I am sure many of you are aware of what an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is, since all job applications are required to be submitted online. Back then, job seekers had it way easier. They just had to rely on the newspaper and telephone, and they will be asked by the employer to come in for an interview. However, they have since, revolutionized the hiring process and the labor market in a blink of an eye.
An ATS is basically a robot that is programmed to pre-screen the applicant’s resume before the hiring team gets a chance to lay their eyes on them. Obviously, it is not as intelligent as humans are, since it is pre-programmed to do what it has to do.
The ATS is programmed to scan for specific keywords that the employer has entered into the system. Some resumes will only be selected to move on to the next step, based on the keywords that the employer has configured. Many employers use the ATS as a way to screen out candidates by asking knockout questions. This is a way to determine which candidates are able/willing or unable/unwilling to perform a job function. For instance, if an ATS is programmed to eliminate resumes that do not hold a Bachelor’s Degree, then those with an Associate’s Degree will definitely not be considered. Here are more examples of the types of knockout questions to look out for when applying on an online portal/job board.
The nitty-gritty of getting past the ATS is to analyze and study the job description and keywords carefully as you tailor your resume to what they are looking for. Many job applicants tend to just submit their resume without tweaking their resume to the positions that they are applying for. Always make sure your resume matches the job description and that it has the exact keywords listed.
Note: The ATS is unable to distinguish the difference between the terms CPA and Certified Public Accountant, it is always more safe to list the whole word out instead of abbreviating or shortening it.
Keep your font simple. Use Times New Roman, Calibri, Arial or any font that looks “appropriate” and “legible”. Make sure the size font is between 10-12. No bigger, no smaller.
Use simple bullet points like the one I am using at the moment or even a dash (-) works as well. Just make sure it isn’t a special kind of symbol because that can program the ATS to view your resume as “unqualified” and you don’t want to jeopardize a qualified resume just because of an unrecognizable symbol.
Consistent formatting. This is important to ensure that your resume will pass an ATS, so that it would not confuse the system.
Margin Size: 1 inch
Left Alignment is the way to go because that is the standard way of reading. Don’t center it or align it to the right. Definitely, do not include text boxes. I’ve seen some job seekers do that. This will just confuse the ATS. If we all read from left to right, that is how the ATS will be programmed to read it as well.
Length: Keep it minimum at 1 page and maximum at 2 pages. Remember, make sure it has the included keywords and is visually appealing to the employer! You are not writing a Curriculum Vitae. Unless you are applying for a profession that you have had years of experience in and highlighting publications that are linked to the work you do, (i.e., college professor), there is no need to go past 2 pages with irrelevant experience. Know how to distinguish the difference between a resume and a curriculum vitae.
Font: As mentioned in the first bullet point.
Your resume should aim towards the specific position. Like I have mentioned earlier, read and study the job descriptions. Always always always, keep a look out for specific keywords whether it is in the required qualifications or preferred qualifications that involves your education, competencies/skill sets, licenses, trainings and experience.
Do your research on the employer! Make sure you are always tweaking your resume based on their mission, goals and culture.
How can you be of value to them? How does your experience, education, skill sets match the employer’s needs of the role?
Make sure your section headers are simple: “Objective”/”Professional Summary”, “Skills”, “Certifications/Licenses”, “Work History”/”Experience”, “Education”
Unless you are a graphic designer, avoid including images, graphics, tables/charts, special fonts or unrecognizable symbols. The ATS is programmed to read simple and straightforward things.
As mentioned in the DO’s section, section headers are preferred to be simple rather than overdone. An ATS will not understand “Where I Attended School”. So leave it as “Education”.
Do not misuse keywords. Use them where you see fit.
So many job seekers that I have assisted often put on the bottom of their resume, “References Available Upon Request”. This consumes space and employers obviously know that if needed, they will contact you for it.
Select the right file type for your resume. To play it safe, upload your resume as a .doc, .docx or .pdf file. These are the most common and preferred formats. It just looks more appealing to employers as well.
Please avoid using specialty formats such as .dot, .dotx, .rtf, .txt, .htm, .docm, .dotm, .xml, .mht because not only are employers unable to access the file, but many ATS can’t read them.
Categorize your section headers carefully.
