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Advice on Resumes - Why applicants don't get interviews.


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We're a SME in the process of making an appointment in a senior role and so many of the resumes land on the “NO” pile, simply because the person did not make their resume applicable to the requirements of the role. 


Applicants ignore the list of requirements and instead are trying very hard to make themselves look fantastic by using words such as “profound”, “extensive”, “manage”, “advise”, “oversee”,  “review”, “analyse” etc. for a role which clearly requires hands-on experience, in which case words like “prepare”, “implement”, “apply”, “execute” “hands on”,  “end to end” etc. would give a clear indication that the person is actually doing the job and not just supervising or overseeing it. 


This is just one example of the many which I came across going through 111 resumes for this role.  Any of those applicants could very well have been very hands on, but it was not clear from their resume and I’m not going to make 111 calls to check what they’re actually doing.   


A few more things based on the resumes I’ve seen in the last two days:


I had two applications from South Africans.  One of them is still in South Africa with a PR Visa granted.  When responding to “availability”, the answer was:  “planning to relocate to Australia in Month X”.  Firstly, planning to do something and actually doing it, are two different things, and no employer is going to risk the chance that the date could be extended due to the “planning” bit not taking place as “planned” – especially not if they have 110 other willing and ready applicants lined up for the role.  Your answer should either be a definite period such as 4 week notice or a definite date.


Many of the resumes had line after line of achievements or successes and very little specific information about their duties or responsibilities.  If you’re applying for a role in a small SME, managing 2 staff, it is irrelevant that you managed a staff of 300 in a billion dollar international blue chip company.  Yes, it is an achievement, but it is not going to give you the role – in fact, it may very well prevent you from getting the role as there would be a concern that you may not hang around for long before you move on because a smaller company didn’t offer the same excitement.


If the job advert lists specific requirements, you have to provide those specifics.  Stating “responsible for all financial reporting” says nothing.  List (in short) the actual responsibilities e.g. “payroll, FBT, GST” or whatever applies.  How else will the employer know what exactly the role involved? If they advertise for a painter – don’t tell them you improved the paint brush.  They want to know if you can paint.  Make sure they know that (no harm in also listing your achievement, but make sure you clearly state your actual painting experience).

State completion dates (year) with your qualifications. So many of the resumes had no dates.  Was it 12 years ago, 1 year ago?  If they can’t see it, you’re going on the “NO” pile. 


State month and year for employment history.  Simply saying 2011 – 2012 is not sufficient.  It could be Dec 2011 to Jan 2012 for all they know (and they’ll make that assumption, based on your unwillingness to provide more detail).  Another resume on the “NO” pile.

State reasons for leaving an employer.  We had applicants for instance leaving a 5 year role for a 3 month contract role after a 2 month gap.  The obvious question is why?  This is especially important if you’ve worked 6 months here, 3 months there, 12 months for another employer.  Maybe they were all fixed contracts.  How would the employer know if you don’t make it clear? The assumption will be that you can’t hold a job and you’ll end up on the “NO” pile.


Be aware of anything which may cause concern and make sure you address that concern.  For instance, a job role may be advertised by a company with a young innovative team and a relaxed, easy going work environment.  If you’re on the wrong side of 40, having worked in corporate, wearing a black suit for the last 30 years, you will have to ensure that this is addressed in your cover letter. 


READ the job ad.  Make sure every single requirement is clearly stated in your resume and remove unnecessary things which is not relevant to the role and which may qualify you out at a glance. 


Now READ your resume from an employer point of view.  Anything in there which may pose a question or concern?  Address it.  (If you can’t see the answer in your resume, neither can the employer).


Keep it short.  Keep sentences short. (Don’t write paragraphs in your resume – if it doesn’t fit into a single line, you’re saying too much). 


Make the layout easy to read.  So many resume’s with side bars, text boxes with random info and shaded highlights of personal achievements or volunteer work.  Too much going on all-over the place.  Make is easy to flow in the natural direction of normal reading.


Use a common font and choose a size which does not make you squint. Use good spacing between lines.  Resume’s which are easy to read, are read first.  If you’re trying to be too fancy, the employer may not get to yours.


The resume which gets the most ticks in the box, gets the interview. 


Only 18 of the 111 resume’s we’ve received for this role so far has been set aside for a 2nd read.  Considering that about a further 8 to 10 applicants were clearly not meeting the very minimum requirements for the role, that essentially leaves 70% of the resumes being inadequate.


Hope this helps someone out there. 


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Thank you @Riekie, appreciate you taking the time to write this up.  


I would like to ask you a related question, if you don't mind.  Many of the job ads I have seen refer to the Key Selection Criteria and require applicants to address this in a separate document.  Do you work with this?  What is the best way to respond to this?  

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Address this in your cover letter. It's the first document they'll read. 

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Thanks @Riekie :) 

We are not at this stage yet but your input will be very valuable so thank you kindly for sharing!

