Friday, October 4, 2013

Wow that computer!

No matter how good your resume is, it might not make the cut if an organization asks you to submit a Scannable Resume. Here are some tips to convert your existing resume into a scannable one to impress a computer.
It is one thing to write a resume that is near-perfect and also aesthetically pleasing to appeal to the person who looks at it. But it is quite another thing to write a resume that not only does its job, but also appeals to - a computer.
Due to the sheer number of resumes that a large company needs to handle, some of them use computers and algorithms to scan resumes to determine the suitability of the candidate for the job.
Usually, such companies specifically ask in their job advertisement to send  a "scannable resume." (But sometimes, they might not, in which case, if you are doubtful, it might help to dig around and find out.)
But what is a scannable resume? It is a resume written in such a way that a scanner, which uses optical character recognition software, can code your resume into a database. The computer than extracts your basic information from the resume – your name, skills, qualifications, experience, etc. If the resume registers a significant number of matches or "hits" to the available job, only then is it sent to be viewed by a human.
So it will help if you rewrite your resume to enable a computer to spot your skills and qualifications better.
Here are a few ways in which you can impress that computer!
  1. Keep the text plain and simple. Have nothing that can confuse a computer.
  • Font has to be simple, like Ariel or Times, Font 12.
  • No italics
  • No underlining
  • No hollow bullet points, hash(#) and boxes.
  • No symbols or logos
  • No shading
  • For dates, use horizontal lines. 08-2013, not 08/2013
  1. Right in the beginning of the resume, mention your target job title and include a performance profile.
  2. Make a list of general skills at the top of your resume. You can explain them later. When the computer encounters the same skills again and again in your resume, it will identify it as a repeated phrase/term, and will take it as a better match.
  3. Use nouns instead of verbs. For example, "Software developer" is better than "Developed software."
  4. Context is important. If you are a network engineer, but worked with a company in the place Java, the software might pick up on Java as the technology, and might slot your resume in a different category.
  5. Inlude keywords from the job description in your resume
  6. Keywords are all-important. Here are some more you should use:
  • Degrees and Certifications
  • Job titles
  • Company Names
  • University names
  • Software and hardware packages, and technology names
  • Product Names
  • Industry jargon and buzz-words (don't go overboard with these)
    More info here. [Link]
Finally, remember that not all companies want scannable resumes, and they usually (but not always) specify if they want one. Secondly, when you go for an interview, make sure you have with you copies of your regular aesthetically pleasing resume for human eyes to see and appreciate!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

6 ways to make a job-hopper's resume look good.

If you've changed more than 5 jobs in the last 10 years, you're going to be classified as a job-hopper. But then, you already know that, and perhaps that is why you are here, keen to know how you're going to create a resume that's going to downplay your frequent job-changing.

Whether the reasons for your job-hopping were in your control or not, let's face it – job-hoppers aren't looked upon too kindly by prospective employers. They get stacks of resumes every day and they are always looking to reject a candidate for some reason or the other. And if they think that you are someone who changes jobs too frequently, then you are out.

But why this attitude against job-hoppers? The general assumptions are:
- They are probably bad workers, and don't last too long in one place
- They probably have personality issues that lead to conflicts, and perhaps that is why they are forced to move frequently.
- Perhaps they are too restless and fickle
- Perhaps they are trying to steal trade secrets

Hiring, recruiting and training is an expensive and time-consuming affair, and employers would definitely notwant to go through the entire process again a few months later. That is why they tend to reject people who they think might quit soon, like they did in their earlier jobs.

Never fear. There are ways to create a resume that will make you look good.

1) Emphasize your skills and accomplishments on your resume.
A hybrid resume is also useful, where the first part concentrates on your skills, and the second part briefly lists your jobs in chronological order. Decide which would be better, based on your circumstances.
The first half of the first page must contain all your accomplishments, and a summary of your achievements and skills, so that before the employer notices that you have changed too many jobs, he should have already judged you on your merit and potential, and be impressed by your candidature.

2) Group similar jobs together.
If some of your jobs have been similar – like contract-based work, or freelance work, bunch those together under one heading. That way, it won't look like you have a long list of jobs.