If the employer is seeking specific skills (pro tip: when they list the requirements/qualifications, pay attention to those on the top as those are what they looking for in a candidate the most) and you have that, you may want to shift your skills section to the top while leaving your experience and education to the bottom.
If the employer is seeking 5+ years in talent management and you’ve been a talent lead or in the HR team for over a decade, you may want to put your experience first and highlight those relevant skills as you go along.
Never list your job duties using other terms other than action verbs!
When listing out your experience, make sure you do not include the word “I”. It should always be in third person as if you are the narrator of your resume.
What are the ideal core values that employers are looking for in candidates? Each employer has different behavioral expectations, however this has to align with what the candidate is looking for as well.
For instance, let’s look at the retail sector. For example, CVS Health vs. Nordstrom.
CVS Health is more than just retail, as it is truly focused on healthcare. CVS Health’s 5 core values are Innovation, Collaboration, Caring, Integrity, Accountability.
You want to work for a company that has and shares the same values that you have – so you want to research and make sure that company’s values match your values and style. Basically, you need to do your homework by thinking deeper on what that means. CVS Health can acquire and adopt new practices if you are looking for innovation.
Nordstrom is highly focused on their core values as well – Customer Obsessed, Owners At Heart, Curious and Ever Changing, Here To Win. If you are applying for a job, they usually list their core values on the bottom of the description.
CUSTOMER OBSESSED We strive to know our customers better than anyone else. We listen, anticipate, build trust and move with speed to deliver on their needs.
OWNERS AT HEART We treat every interaction as an opportunity to make an impact and deliver excellence.
CURIOUS AND EVER CHANGING We approach problems with curiosity and create solutions. We unlock potential to be bold, think big and inspire innovation.
HERE TO WIN We’re committed to delivering results, both today and tomorrow. We win as a team by supporting and challenging one another to be better every day.
Now, when you are applying for a job – you do not just want to solely focus on submitting 50 resumes via Monster.com or Indeed.com without knowing the purpose of the company! This is one of the biggest mistakes a job applicant can make. If you think that relying on online applications with just your resume and cover letter is enough to land you an interview in 2020, you need to try harder. With the highest unemployment rate in history, there are more available job seekers than job openings. You are competing with many hungry job seekers. And talent acquisition is not going back to the way it was, pre-covid.
Keep in mind that when applying, most applications require you to complete a Virtual Job Tryout (It is typically valid for 3 months if you score well. If you don’t score well, you can reapply 6 months after your application date) – It feels like an assessment, but what it’s really like is that it’s a way to find out what it would feel for you to work there and see what you’ll most likely do and what you’ll least likely do.
For example, CVS Health implements Virtual Job Tryouts to deliver better quality candidates and fill roles quicker.
“What work style is most like you?” It’s just mostly looking for you to answer consistently and honestly. Don’t lie, keep your professional hat on so that the results can determine what you are able to do in your job. For example, you want to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think of what it would be if you were a family member shopping at your local retail store.
Once you have applied, please don’t forget to go on LinkedIn – begin to reach out and start building relationships with your potential hiring manager or colleagues in the recruitment/HR team. Let them know that you understand their needs, mission and goals and find ways to emphasize your value in relation to them.
The retail sector among many others, are one of the hardest hit right now – with some temporary or permanent closures of hundreds to thousands of stores, production coming to a halt, getting ready for a second or third stage of layoffs; in which all of these factors are causing bankruptcies, putting businesses in massive debts – resulting in thousands and millions unemployed as businesses are no longer in service.
However, research shows that the healthcare sector is high in demand and the demand will continue to surge in the next 5+ years. Healthcare is so crucial to the economy and the New York job market growth as well as many states.
Luckily, if you have worked in retail for many years – you are still in luck! CVS Health is still actively hiring. Sometimes when applying online, hiring managers receive a lot of applications and it will take them a long time to filter through the applicants’ applications. So a pro tip is when you are going to the store to do some shopping, you want to also let the manager know – by introducing yourself, give your elevator speech about how you have applied for a role with them. Keep in mind that you are sort of interviewing with that person already. You want to show them your first impression.
On the other hand, let’s look at Spectrum (Charter Communications). Spectrum offers four primary value propositions: accessibility, convenience, performance, and brand/status. Let’s say you are looking to apply for a Customer Service role there. Here are some tips, coming from Spectrum’s recruiter.