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In all the time I have appointed people (for a very specialised job which few people can do, so I scrutinize all CVs) only one applicant has ever provided a bulleted cover letter addressing how she met every requirement of the job with details.  It was so easy to put her on the Yes pile.  I have done the same now with the jobs I applied to in Oz.  I applied for 2 positions (the only ones available - see above about specialised position) and I was invited to an interview by both companies, despite not being in Australia and needing sponsorship

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On 9/10/2016 at 2:11 AM, LouiseMark said:

covering letter an attention grabber?

Ask this question to different recruiters and you will get different answers. It will also differ among industries. This is no exact science.

For Gov you have a separate selection criteria list to complete, together with a cover letter and resume.

For larger commercial companies you can combine the cover letter and selection criteria where available.

I have also seen examples from career consultants differ is this. The only way to know is to test and measure (Keep a spreadsheet where one column indicates what type of style you used) Dont be surprised that there is no pattern forming after say 50-100 applications. Also this is a numbers game 100;10;1 rule. For 100 applications you may get 10 thank-you responses and 1 invite for an interview. Then you have a 20% chance to be selected for a 2nd interview or offer.

If we believe the numbers then this means you need to send at least 500 applications for a job offer. :-(

[There are other ways - the hidden job market, but its still hard work and you need time on your side. Start looking at Leanne's videos

Your cover letter as for a minimum (Writing a winning job application by Lloyd White)

1 Summarize where you are now and what you are doing

2 Say why the job attracts you and what you can offer

3 If relevant state you qualifications

4 Outline your relevant experience in similar work

5. List the skills you bring to the job. You have to be the answer to their problem

6 Make a statement that indicates that you believe in yourself and your ability to do the job well.

** THEN if possible make a reference to person's name who knows the recruiter and/or who is inside the organisation with good credentials & standing


However there are 3 things I add. 

a. My transferable skills based on their needs/requirements showing how my experience, skills and knowledge (theory/courses) will help them (use of action words)

b. Sometimes I will add a believe statement eg believe that by collaboration between x and y we have a better chance to solve y and my contacts in association z supports/agree with that

c. Recently I started to add this: In sales you get a elevator speech, this I use to get traction on a personal level. My approach differ slightly from some advice seen from well known recruiters/career coaches. Dont know the results yet.


A typical elevator pitch consists of four conversational elements, in this specific order:

#1: The lead-in. This is the set-up statement for the conversation. It’s intended to spark initial interest from the (potential) prospect.

#2: The differentiator. This identifies the sales rep, the sales rep’s firm or the firm’s offering as a unique resource that deserves immediate attention.

#3: The engagement question. This is an open-ended conversation starter that allows the sale rep to assess the prospect’s interest level.

#4: The call to action. This is the request for a meeting to discuss the matter further, thereby moving moving the opportunity into your pipeline.

Shirley Anne-Fortina from The Podconsultancy here is Aus changed point (3) with an value proposition which is your brand. Good idea!
Use your initiative and covert that now for yourself as the applicant (me/you Pty ltd) now applying for a position at an employer.

eg:  I'm the team lead of our software team for our latest product where Retail firms use our software and services to help train their employees, resulting in an average 10 percent increase in sales, compared to the performance of other stores

eg: My negotiation skills resulted where I directly help companies lower IT procurement costs — typically by 20 percent or more — by negotiating directly with major IT vendors.

eg: My current employer sends me when companies call us when they want help figuring out what products will wow their customers; for instance, we recently helped [former customer] with their launch of [product], which broke all sales records in less than two months

Write the cover letter in the 1st person and target the emotional side instead of clinical/hard/logical facts (sorry engineers I know its tough)

Hope it helps!

Edited by ottg
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Thanks so much @ottg but why do things have to be so technical??  


Nevertheless i guess we are all at the mercy of the recruiters or the organisations themselves so we just need to get things done in the end ;) 

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Wow powerful info. Thanns for all the tips..

But I think we gonna need a professional resume writer.. :D

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11 hours ago, Lynnor said:

Wow powerful info. Thanns for all the tips..

But I think we gonna need a professional resume writer.. :D

Lynor I recommend Roland Coombs from iTouch solutions. Bit on the pricey side but worth every penny.!!

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Thanks @emmayenkanna will definitely contact him.:)

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I dont bother with a classic resume anymore. I point clients to my LinkedIn profile and I use Liz Ryans techniques. She is the CEO of Human Workplace and is a gun HR wizard. I am now at the point where I dont do Seek, clients come to me. Such a difference from squabbling to stand out from all the other contenders.


I use natural language and refuse to tailor Cover letters or CV for every job, what a waste in my view, even if its the norm. I tell clients, if you cannot gauge fit from my LinkedIn profile, its probable that: You dont know what you want, I am not a good fit.

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A very interesting comment @SurferMan will go and read about her wisdom.

This thinking is very much in line with sales where the product is a market leader. If the prospect cannot see the benefits, or there is no urgency then there is no fit. However take coco-cola - why do they still advertise - just to remind us how nice coco-cola is. Those who see the ad may react - those who see my Linkedin profile may react if theire is a fit. So the keywords ensures the search engines place my "ad". Interesting concept. Thanks

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