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These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the January 29, 2003 edition of U.S.
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New Rules for Resumes: Susan Guarneri
Resume rules change more quickly than the seasons, and
with each evolution they become more rigid. Once upon a time, when
a big issue was whether to play it safe and print on cream-colored
stock or to be bold and go with pale blue, few misjudgments were fatal.
Now, an infraction against a resume rule could easily send the vital
document straight to the trash. Well, not actually the trash, but
rather a black hole in cyberspace.
Susan Guarneri is the owner of Lawrenceville-based career counseling
firm Guarneri Associates (www.resume-magic.com and www.careermagiccoach.com)
and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer. "People tell me
they sent out 100 resumes, and got no responses," she says of
a common scenario. Of course, there’s no telling for sure what forces
were at work, but, she says, the reason for the resounding silence
could have been something as simple as leaving the subject line on
the E-mail carrying the resume blank.
Employers and executive recruiters now overwhelmingly prefer an electronic
resume to one printed on paper. Once the E-resume is received, it’s
all about getting it into a database. Quickly. Some resumes will make
it no farther. Those that make it to the next level — a trip to
the printer — will have made the cut, in no small part, because
they were written not with a human reader in mind, but rather with
an eye toward wowing a piece of software.
So job seekers need to know how to create a resume that will wow a
keyword-scanning piece of software, and they need to know how to transmit
that resume to an employer in a manner that ensures that he will open
the E-mail, be able to get the resume into his database quickly, and
will see a clean, relatively short document when he prints it out.
Guarneri explains how to accomplish all of this when she speaks on
"The Electronic Resume" on Monday, February 3, at 7:30 p.m.
at a meeting of the Job Club, a networking and support group for job
hunters, at the Unitarian Church in Princeton. Call 609-771-1669 or
E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"A seven-year-old resume is really old," says Guarneri. So
old that it is useless. That is because optical character reading
(OCR), introduced into personnel departments in or around 1993, has
shifted the job of resume review from humans to machines. "Only
the very largest companies used OCR at first," says Guarneri.
Now, however, nearly all employers use the technology. "It’s cheaper,"
she gives as one reason for the change. Back in 1993, and up through
most of the 1990s and even into the new century, OCRs spent a good
amount of their time on paper resumes, received by snail mail. Now
that most companies prefer to receive resumes electronically, the
documents go straight to databases, where software searches for keywords
in the same way that OCRs do.
Efficient, speedy, and non-discriminatory, the software is not as
flexible as the human mind. "It can’t figure out where you would
fit in the company, what job would be good for you," says Guarneri.
They search for specific information, and categorize resumes based
on what they "see," not what they intuit. There are no "Ah!"
moments when the machine, pausing to study a resume, thinks "I
never thought of it before, but this guy would be perfect for that
recreational director/corporate outing position I have been meaning
No, the resume must be oh-so-clear on exactly where its owner would
fit in, and on what open position he is qualified to fill. "Employers
and recruiters are telling me they want `quick match’ candidates,"
says Guarneri. Matching up in the age of evaluation-by-software means
crafting a resume with just the right keywords, and then transmitting
it so that it is easy to open, print, and read. Here is Guarneri’s
advice on getting it right:
generic resume they can use for the three of four types of jobs they
would be happy landing. "It doesn’t work," she says. "It
totally confuses the system." For each resume you must be clear
on whether you want to land a position, for example, as a geriatric
social worker or a teacher of social work at the graduate school level.
for the exact position you seek. Then make a table of all the keywords
you find. "It’s basically an extraction process," says Guarneri.
"Extract all relevant words based on knowledge, skills, and abilities."
keyword appears in the ads you have cut out or downloaded. Then rank
them. The words that appear the most are "required" words.
The ones that appear almost as frequently are "desired" words.
For example, the social worker might find "MSW" in every ad,
and "clinic" in 6 ads out of 10. The ubiquitous words must
be included in the resume, and they must make it in more than once.