If you have 20+ years in customer service, customer account management, resolving customer concerns – you’ll do well on the interview.
But, there is a computerized assessment you would have to first pass to get the interview. The test is designed to answer the question, “has this applicant the aptitude and / or experience to work in a call center?”
If you’ve worked in a call center (like 311, Geico, Telemarketing, Survey Center), for certain you’ll pass the assessment based on your experience alone – however if you’ve never worked in a call center but have the aptitude for it, you’ll still pass the assessment. If that really isn’t your thing, for sure you wouldn’t pass the assessment – then, the system will notify you your application will not be moved forward.
If all of those factors work for you, then, you should give it a try. Click here to apply.
But before you apply, I want you to make sure that the employers that you apply for, has core values that aligns with your values. You want to ask yourself, “What values do I look for in my future workplace?”
This is important to so many job seekers that I have assisted. Many candidates look for employers that not only care about their employees especially during this challenging time, however the employers must have missions and values that align with the candidate’s personal values as well. There are so many well rounded candidates out there that are looking to work on products that matter, especially when they are deciding where they want to head towards in their career path.
Transparency of core values are important, but not all employers express it in their job descriptions. Below are some of the company values that HR professionals and recruiters from different states/countries and sectors/industries, provided 1-2 of their multiple perspectives – in which they are looking to improving their behavioral expectations for their employees and organization in the long-term:
Me: “Stay committed to eliminating barriers that restrict the employment opportunities available to the disabled and minorities, by making sure that all individuals are supported and feel included regardless of age, race, gender, religion etc. – which ultimately leads to a bigger step in being a better employer.”
Managerfrom the Recruiting Operations team at a technology-based consulting company: “Improving behavioral expectations could revolve around a rewards based system for positive customer praise. This could be a public practice where an employee is acknowledged company wide for going above and beyond for customer, receiving the deserved approval. This illustrates the importance of the company’s values with recognized appreciation. For the specific role of Program Manager, a financial reward could be given acknowledging the positive impact their behaviors have had on the customer. This would promote the continued effort of the behavior producing favored results for all parties.”
Be transparent in compensation to gain employee trust.
Recruiterat an automotive insurance agency: “My recommendation is to really stay true to our min, mid, max points of roles and to share with the candidates a narrowed range that their compensation will increase before they interview. This gives them a chance to decide if the position aligns with what they are hoping to get out of it and also it doesn’t take away from their moment of celebration if they are shocked at the amount they are offered. I think the fear from our company is that we don’t want to create an environment of people pursuing roles solely for the pay and we want people to pursue their talents and interests. I happen to agree with this, but I think it’s also realistic to believe that we’re all here in someway for a paycheck and a candidate is agreeing, before seeing a salary range, to give 40+ hours a week to this team and their promise to ‘work with purpose and energy’ (our value) but we need to offer them the same respect of giving some indication of what we feel that is worth as far as a salary goes.”
Human Resources Recruiter/Employment Specialist at a College: “We currently have a bonus program in which employees who interact positively with our clients are eligible for a significant bonus. However, not all positions interact with clients, so a number of employees are automatically ineligible. Instead, it may be beneficial to have some kind of reward or recognition program for colleagues who have a positive impact on their coworkers and/or who show respect to everyone that they interact with. This would reinforce the importance of those interpersonal skills. To improve sustainability we could have a program where individuals who come up with a sustainability program or initiative to receive a portion of the money that was saved due to the implementation of their suggestion or some kind of recognition. We often talk about the importance of sustainability but demonstrating some real-life situations may help employees understand why it is important and increase their usage of the various strategies as well as our employee’s commitment to finding new ways for environmental and financial sustainability.”
Talent Acquisition Specialistat a management consulting firm: “To improve and sustain each employees behaviour with a clear focus on the three school pillars, an ongoing mentoring program among staff and faculty could be taking place so each employee can learn from others on different behavioural situations that they’ve experienced in the past. Another one could be to extend a situational assessment test during the recruitment process of new staff or faculty members. Therefore the test could more precisely and effectively identify staff behaviours when exposed in different situations.”
