Friday, December 14, 2012

Job seekers, stop trying to beat resume robots

FORGET THE BOTS: There are better ways to reach employers
than trying to beat resume screening software
One of job seekers' greatest pursuits today is ensuring their resume gets past automated screening software and lands in human hands. There's been no shortage of news articles over the past few years emphasizing the need to pack your resume with keywords from the job description, place them in the right order, and format your resume so it's bot-friendly, among other guidelines.

But while all this engineering can help you clear the software hurdle, it does not replace the best way to land a job: build relationships and network, also called BRAN for short. Who you know still counts. In fact, 80 percent of jobs are landed through networking, according to an ABC News report.

There are many opportunities for building relationships and networking, but you have to have the right mindset to succeed. It requires more than merely introducing yourself and asking for a job. When I advised small start ups on the most efficient way to promote their businesses, I used my "3F" rule -- free, frugal, and family. Here's why it's a better approach than trying to beat the bots, and how you can use it to land your next job.

Go beyond the bots

There are several disadvantages to resume bot-beating that all job seekers should understand. Firstly, if automated hiring continues to be a popular trend with HR departments, you will have fewer opportunities to talk to a live person.

As a result, you won't be able get feedback on why the software program disqualified your resume and how to improve it next time. If you included all the keywords found in the job description and your cover letter clearly explained how well-prepared and motivated you are for the position, you have no idea why you were not selected for an interview. Can't be something you said, right?

With hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes submitted for a specific job opening, even if you follow up with a live person in HR, they will have no memory of your resume because they probably never looked at it and cannot offer a reason as to why you were not selected -- other than the standard response of "we found a more qualified candidate and will keep your resume on file."

That's why it's crucial to hone your relationship building and networking skills to strengthen your ability to land a job. With BRAN, you essentially become a salesperson. Effective salespeople are always selling; whether at work or at play. However, they are not always directly selling their product or service. Instead, they are selling themselves and the value they can provide to the potential customer.

It is not just the value of what they are selling either. It is the value of engaging in a relationship between a salesperson and a client, that will satisfy the potential client's need for something he or she might want; now and/or in the future. Once trust and credibility can be established, it will be easier to do business with one another. Let's take a look at how to put this into play.

Triple your networking effort

The 3F rule is simple, and helps you leverage opportunities that are right in front of you. Here's how it works.

Free: Volunteer at charities, churches, and civic organizations. This is not only a noble thing to do, but many business owners and executives (employers) give their time and resources to their favorite charities. Furthermore, they frequently chair committees in these organizations. How great would it be to volunteer to join the committee and develop a deeper relationship with these influential individuals? Keep in mind though, many of these individuals are also the decision makers for their respective organizations. This is your time to shine! Show off your skills by actively participating in events these committees put on. Identify a need you can satisfy in your community. Search online for other organizations similar to yours and explore what they are doing. Bring some of these ideas back to the committee. You can impress the right people with your dedication, determination, and energy. If my CEO asked me to give you a call because you left a positive impression on him, I would be calling you today to set up a meeting. And all it costs is your time for a good cause.

Frugal: Be judicious with your networking time and money. Generally, if something is nice to have, you don't need it! At least not right now. Get established first. Becoming a member of a civic organization -- such as the Lion's Club, Rotary Club, and Elks -- usually involves a small annual membership fee. So does a membership/subscription at a fitness club, video/DVD rental service, and the like. You just have to decide which ones can better help you develop relationships with the right people. You can meet a ton of people at the gym, but are you meeting the right people at the right time? Are there opportunities to showcase your job abilities, skills, and passion? Can you develop meaningful discussions while on a treadmill, bench press, locker room or at the juice bar? Allocate your valuable resources to those activities that bring you closer to reaching your goal of finding the right people who can help you find the right job.

Family: Tap the connections your parents, siblings, and relatives have. Who do they work with? Who do they work for? Who's in their social circle, and who do their friends and acquaintances work with and work for? Tell all your family members you are looking for work. Ask to be introduced to their contacts. Ask them to bring you along to events they attend where executives or hiring managers might be present. The same goes with friends. Having other people who know you well and who are out there selling "you" is a smart move and costs virtually nothing, other than a thank you note or small token of appreciation.

Looking for work in this economy is a 40-hour-a-week job unto itself. Resumes and cover letters are one channel you can use to get an interview. Volunteering in your community is another, and reaching out to people who know you is a third. Post University has been helping students follow these approaches for years. Our Career and Self Awareness curriculum teaches students BRAN and how to look at alternate ways to explore careers and specific opportunities.

As in sales, the more people you see and the more presentations you make, the more sales you will close. The more channels you can identify and leverage to sell "you," the more opportunities that will become available. But don't wait for the phone to ring or for that email to show up in your inbox. Go out there and show yourself, who you are, and what you can do. We don't have automated screening for that -- at least not yet!