be rejected. Also important: proper key word placement and frequency to maximize their value, proper hierarchy arrangement of paragraphs.
  2. As I consistently counsel ACFE members, stay focused on what’s important to the person reviewing the résumé or the job bot scanning it–avoid additional irrelevant information that can distract from the position requirements as it could result in a rejection.
  3. Prioritize the words on résumé. The Résumé Help blog recommends auditing the job description to build a list of priority and secondary words. Priority résumé key words are those used in the job title, description headlines, or used more than twice. Secondary résumé key words make mention of competitor companies or brand name experience, keyword phrases, and notable industry qualifications (special certifications, designations).
  4. Consult an insider for help finding relevant words for a position of interest. Use your LinkedIn network to find (or connect) with someone in an industry group forum who can help with this.
  5. Pepper all job-related words across your résumé. Screeners factor in depth of expertise (years experience); use the same job-related words for all job positions. Order bullets in descending order of relevancy to the job description (same advice applies for human screeners, such as hiring managers).
  6. Create a relevant category expertise section, near the top 1/3 of the first page of the résumé. Similar to a functional skills table, populate this table with relevant generic category expertise, such as Finance, Accounting, Operations, Audit, Investigation, etc. Specific category expertise would include Risk Management, Financial transactions and fraud schemes, Fraud Prevention and deterrence, Construction Fraud, Medicare/Medicaid Fraud, Data Analytics.

One Last Tip

So, what are the chances your résumé will be evaluated by a job bot? That depends on the size of the company with the open position, whether that company is using a third-party agency to screen résumés, and the specific position for which you are applying. It’s important to understand that making it past the job-bot gauntlet only gets you to the next step in the hiring process: The job interview. That’s it. The skill needed for the job interview, and ultimately receiving a job offer, is what I call the “Likeability Factor,” which is beyond the scope of this post.

If you receive an email response immediately after submitting your résumé, then it’s likely it’s already been rejected. Continue tweaking your résumé and resubmitting until the autoresponses stop. When that happens, there’s a good chance that your résumé made it past the first hurdle and may be in the hands a human being and not a software “Terminator.”

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