3) Leave out jobs that aren't relevant.
If you have worked at some jobs that were of a different field, or in a different industry, you could consider leaving those out. You could also omit those jobs that were far too short in tenure, or not that important in your career. But be careful. If it comes up in background checks, then you will have some explaining to do. So you must use your discretion.

4) Use only years when indicating the duration of your jobs.
If you worked at a place from Dec 2012 to April 2013, putting it as 2012 to 2013 makes it looks like a longer period.

5) Indicate on the resume if the reason for your quitting a job was for reasons not in your control.
Though you are generally not expected to mention the reason for your leaving in the resume, if you had to leave because of a merger or an acquisition, it makes sense to indicate that on your resume.

6) Include an impressive cover letter.
A great cover letter, that introduces your candidature and focuses on your positives, while, perhaps explaining your job-hopping, will aid your candidature greatly.

The only hurdle you have is to portray your potential through your resume. The moment you land an interview, you can take control, and do all that you can to convince them that they'll do good by hiring you. By using these suggestions, your resume will definitely do your work for you effectively.

Remember, if you don't focus on your job-hopping, chances are that the employer won't either.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Job-search after 50 - Make your age an asset.

Many people believe that it is nearly impossible to find a job after 50, especially when the job market is bad. It might be difficult, but if you plan it well, your age and experience might well become your asset, and help you get a job more easily.

But how can you go about it?

Make the best of your experience. Older people generally have valuable skills in people management, leadership and problem-solving, among other things. You have to highlight these traits in yourself through what you say in your resume and your interview. You have to make your potential employer feel that you will be an asset not only because of your skills in the job, but also for these additional abilities.

Use your network. One of the major advantages that older job-seekers have is that they have a huge number of contacts and a well-established network. Spread the word amongst your contacts, and see if they know of any openings anywhere. Referrals work best, and if you have so far maintained a good reputation about the kind of worker you are, you won't find it difficult to get somebody to refer you for a job.

Search right. Though age-related discrimination is illegal, it certainly exists. So do your homework well. Look for those companies which value older people. For instance, some legal and financial service firms might have clients who prefer to deal with senior people, and your age and experience will be an asset to the firm. Similarly, some companies might prefer candidates who are ready to start work from the word go, and might not want to waste time training new recruits. On the other hand, there are startups which are populated entirely by young people straight out of college, where you just might not fit in. So, do research before you apply, instead of wasting your time.

Take stock of your requirements. Now that you are looking for a new job, ask yourself if there are things you want to change about your life. Would you want to venture into another field that you had always wanted to work in? Are you fed up of the commute, and would you not mind taking a salary cut if you could walk to work? Weigh your options. They might be different now, after all these years. And then look for a job accordingly.

Take a re-look at your attitude. Many people are daunted by the prospect of being interviewed by persons younger than themselves, or even by ending up working under young bosses. You might want to get a young friend to engage you in a mock-interview. In fact, it even helps if you apply for a job you are not interested in, so that you can have a practice interview, where you can assess the areas where you need some improvement, and then work on them. Besides, older people are assumed to be inflexible. Prove with examples that you are adaptable and are open to new ideas, technology and approaches.

Freshen-up your resume. If you have been working in the same company for a long time, chances are that your resume is not up-to-date. So spend some time working on it. Besides, resume trends change very quickly. So it is possible that what you think is fine is outdated as far as resumes go. In that case, it will help if you get professional help.

Concentrate on recent and relevant experience. In your resume, cover letter and interview, focus only on what you have done in the last ten years or so. Resist listing out everything you've ever done, and stick to only those points that portray well your skills and talent that is required for the job you are applying for.

Upgrade your skills. Many tend to consider older people outdated as far as new skills and technology goes. Don't give them the chance to say that in your case. Wherever possible, go in for training, or ask a colleague to help you get familiarized with new technology. Or take a refresher course, or get some help online. There are a number of avenues of learning in this era of the internet, like Coursera and Udacity.  Universities like MIT and Stanford also offer online learning options.  Here is another list of such universities.

