2 Executive Career Errors to Avoid BEFORE that next job

31 August, 2017

Are you an Interview Goody-Two-Shoes? Do you need an ATS-proof résumé?

Jobs are scarce at the upper end of the working world.  And most executives are extremely busy.  Here are two critical job search issues to master that will give you an excellent Return on Investment for your efforts as you look to make that next move.

1.     Interview Goody-Two-Shoes are SO unappealing

‘Steve’ won his job the final business day before Christmas last year.  It was the role that he had pursued above all others.  Imagine how thrilled he was… Imagine how different his Christmas Day would have been without that piece of news…

And I’d hazard a guess that he wouldn’t have received the job offer if he had continued to be an Interview Goody-Two-Shoes.

 

Seniority and communication skill don’t always go hand in hand

I used to deliver Public Speaking training in my days before specialising in careers.  Overwhelmingly, the more senior the people were attending the training, the more they tied themselves up in knots using convoluted, overly complex language in an effort to sound impressive.

The same thing happens in interviews.  Executive clients invariably sit stiffly in the chair, on their best behaviour, dragging out every bit of jargon or corporate/government-speak that they can think of.

It’s natural, of course, to wish to impress a listener.  The issue is that by distorting your language in this way, you actually achieve the opposite results.

My interview mantra is that people will buy from people they know…like…and trust. How can someone like you if you use chilling, formal language? How can they know you?

Your next boss is sitting opposite you, madly evaluating you.  Consciously or not, she is assessing, ‘Would I enjoy working with this person?’ What is there to like in a person who reveals nothing of his true personality, who is so careful with language that he sounds like a University assignment?

Corporate-speak focuses on Latin-based words - dreadful substitutes such as ‘vehicle’ instead of ‘car’. Such language puts a barrier between you and the listener, so that they are less likely to make the effort to continue following your train of thought.  This is very dangerous in an inherently boring activity such as interviews, particularly if it’s a sunny day with the sun streaming into the room, inducing a feeling of sleepiness in the most alert interviewer.

Coming back to my Christmas client, Steve, each time he strayed into corporate-speak I interrupted his answers asking, Would you talk to me like that in a coffee shop?’  My clear message was that I wanted him to talk to me in a relaxed, animated manner.

Luckily, Steve trusted me and modified his approach to sound more natural, with the subsequent happily-ever-after result.

 

2.     Is your résumé ATS-proof and does it need to be?

I can’t tell you the number of extremely savvy people I meet who show me a truly dreadful résumé, most often without even realising it is so bad. So, of course, one of the first things I do is to help my clients to develop an attractive, well-laid out document with compelling content.

Or should I say, I help my clients to have two versions of their résumé: one for a real person and one for the dreaded Applicant Tracking System.

I have long been aware of Applicant Tracking Systems, of course, but for many years it was mainly used in the US and I sort of hoped that this vexed issue would just go away.  Then came the time when I knew that I needed to tackle it.

 

What is an Applicant Tracking System?

An ATS is software that sorts through thousands of résumés, to determine which ones are the best fit for the role advertised. It runs keyword searches and checks that qualifications and other pre-determined criteria are met by a candidate before it decides whether to score the résumé high enough to warrant a real person reading it. Some ATS can also draw information about you from your social media profiles, so a prospective employer can get a much fuller picture of who you are.

ATS were first used by large corporations that receive thousands of applications, but smaller businesses are now also using them. There are over 200 in the market today, used by around 80% of employers in Australia – so you really do need to factor them into your job search methodology.

 

What to do?

For each job that you are applying for, find our whether the prospective employer will be using an ATS or not.  If they are, send them your ‘ATS’ résumé.  There are plenty of blogs with detailed advice on how to modify your résumé.  Here are just a few of the areas you will need to vet:

1. Font: Not all Applicant Tracking Systems can read .docx, PDF, RTF, and JPG formats, and many fonts cannot be read
2. Acronyms: acronyms can be confusing for the ATS
3. Logos: The ATS may not be able to read logos or extract data from them
4. Headers, Footers, Text Boxes and Tables: Some ATS cannot extract information from them and the field that the ATS is attempting to populate will appear blank
5. Gaps in your career chronology: Some ATS programs will penalise résumés that do not have all periods of time accounted for
6. Contact information: Some ATS are programmed to look for postcodes so failure to include your address may result in your application not being considered
7. Brevity: Some ATS measure how often you reference a desired skill set, so failing to elaborate on previous role activities will penalise you
8. Keywords: State-of-the-art ATS technology relies on contextualisation, so isolated use of keywords will not advantage you

 

Why the need for two résumés?

You might want to take a shortcut and simply use your ‘ATS’ résumé for all job applications.  I don’t recommend this.  The ATS version is not likely to look as attractive for starters and these days, some people won’t read a document if it is ugly.  Further, your ATS résumé may be quite long in order to overcome issues involved in Point 7 above. A real person reading your résumé might be put off by repetition and length.

I did a ring-around last week to check on the status of ATS with local Recruitment Agencies.  To my surprise (and relief), consultants from three of the largest Recruitment Agencies here stated that they did not use the software.  Indeed, one Recruiter stated quite firmly, ‘That’s our job to look at all the applications.’ Hooray for people versus software!

However, like me, you will not be able to avoid this issue forever, so it’s best to get started now. Develop two persuasive résumés that propel you into the interview as a prime candidate.

 

Thinking big with great ambitions?

Sometimes it can be hard to find the way to that perfect career spot. It’s not enough to have the thought, the will or the drive. You also need the skill.

What kind of value do you bring to a future employer? What separates you from the pool of executives seeking the same job?

By being able to clearly articulate this kind of relevant information, you can do an excellent and compelling job of selling yourself to your next employer. This increases your conversion factor so that you need to pursue fewer leads before winning that next Executive role.

What’s not to like in that?

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Cunningham is Adelaide's leading career expert.  She appears regularly in The Weekend Australian Careers section, in The Advertiser's Careers section, as well as in online publications such as news.com.au, thenewdaily.com.au and womensagenda.com.au

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