I’ve recruited for top companies across Europe and North America. As an executive recruiter and recruitment consultant I partnered with talented people across countless industries to help get them in front of decision makers.
As a resume writing consultant and interview coach, I’ve worked with the 1% in helping secure them interviews with their target companies and navigate the interview.
So, what’s the secret to winning an interview.
Well, let’s flip this around and think about it from the hiring manager’s perspective.
So, these people have put together a job description, they know the type of profile they’re looking for in a candidate, and they will receive a whole bunch of applications, most of them from suitably qualified people.
Where do you fit in? If you are suitably qualified then you’re just a number in an Applicant Tracking System, a name in a database, another ‘someone’ who meets the criteria.
So, they could pick you..or they could pick one of the hundreds of other suitably qualified people who made application for the same role.
At this stage, it’s the luck of the draw.
As an aside, I was talking with a hiring manager at a large downtown finance house and we were discussing recruitment strategies, challenges etc. and she mentioned that for one of the roles her team were hiring for, a low-level customer service representative position, they had received 300 applications.
So how do they navigate that volume. Well, in their case they have 4 people in HR. They recruit across the entire organization, all levels, all disciplines. No-one in that team will sit down and rifle through 300 applications for a CSR role.
They’ll run it through an Applicant Tracking System looking for specific criteria, select the top 10 that pop out the other side, then sort those 10 by GPA, and interview the top 5. So, 290 people are cut in the first cull. Out of the final 10, only 5 are called for interview. So, 300 applications and 295 people never hear back. That’s why they call ATS the “black hole”.
Ok, back to the topic at hand.
So, the secret to winning an interview comes in two parts. Part 1 — You have to be able to navigate the Applicant Tracking System, Part 2 — you have to be able to show VALUE to the employer.
Part 1 isn’t as straightforward as it seems — you saw from the last example that over 98% of applicants were sucked into the black hole, never to be seen by an actual human.
So how do you successfully navigate the Applicant Tracking System. Well, first of all if you are ever asked to apply for a job online, there is a very good chance you’re interacting with the target company’s Applicant Tracking System.
Whatever you enter at this stage will have a direct bearing on whether or not you’ll pop out at the other end and have an actual human being look at your resume.
So, how do you maximize your chances of popping out the other end?
First of all, you’ll need an ATS friendly version of your resume. If you’ve been running around with one of those ubiquitous templates you seem to see all over the internet, you know the ones, with the split columns, colored backgrounds, key information hidden behind headers and footers, then you’re screwed.
Why? Because the Applicant Tracking Systems can’t read documents with those features. But..but…but..this template was put together by a graphic designer.
If it had been put together by a professional resume writer, recruiter, or HR professional, you probably wouldn’t be having these issues.
What does a graphic designer know about recruiting?
The chef down at my local carvery is excellent at handling utensils. You should see him carve a roast turkey! Doesn’t mean I’d let him perform surgery on me because he’s good at slicing meat. Different skill sets, different perspectives, different disciplines, potentially disastrous results.
I know many graphic designers, and they’re wonderfully creative individuals and if I ever needed a logo or someone to design a workbook, I’d hit them up. If I ever heard they were giving career advice, I’d be like “Dude…c’mon”.
Here’s a tip — if you need something done relating to your career, seek out a careers expert.
Pretty templates that can’t be read by Applicant Tracking Systems are as much use as a chocolate fireguard.
Pretty templates that aren’t structured to sell content are as useful as a hairband on a short-haired Basenji.
If you would like to know how to how to convert your existing resume into an ATS friendly format, you can get my guide as part of this Quickstart Careers Package along with some other fabulous content and information designed to give you an edge.
The second part of this equation is demonstrating true value to the employer through hard-hitting content in your resume. You may have heard of the phrase ‘selling, not telling’.
You have to show the reader that you have the ability to do the job, that much is obvious. However, that just puts you in the same bucket as all those other people who are as equally qualified as you.
So, how do you get an edge? Having a professional resume template is a start, but it’s not the finish. If all your budget can accommodate is a few templates then I’d suggest you look at these. As part of that package, you’ll get my ‘How to Develop an ATS-Friendly Resume’ guide as well.
However, let’s be honest. One of these templates may look more professional than the vast majority of other applicants, however the simple truth of this entire exercise is that CONTENT IS KING (& QUEEN).
It’s the content that will make the real difference.
It’s the content that will get you past an Applicant Tracking System.
It’s the content that has the potential to WOW a reader if you’re able to tell them what you can do.
It’s the content that will have the potential to differentiate you from every other applicant.
Most people struggle when it comes to writing content.
The difference is striking, and it could literally be the differentiating factor in whether or not you are chosen for interview.
So, to recap — to win an interview, you’ll need to get past the dreaded Applicant Tracking System. You’ll also need killer content. If you can write your own content, that’s awesome. If you can’t, I can help — it’s what I do.
About the author: Ken Docherty is an experienced executive recruiter, former staffing agency owner, and award-winning, multi-certified resume writer with 23+ years of experience. The clients who seek him out have worked everywhere from the White House, Pentagon and NSA to Parliament Hill via every major industry in North America. Find out more at www.vancouverresume.com