So there you have it. Some of the major ways you can search for an appropriate job. And remember, any search take time. So the most important thing is – stick with it, and you will be sure of success!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

"You're overqualified for the job"

Have you ever been told by a recruiter that you're "overqualified" for the job? That doesn't make too much sense, does it? Either you have the requisite skills and experience to do the job, or you don't. Then what does that word mean?

Many people believe that "you're overqualified" is just a euphemism for "you're too old." That could be one of the ways that "overqualified" is used, but it is definitely not the only way.

Very often, rejecting someone using this word is seen as the kindest thing to do, even when it is not actually the reason. The reason could be anything. Perhaps you are just not the right fit, or you rubbed someone the wrong way during the interview, or simply because the interviewer didn't quite like you.

On the other hand, there are lots of people who apply for jobs that need less experience than what they have. This could be due to a number of reasons. Perhaps the candidate is looking for a better work-life balance. Or perhaps he is exploring a new industry or domain. Or he might be looking at a different role in the industry and so is ready to start at a lower level than he was at. So is it fair to dismiss him with the "overqualified" tag?

But what stops people from hiring people they think are "overqualified" for the job? Some of the reasons are that they think:
  1. She might get bored.
  2. The salary is lesser than what she is getting.
  3. She might be using this as a stepping stone to something else.
  4. This might just be a temporary thing. She'll leave the moment she finds something better.
  5. She might not be open to working under someone who is younger/less qualified than her.
  6. She might prove to be my rival for promotions in the near future.
If you are applying for a job for which you might be considered overqualified, it helps to know what you could do to defend your application.

For example, if someone calls you overqualified, you could say, "How do you think my greater experience will affect my ability to do the job?" Then they will be forced to specify the reason they called you overqualified, after which you can address their concerns with confidence. You need to provide assurance that their fears are baseless, and explain why you are applying for this job even though it might seem like a let down after all the previous experience.

Or you could take their statement and convert it into something positive and say, "Yes! My greater number of years of experience and higher skills will mean that I might bring better value to the job!"

Another way to preempt the "overqualified" tag is through your cover letter. Mention only the relevant skills and experience you have for the job, and even in the interview, downplay your other degrees/skills/abilities (but don't hide them) and just stick to what is required for that job.

But if you are in the job search market, and if you are repeatedly hearing the "Overqualified" word, you might want to sit back, think about it, re-estimate your skills and what you are looking for, and reword your resume and cover letter based on what kind of job you are targeting. (Ask the experts!) In any case, don't let the "Overqualified" tag weigh you down!  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Body language - 20 things that will make a difference during an interview

One of the intangible factors that affect the outcome of your interview is how you appear to the interviewer. Your dress and personal grooming is only one aspect of it. More important is your posture, your stance, your body language. Unconsciously, we judge people on the basis of their posture and body language, and react accordingly.

Clearly, a person who looks more confident and more in charge is more likely to impress the interviewer, than a person who looks uncomfortable and unprepared.

Here are a few things you can do to look the part.

Before you enter the interview room:
  1. Practice your posture. Head held high, chin up, back straight. When you walk or sit in this posture, you come across as confident.
  1. Ensure that you have had a good night's sleep, and that you look fresh. There are some who believe that a good workout on the morning of the interview adds a healthy, alive glow to your face, and even makes you feel sprightly, adding to your overall positive body language.
  1. Arrive early. Time your arrival right. You don't want to come rushing and panting into the interview room. Be sure to arrive at least ten minutes early, enough for you to catch your breath, check out your surroundings, and feel comfortable before you go into the interview room. But try not to arrive too early. You don't want boredom to show on your face from having waited too long.
  1. Before you go to the interview, you might want to visit the restroom to make yourself comfortable.
  1. Even while you are waiting for your turn, sit erect, shoulders straight. Breathe slowly and deeply, and smile a little. You will not only look calm and collected, but the good confident feeling will even trickle down into you.
Walking into the interview room, greeting, and sitting.
  1. Walk into the interview room with firm steps, and a strong greeting. Do not shuffle, do not mumble. Be crisp and clear in your words and in your movements.
  1. Let your handshake me firm and strong. Let go of your hand only after the interviewer lets go.
  1. Sit straight. Sitting with your lower back pressed against the backrest of the chair ensures that you will not slouch. If the chair is too high and your legs dangle, then settle yourself such that your legs can be placed on the floor. But keep your back straight, and lean forward slightly. It is a sign of interest.
  1. Don't stretch your legs, don't shake them, or tap them.
During the interview:
  1. Make good eye-contact. Shifty eyes are very often seen as cowardly, unconfident and dishonest. But do not stare either. That can be intimidating
  1. Don't touch your face, or your neck or your hair too often. They can be construed as signs of dishonesty, or disinterestedness.
  1. Don't cross your arms in front of you. It is seen as a gesture of intimidation or defence.
  1. Many people don't know what to do with their hands – keep them on the armchair? Place them on the lap? On the table? Relax, and do whatever comes naturally. Keep the hands free to make forceful gestures if needed. (But don't over-gesticulate.)
  1. Smile often (at appropriate situations) throughout the interview. It not only makes the interview feel friendly and personal, it also tends to relax you.