Talent Acquisition Service Managerin a globally operating technology company: “Area of improvement is to have a culture meeting that would allow employees from different areas of the organization experience more these values and shared with others outside of their own organization and that would help embed more these values within the employees so it becomes part of their DNA of service and mentality. Have these values as a permanent part of the employee’s performance metrics of each objective. Communication tends to focus on a specific strategy and can feel disassociated from the values which can tend to cause confusion if these are not constantly articulated by Leadership.”
Talent Acquisition Specialistat a mobile telecommunications operator company: “Firstly, many employees do not see a link between the values and their role, so a good way of communicating these values would be to include them in the individual employee’s Job Description. Each task Listed can have a box next to it which identifies the value (if applicable). Secondly, Employee Value Proposition campaigns should not be run once and forgotten, they need to happen annually to remind employees.”
Director of Talent Managementat a software startup company: “Our company is still in its early stages and our core values were recently introduced. One way in which we could improve behavioral expectations is by incorporating our core values and expectations into our recruiting process. Our values should be represented within our job postings, discussed during the screen process and be a part of our actual interview questions so that we can establish how a person will fit into our culture. This would also ensure that employees know what’s expected of them on their first day. Another way we can incorporate these expectations is through our performance management processes including 30-60-90 day plans for new hires, performance reviews, performance plans, manager/employee 1:1s and promotions. The first step would be to include the expectations in our goal setting, 1:1 and performance reviews. Goal setting is a great way to tie individual goals to our values. The 1:1s are really a follow up on those goals as well as reinforcing the manager’s commitment and responsibility to the employee’s success. Finally, the performance reviews are a review of the goal attainment and a culmination of the continuous feedback via the 1:1s.”
Benefits Managerat a book publishing company: “More transparency at my company is overdue. This is a hugely missed opportunity for the incumbent talent to really feel valued and supported; and that their longevity and careers are equally important. We often find that people who sit in privilege or have been given the privileged of exposure to those making decisions are the ones who repeatedly get recognized or are invited to sit on different committees impacting change. Something that is currently in the works is rebuilding the structural foundation of mapping out career opportunities and planning. I think when we become more transparent than more employees will be able to assess what they are trying to aspire to attain and then curate a path to reach their goals. In addition we have to invest in the tools to take on more accountability of performance reviews and put more weight on their value – it’s unfair for an employee to put the time and effort into answering the questions if they are going to go unnoticed.”
Human Resources Managerat a real estate – bustling urban playhouse: “I think the organization does a good job with communicating the behavioral expectations. We have a monthly micro-bonus incentive in place that monetarily rewards employees who are mentioned by name in a 5-star online review. My suggestion would be to continue to reward and praise these behaviors, so our employees stay motivated and feel fulfilled. Another suggestion would be to be clearer in communicating our pay scales with regards to long-term growth in positions; this would help employees understand the timeline in which they are encouraged to achieve certain goals/metrics in order to advance within the organization.”
HR Professionalin the Cannabis Industry: “My recommendations for improving compliance and consumer education are to introduce regular training outside of the new hire period and to make products available at a steeper discount for Retail Associates to try. Regular training outside of the new hire period would include an overview of state regulation and refreshers on existing products, their effects, and their recommended use. It would also occur as new products are released for sale. This training would occur in the form of a short seminar, which would include written materials, a presentation by a product expert, and a question and answer session. Most of our Retail Associates are product users and have requested to purchase discounted product to test it and report back on its effects. Our regulations stipulate that we cannot give product away for free for this purpose, but discounting is permissible. Customers continually ask employees how a product has worked for them, and empowering employees with both the high-level training as well as the hands-on experience will improve the customer education experience.”
Lead HR Consultantat a small HR consulting firm: “I felt as though these expected behaviors could have been better communicated throughout the entire recruitment process, starting at the job posting phase. In addition to better communicating our expected behaviors through the recruitment process, a more rigorous performance management system involving bi-monthly ‘check-ins’ would be beneficial. Typically, any given mandate does not last more than 90 days, so having more frequent touch points would be helpful in ensuring the quality of our final product is where we would like it to be.”
HR Specialistat a 5 star hotel: “Leading by example – management should clearly stick to the desired behaviors and especially stick to the “top 12″ ones. They should know them by heart so that they can cite the according behavior or standard in case of negligence demonstrated by an employee. This will make it easier for managers to be heard and have their criticism accepted, because they base their recommendation on organization wide common knowledge. Incorporate the desired behaviors in all kinds of trainings: classroom trainings, mentorings and coachings as well as cross departmental trainings. Use a blend of theoretical reminders as well as practical exercises where the values are connected to resulting behaviors.”
