Donít Name Your Resume, 'Resume'
...And Nine Other Head-Smacking Tips for Jobseekers
At Software Advice, weíre hiring like mad, or at least trying to. You might think a growing company with interesting jobs, great pay, top-notch benefits and a cool office would find hiring to be a breeze in a recession like this. Nope.
We want A players on our team Ė we have 19 so far. However, we typically sort through about 150 candidates for each hire we make. Only about twelve of those 150 candidates get to a first-round phone interview.
Why so few?
Itís not worth our time to interview any more than that. The incremental effort of interviewing more than twelve out of 150 candidates produces a very low marginal yield of qualified hires. There may be a superstar hidden in the other 138, but itís not worth our time to dig too deep to find her. Yes, we look at each application, but we do so with an eye for why we should reject the candidate, not why we should hire them. That quickly gets us to roughly a dozen interviewees, and then we switch our mindset to start thinking about who we want to hire.
With that as context, I want to share some of the screens I use to whittle down 150 applications to twelve interviews. Iím not talking about the usual hiring criteria; yes, we absolutely look at experience, achievements, academic credentials, etc. Thatís all core and critical. Instead, Iím going to talk about the head-smacking, silly things people do that make me click ďrejectĒ in our applicant tracking system (ATS).
One more bit of context: our typical hiring profile is a recent college grad, zero to five years out, looking for a sales or marketing job. Keep that in mind. Here goes:
- Donít name your resume, ďresume.Ē About a third of applicants name their resume document, ďresume.doc.Ē ďResumeĒ may make sense on your computer, where you know itís your resume. However, on my computer, itís one of many, many resumes with the same name. I used to rename them, but then I noticed the strong correlation between unqualified candidates and the ďresumeĒ file name. Now I reject them if I donít see something really good within ten seconds. By using such a generic file name, the applicant misses a great opportunity to brand themselves (e.g. ďJohn Doe Ė Quota CrusherĒ). If youíre qualified enough to sell or market for us, you wonít miss the opportunity to at least use your name in the file name.
- Donít use all lowercase. Iím not sure where this trend originated. is it some text messaging thing? itís so easy to capitalize properly on a keyboard. how much time is this really saving you? to me, it screams out, ďhi. iím lazy. my pinkies are really heavy and Iíd rather not move them to shift. when i start working for you, iíll look for other ways to be lazy. iíll also rebel against authority figures like you, just like iím rebelling against the english teachers that dedicated their lives to helping me become literate.Ē seriously though, this bad habit buys you next to nothing and is bound to offend countless detailed-oriented hiring managers.
- Donít write like a robot. Iíve noticed a funny phenomenon with many grads that are entering ďthe real world.Ē While their speech is still littered with ďums,Ē ďlikesĒ and ďyou knows,Ē their writing is exceedingly formal, long-winded and boring. The people that are reviewing your application were young once too. They may still be young. Most of them have a sense of humor. They get bored. Please, donít make them parse dense cover letters and resumes that read like some robot ate a thesaurus and puked. Just use concise, well-written prose. Keep sentences short. Toss in a joke or two. Show us a little bit of your personality. Weíre going to have to work with you more than we see our spouses, so show us that weíll enjoy it. No robots.
- Donít spam hiring managers. Itís easy to tell when a candidate is just applying to any job out there to see if anyone will call for an interview. Unlikely. Hiring managers want to know that you are excited about the position. They know that passion for the role is critical to success. Take the time to understand the company and the open position. Write a cover letter or email that explains your interest in the role and your qualifications. Tweak your resume to match the hiring criteria. On our web application, we ask applicants to answer three questions. Why? Because spammer applicants will just enter simple answers of a few words; applicants that care enter well-written, thoughtful answers. We delete the former immediately. Remember, these jobs are competitive; the only way to compete is to stand outÖin a good way. Spam wonít.
