Learn What Unemployed HR Managers Do When Job Hunting; Tips to Conduct Your Own Job Search Like the Experts  
11/2/2010 3:30:35 PM

Learn What Unemployed HR Managers Do When Job Hunting; Tips to Conduct Your Own Job Search Like the Experts

Learn What Unemployed HR Managers Do When Job Hunting; Tips to Conduct Your Own Job Search Like the Experts By Sharon Slayton, for

I’m always hot on the trail of the perfect resume. Why, do I focus so heavily on resumes? Because my friends and professional colleagues at companies like Genentech, Bayer, Kaiser and Applied Biosystems tell me regularly; “ a resume that will pass the applicant software screen (ATS)” is the most important requirement for a job seeker today, after company knowledge, confidence and appearance. Why aren’t skills and ability #1 on the employer list? Employers know when resumes pass the applicant software screen, skills and abilities are already reliably confirmed, so the focus is on other qualities and qualifications.

More than 90% of today’s employers trust resume scanning software to select 1st tier candidates, and those 1st tier resumes have to match at least 75% of the keywords in the job description to get forwarded to HR. It’s even harder to get an interview, which typically requires a 90% match or more. It doesn’t really matter what else your resume says at this point; if the matches aren’t present, your resume gets routed to the archive file, and you get a letter (maybe) that says, “thanks for applying; we’ve found more suitable matches.”

Even though keywords are now vital in your resume, there are very few job seekers who apparently realize it or know what to do. My own survey of more than 300 biotech and health care job seekers showed only 20% knew the importance of keywords and the correct way to use them strategically in a resume. About 80% knew the importance of doing pre-interview company research, but none of them thought about using that research to devise and derive keywords to use in their resume.

Figuring company HR managers as the most reliable source for “perfect resume” tips, I had an opportunity at some recent networking events to ask HR managers from several key biotech companies, “If you were looking for a job today, how would you conduct your job search?” Here’s what they had to say:

    • Understanding and writing your resume with a company-targeted keyword strategy is absolutely required in a job search today. It’s almost impossible to get an interview without it.

    • First and foremost, you have to target your job search. Find 5 or 10 job descriptions that fit what you’re looking for. Then, see if you can find matching keywords among them. Once you’ve found them, take a look at your experience and use the words from the job descriptions to describe your matching experiences and work history. Job titles aren’t usually as important as words like, “clinical trial,” “assay preparation,” “raise revenue,” or “develop new clients.”

    • Once you have a useful keyword list; find specific companies with jobs that have those keywords in the descriptions. Job search engines will help you do that. Most applicants think keywords are the words you use to find jobs on the job boards. They do a broad sweep on the boards for a few words, like their job title, but they fail to recognize how to use the job boards to really target the right job.

    • Do some research for more terms and words you can use. If you pass the keyword screens, eventually someone will be reading your resume, so you want it to be as company-relevant as possible. Company website careers pages are full of information on company culture, job families, work units and environments. Annual letters to stockholders on the investor’s page give you plenty of info about company goals and current initiatives.

    • Finally, pick out the job descriptions that have the keyword matches you already have and need, then do the reverse and find evident keywords in the job description that you have to use in your resume. Use them all, or at least as many as you can. Be sure that years of experience in specific job requirement words are clear and can be derived from employment dates. If the company wants 5 years of assay work, be sure “assay” is present in job histories that add up to the 5 years. If a particular word or phrase looks really important, or is repeated several times, be sure to repeat it liberally where appropriate in your resume.

    • When applicants try to get noticed by going around the technology screening process today it costs the company time and money. The place to try to get noticed is in the interview. Most coaching and professional advice about interview techniques are great. Applicants need to get as savvy with their resume as they are with those techniques, because without the keyword perfect resume, you won’t land any interviews to use them.

The keyword perfect resume might sound tough, but remember there are resumes passing the software screening test every day. Help is finally becoming available too, in some new technology tools that report keyword matches against job descriptions before you submit your resume. Whether you opt to try out the technology, or go it alone, start using the HR managers’ tips to increase your chances for an interview today!

Sharon Slayton is a former healthcare information specialist, and a well known Bay Area job coach, writer, and business consultant.

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