Talent Acquisition Partnerat a beauty and cosmetic company: “The first recommendation I have for my company when it comes to improving behavioral expectations is tied to the Covid-19 Pandemic: I think it’s important to harp on the fact that just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you need to work 12 hours a day. Though we will go back to the office at some point, WFH is going to be huge going forward. We care a lot about employee mental and overall health, and I fear we aren’t communicating enough that people need to take breaks throughout the day and stop working at a certain point. We say that behaviorally we want people to not overwork, but we need to communicate that more (over slack, emails, announcements, etc.). The second recommendation I have is to be clearer about Career Paths. Our Director of HR was just brought on about 4 months ago and I was only brought on 1 month ago, so this is something we know is really important for us to get done. Part of what I’m implementing is when a new opportunity opens up at the company, the Hiring Manager needs to provide me with a 3-5 year career path for this person. Once I have that, I can communicate it with potential candidates. That said, for anyone in the organization that communication isn’t there, and we really need to reinforce this fact that we want people to stay and grow with us.”
Director of HR: “One of two recommendations I would give to the company is around the issue of avenues of communication. We have a strong desire for people to speak and be heard but we primarily rely on the singular form of communication in person or through email. Although this is great I believe more communication avenues would bring about a greater sense of people’s value within the company. Some online company forums and anonymous drop boxes for suggestions and complaints would encourage people’s honesty and make people feel like the company desires to hear from them. The second recommendation an administrative one. On some occasions, we have neglected to reward people for the actions because we simply didn’t have proper administration set in place. This leaves people feeling like they have been neglected within the company. There should be a better format for administering rewards to employees. All those who have achieved something deserving of recognition should be placed within a program that reminds management until they physically check it off as complete. That way no one will feel neglected by the company but would always receive recognition for a job well done.”
Founder and Director of legal services: “At my company, we have 3 pillars that serve as our company values. First, we use technology and operational excellent to deliver a delightful customer experience. Second, we embrace and relish change, growth, and celebrate failures as opportunities to grow. Three, we share goals, support each other across organizational boundaries and we win and lose together. In order to fully embrace our three pillars, employees need to be open minded, accept radical change often and look at mistakes or failures as opportunities instead of as a shameful occurrence. For all of this to happen, communication and transparency are key. In order to improve expectations and measure performance, the use of periodic check ins, and conversations about performance are very important. In addition, I believe strongly in 360 degree feedback, although it requires a mature team, and a commitment to personal and professional development. My organization does not engage in 360s now, however, I think it would be a huge improvement if we did.”
Practice Lead on Compensation and Benefitsat a multinational corporation that provides next-generation digital services and consulting: “I work for one of the leading service based organization where it is more valued and believe in company cultural Values in the form of “C-LIFE”. Each letter of the word representing a value and it stands for the following: C – Customer delight, L – Leadership by example, I – Integrity and Transparency, F – Fairness to all transactions and E – focus on Excellency. > Compensation plays a critical role in attracting and retaining the right talent to meet organizational goals and also it is important to think about the employee as they are one of the important key stakeholders of the company who has major role to play and align to meet the organization goals Hence it is recommended to demonstrate individual with transparency and fairness in all the transaction with an effective compensation strategy and communication. > An effective compensation strategy and communication. should connect the individual performance and organizational outcomes. In order for a total rewards system to function efficiently and effectively, we need to ensure through effective communication on the process / Policy / Training on the company value system.”
Recruiting Manager at a College admissions service company: “My recommendations are focused on how we communicate the above behavior expectations/core values. I would first recommenced that we glorify the teacher as well as the student when highlighting student success stories because right now we make a big deal about the student who got into the Ivy league school or had the most score improvement but not the teacher that helped get them there. Additionally, I would recommend highlighting a student who succeeded under extraordinary circumstances (someone in a low income area, etc) event if that success looks a bit more average. We have a tendency to focus on the students who got into Ivy League schools but I think that our average student’s idea of success is simply getting into college or getting a merit based scholarship. We make an effort to help undeserved communities but we never highlight those student’s successes and I think that is more reflective of the average student than the highest achieving student who came to us with a 1400 already and we got them to a 1500 after their wealthy parents purchased the most expensive private tutoring packages.”