  2. Make yourself look interested.
  1. Remember your manners.
  1. Don't come across as too arrogant or overconfident, or a know-it-all. It is a great put-off.
  1. If there is more than one person interviewing you, make sure you glance at all of them while you are speaking, with emphasis on the person whose questions you are answering.
After the interview:
  1. After the interview is over, do not scramble to collect your belongings and leave. Rise unhurriedly, thank the interviewers, smile, and walk out at your own pace.
  1. After you go out of the room, you might feel drained and want to slump into a seat, or you might be thrilled and might want to do a victory dance – but hold it until you are out of sight. There are many stories about how the interviewer caught sight of the candidate after he left the building and rejected him for his behavior much after the interview was over.
It is not very easy to get an opportunity for an interview – so when you've got it, make it count!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

3 top tips for personal grooming in job interviews

We have all heard fascinating stories of how someone landed at a job interview with unwashed, crumpled clothes, but won the interview panel over with his brilliance and wit, or about that guy who went straight from a ball game to an interview with muddy clothes, and still managed to land the job. Some of these stories are undoubtedly true, but would you risk it yourself? Would you go to an interview dressed no less than your personal best?

Logically speaking, your appearance shouldn't matter, as long as you have the capability and the skills to get the job done. But practically, your appearance does influence what your interviewers think of you, and this is backed by undeniable statistics.

So does that mean you should invest in an expensive suit and splurge on a makeover before you attend that interview? Not at all. Here is what you can do to make your appearance impressive before you go to that interview.

Cleanliness and hygiene. This aspect of your appearance cannot be stressed enough. Before you go for the interview, eliminate everything about personal body hygiene that usually puts people off.
  • Take a shower, wear fresh clothes.
  • Brush your teeth.
  • If you are a smoker, you might want to avoid smoking for several hours before the interview, and pop a breath mint into your mouth a few minutes before the interview.
  • Ensure you do not smell of alcohol, or anything unpleasant.
  • Make sure your nails are clean and clipped.
  • Wear clothes that are ironed and washed, and see that your shoes are clean.
  • If you have eaten something before the interview, you might want to check if something is stuck in your teeth, because that can be really distracting for the interviewers!
  • Ensure that your hair is combed, or arranged neatly.

    Clothes. The kind of clothes you wear will depend on your geographical location, and the kind of job you are applying for, so there is no hard and fast rule for what you should wear.
  • The thumb rule is to go for clothes that are usually considered formal in your culture. Don't make it too formal, though.
  • This is not the place to display how tuned-in you are to the current fashion. Stick to being conservative in your dressing.
  • It would be a good idea to wear subdued colours.
  • You don't need to spend unnecessarily on expensive clothes for the interview. Anything that is neat, clean, and not scruffy should work quite well.
  • Wear something comfortable, preferably something you have worn before, an outfit that you know you are comfortable in. You wouldn't want to be thinking of your clothes – that this shirt is pinching you in the armpit, or that those trousers are so tight that you cannot breathe, instead of focusing on the interview.