- Donít expose your licentious personal life. Weíve all read about social media missteps Ė those unfortunate photos of you passed out drunk, covered in flour (ďantiquedĒ as my co-workers call it), profane words written on your face. Honestly, I understand. If Facebook and camera phones were around when I was in college, Iíd still be blushing in embarrassment. Now that you want a career, put that stuff behind you. Start managing your reputation online and off. One of our three application questions asks for the applicantís proudest achievements. Today some guy answered that he had produced and starred in his own music video. Kinda cool, I thought. That is, until I clicked the link and witnessed the puerile lifestyle of which he remains so proud. Reject. As a rule, Iím not going to pry too deep into your personal life, so donít jinx yourself by showing us you at your worst.
- Donít talk badly about your former employer. If you donít have anything nice to say, donít say anything at all. This is especially relevant in the hiring process. When I read negative comments in an application or cover letter, Iím shocked. My problem with this is twofold. First, it typically takes two to tangle. I assume there is a high likelihood that this applicant finds trouble wherever they go. Moreover, talking badly betrays a lack of ďpolitical judgementĒ Ė a critical skill set for the workplace, whether you like it or not. When I hear a candidate say that their last employer was incompetent, a micro-manager, or unfair, I assume Iím next on their list. The candidate may be right; their former employer may be horrible. Iíll pass on the opportunity to find out.
- Proofread your resume. Itís unbelievable the number of spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes I see in resumes. Again, this is a blaring clue telling the hiring manager that you donít check your work and you donít pay attention to detail. More than one error and Iím clicking reject. Why so harsh? Because I donít want to have to double check your work when I hire you. Hiring managers want leverage, not more work. Itís really easy to have someone review your resume. Friends, family, career counselors Ė all these folks should be willing to give it a quick read. Fresh eyes can catch those typos youíve glanced over ten times. Take the extra effort and avoid the nearly automatic ďrejectĒ reflex that hiring managers have when they spot your errors.
- Format your resume nicely. Take the time to format your resume nicely. Itís one of those small clues hiring managers look to for an indication of your attention to detail, organization and pride in your work. If you send me a sloppy resume, Iíll reject it knowing that you are likely to do sloppy work if I hire you. There are standard formats out there; use them. Donít reinvent the wheel. Donít get creative (unless you are applying for creative jobs in design, advertising, etc.). For sales, marketing, finance, administration, etc., stick to a clean, one-page format like the Wharton School Template. Donít make us figure out your resume format when weíre busy trying to figure out you.
- PDF your resume. Not everyone uses the same operating system and word processor that you do. I use a Mac. I donít have Word Ė donít want it. My ATS canít handle .docx files. A lot of the resumes I see come through horribly garbled. So much for that nice formatting you did (Did you?). PDF, or portable document format, is a simple solution. Anyone with Adobe Reader Ė most any corporate computer has it installed Ė can open a PDF file and see exactly what you intended them to see. Most ATSs read PDFs just fine. Most any Mac application can print/export to PDF. If your Windows apps wonít, go download one of the many free PDF creator applications and PDF your resume. Itís so easy. Itís so free. Itís so appreciated.
- When you get a job, donít job hop. Finally, hereís one last piece of advice that goes far beyond the job application. When you get a job, try your very best to stay at it for at least two years, preferably more. We understand that the job market is fluid and you are not likely to stay with us long enough to get the gold watch. However, we do want to get a couple years of productivity from you if weíre going to invest in training and mentoring. One of the first things I look for on a resume is some demonstration of tenure. Had three jobs in your first year out of college? Reject. Four jobs in your first five years out? Reject. Iíve got to assume that you were fired repeatedly or youíve got a bad case of career ADD. Got a good story about all that job hopping? Unfortunately, I canít afford to take the risk.
I know I sound like a grumpy old man. I just canít help but share this inside scoop on our screening process. I know it might reduce my screening effectiveness if I share my criteria. However, if you read this and fix your application, that tells me you are coachable and you care. Letís interview.
If you are an A player, I hope youíll get a good laugh out of this. Moreover, I want you to know that there is a company out there working hard to find you. Weíll hire you. Weíll appreciate you. Weíll reward you handsomely. Please apply! Just take your time on the application.
- Don Fornes
Don Fornes is the CEO of Software Advice, an online resource that reviews human resources and ERP software. This article was originally featured at: Donít Name Your Resume, ďresumeĒ & Nine Other Head-Smacking Tips for Job Seekers."