Talent Management Specialist of Organizational Developmentat a multinational corporation that provides next-generation digital services and consulting: “Behaviour expectations from employees are largely communicated through managers. Two improvements that can be done – (1) Introduce success stories of folks who have emulated these values and been successful in the organization – this can be communicated to the larger organization for others to learn (2) Introduce a positive reinforcement in terms of an additional incentive for achieving certain specific outcomes that drive those values.”
Human Resources Manager at a Staffing Agency that provides nurses for facilities and homes: “One recommendation for improving behavioral goals is by offering a monetary reward when a scheduler finds a replacement for nurses that call out. Some schedulers just leave a position open due to someone calling out. Others go the extra mile and call another nurse that can cover the shift. If a scheduler goes the extra mile, we could give them an extra $50 because they are showing a commitment to the organization. The second recommendation would be to have a quarterly bonus for the percentage of open cases they fill. As with any job you can work fast or drag your feet. If a scheduler stays busy they should be able to cover all our open cases. By choosing to be prudent with their time they are making a decision that aligns with our core beliefs which is to help as many people as possible.”
Employee Experience & Organizational Development Specialistat a nursing home facility: “A recommendation that I would put forth as to how we could improve behavioral expectations is to create consistency throughout the organization. It appears that certain teams make up their own rule and expectations, which causes a bit of turmoil when other departments observe these actions/behaviors and try to do the same but can’t ‘get away with it’ because their leader adheres to the company’s standards. I think this comes down to not all leaders feeling comfortable with having difficult conversations and holding their employees accountable. I believe another area of opportunity is how we communicate these expectations. We are a large organization – 1200 employees across three different campuses. We have many front line workers who do not have computer access so simply sending out an email is not good enough. In theory, leaders should be conveying information with their direct teams but I am doubtful that is actually happening. I would suggest creating a standard of behavior and having a core team meet with every single team directly and sharing the same consistent message. From there, I think leaders should be held accountable themselves to ensure this behavior standard is always being met.”
Area Manager in the Logistics Department at an e-commerce company: “What could be done better is the transparency to all members of management when seeking diversity within the management staff. Internally they do make a focus on diversity and inclusion with multiple diversity groups within the organization, in which members of management have open round tables of discussions and panels to illuminate their experiences, as well give insight for entry-level associates feedback on how to help achieve their goals as well. When hiring externally the recruiter and upper level management have clear data and make a conscious effort to have the population of the management team mirror the population of the employees as a whole. Where there is a disconnect on the transparency is between the department managers when they are trying to identify all-star associates that they want to train and develop into assistants or entry level management. If all members of management are aware of the current management profile and the goals of diversity and inclusion, they can evaluate the decisions of who they could possible identify as those future leaders. This will also in turn help morale of the associates because they will not just see those leaders hired in externally that they can relate to, but know that with hard work they can advance and achieve it as well themselves. The other opportunity I see is the practice of hiring entry-level associates. I do not have the access in data of cost/benefit analysis which I am sure has been performed for the practice of working with a sourcing agency when it comes to hiring in contrast to the internal recruitment department which handles management and higher technical positions within the company. The sourcing agency I am sure yields a higher quantity of individuals especially to meet production demands at various peak seasons of the year, but due to attrition, cos to hire/train new associates, their productivity, capacity to advance into leadership roles, and whether or not these individuals are in as much alignment with the company values if it would be more efficient or not to invest more time and money into screening to yield better qualified associates that align with company values. If we are then increasing the quality of the entry level associates that we bring in, then in turn if we as managers are doing our job of proving the coaching and training needed to develop those associates to set them up for success, we wouldn’t have to hire externally as much when it came to managerial roles.”
HR Associate for a Meat Manufacturing Company: “I think that we have pretty basic values, but we don’t do a very good job a explaining how and why they are so important to our employees. One way we could improve on this is to start an initiative where we post the values around the office and manufacturing facility with their definitions and ways that employees help contribute to the values. Another way that we can improve behavioral expectations is to create a recognition program. We can create value cards where people can recognize something a coworker did that exemplified a company value. Drawing attention to good behavior will lead to more good behavior in line with company values.”