    Accessories:
  • Shoes – These should be clean, and well-polished, and preferably, shouldn't make too much noise when you are walking
  • Keep a minimum of things with you – a folder with relevant documents – not too fat, just enough to hold whatever you need. A simple handbag or purse, and that is enough. If you happen to have more bags for any reason, you could leave them outside at the reception. Avoid lugging too many things into the interview.
  • If you must wear perfume or deodorant, ensure that it is mild and not overpowering. You don't want the interview room smelling off you even after you've left - That's not how you want the interviewers to remember you!
  • Don't wear too much or too flashy jewellery.
  • Makeup should be kept to a minimum.
  • Carry a clean handkerchief with you, just in case you need it for any reason.
Perhaps the best boost to your overall appearance is a confident posture and positive body language, and we'll talk about that in the next post.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

10 things to do before quitting your job

If you have decided that things are not going too well at your current job, and that you want to quit, it will help to make sure that exit goes as smoothly as possible, and that you leave on an elegant note. Here are some things you should think of before you quit, and while you are in the process of quitting.
  1. Talk to your boss: If things aren't suitable for you in your current job, try talking to your boss first to see if anything can be done about it. If she doesn't know that you aren't happy, she cannot help, can she? See if any change can be made to the current situation. Remember, the grass always seems to be greener on the other side, and so you first need to ascertain that the grass is truly not green any longer on your side of the fence, before you think of making the jump.
  2. Consider internal options: Sometimes, there are quite a few opportunities for change within the company. Very few people consider changing within the organization. Talk to your colleagues in different departments, or make appointments with heads of other divisions, and talk to them. You might be surprised to find a great opportunity lurking somewhere right inside your own company.
  3. Keep your job search discreet. If you decide to go ahead and look for another job anyway, then you should know how to keep your job search a secret from your current employers.
  4. Don't quit until you are sure that the other job offer is official. There are times when you might have to quit suddenly, without the luxury of another job waiting for you. But as far as you can help it, make sure that you do have a job on hand before you quit your current job. Preferably, ensure that you have the official letter, from your new employer, and not just verbal assurances. Only then, hand in your resignation.
  5. Give plenty of notice before you quit. Even if it is not in the contract, you have an obligation to finish your work, and tie up the threads before you leave. It will also give a chance for your current employers to hire a replacement. This should not be a problem with your new employer if you explain that you need to finish your work before quitting. It might work in your favour if they see that you are loyal, and sincere about your work. Also, if possible, get in a week or two between the time you quit and the day you start your new job – go on a vacation or just relax, clear your mind and then start the next job invigorated.
  6. Don't get lured by counter-offers: There is going to be an exit interview, and you might be enticed with offers of a higher salary and more responsibility, but these offers are usually not followed upon. Also, if you choose to stay after this, you will always be the guy who wanted to leave, and that might not be a very good thing for your career.
  7. Train your replacement: If a replacement has been hired before you leave, you owe it to yourself and the company to enable a smooth transition. Use a little of your time to make sure she understands what you are leaving behind. You don't want her to curse you behind your back after you leave, about what a mess you left for her to clear.
  8. Be honest, but nice, in the exit interview. The exit interview is the perfect place for employers to see what can be improved in the organization, and you have to be honest and truthful about your experiences. But even if you are leaving on a bitter note, try and temper the tone of your negative feedback. It can be tempting to lash out and vent your frustrations, but that will only belittle you, and you want to exit as gracefully as you can, don't you?
  9. Settle old conflicts. You might have old enemies or rivals who you want to pull down a notch or two before you leave. But what good will this show of ego do to you, except a temporary feeling of victory? Leave on a good note – if possible, iron wrinkles in relationships before you leave, through a nice note, or a friendly word. That way, you might gain allies for the development of your future career!
  10. Keep in touch with colleagues: Before you leave, ensure that you have all the contact details of your friends and colleagues throughout the organization. Keep in touch with them through phone, mail or social networks, and make sure that they are aware of your progress over the years. They can turn out to be valuable contacts sometime in the future.
Leaving a place where you've invested so much of your life is never easy. But it can be smoothened a bit if you follow these tips!