Words that appear a little less frequently should be included if possible.
Software separates job candidates based on the keywords it finds.
If every required word turns up, the candidate joins those being considered
for the job. If many of the desired words are present, too, he moves
up in the pack, and gets closer to an interview.
near the top of the resume, and pack it with keywords. Here is an
excerpt from a resume Guarneri just worked on with a manager in the
financial services industry. "Finance manager with in depth experience
in financial administration and property management, proven ability
to develop and manage client relations, insuring high productivity.
Experience includes administrative management, commercial property
management, project management, accounts payable, cash management,
billing, and visual practice management software (VPM)."
with which this manager has experience, is both written out and given
as initials. Some electronic resume readers will search both ways,
but others will not. So, for example, be sure to get in words both
in their fully-spelled-out form and in their abbreviated form.
clients think it is only necessary to get the keywords in up high.
Not so. Employers look for support for the knowledge, skills, and
abilities enumerated at the top. They should find it in details of
work history, education, awards, and professional affiliations mentioned
"Not the word `resume,’ but name. Always name," says Guarneri.
Next comes the qualifications summary, and make sure to include all
relevant degrees, certifications, and licenses in this section. She
sees many clients who put education down at the bottom of the second
page, but the software may not get that far, and will toss them out
for not having the degree or degrees that it is programmed to see
as required keywords. More details on degrees, certifications, and
licenses can be added after work experience, which should be listed
in reverse chronological order.
work is done, and the keyword resume is complete, prepare it for the
E-mail window. Do not just send it as an attachment. "I know recruiters
who refuse to open any attachments at all," says Guarneri. Most
employers are leery too. Viruses, including a virulent one named "resume"
that circulated recently, have everyone scared.
To make sure your resume is not summarily deleted, send it in the
body of an E-mail. Prepare it to be sent this way by saving it as
an Ascii file. When you do so, a menu will appear. Choose the "text
only with line breaks" option. Then rename the file, close the
window, and look for the notepad icon on the desktop. Open the notepad,
count 65 characters — including spaces — and insert a hard
return. Then put in a hard return at the end of 65 characters in each
line. This takes time. "There’s no way around it," says Guarneri.
But omit this step and the resume will appear in the E-mail window
as one long paragraph.
a resume is attached is no good, but that said, there should be a
resume attachment in addition to the resume in the body of the E-mail.
This is so, says Guarneri, because an employer might want to print
out the resume.
The Ascii version of the resume in the body of the E-mail is, of necessity,
stripped of all its formatting, including bolding and bullets. An
attachment will look a lot better. It will also be shorter. Because
of the small number of characters per line in an E-mail window, an
E-mail prints out about twice as long as an attachment. A two-page
resume printed from an attachment will be four pages long if it is
printed from the E-mail window. The shorter, better formatted document
is more pleasing to the humans who take over when the keyword software
has done its job.
The attachment can be sent as a Word or RTF document, but Guarneri
says it is a good idea to consider sending it as a pdf file instead.
Opened with Adobe Acrobat, a free program most employers use, the
pdf file "really is a picture," says Guarneri. It will look
exactly the same as a paper resume — bolding, color, stylish bullets
two brief paragraphs, and use it as an introduction to the resume
that follows in the E-mail.
by E-mail without filling in the subject line. That is how viruses
often are sent. Employers and recruiters know this and often delete
E-mails carrying no subject line without ever opening them.
Many job hunters just put the word "resume" into the subject
file. That is no good, says Guarneri. It just forces the overworked
recipient — an employer or recruiter, who may receive hundreds
of resumes daily — to rename the file. When responding to a posting
for a specific job, start the subject line with the job code. Follow
it with a dash. An "n" dash, Guarneri states, convinced that
nothing should be left to chance. "That’s the short dash,"
she explains. Leave a space on either side of the dash, type in last
name, followed by a dash, and job title, followed by another dash,
and then years of experience.
The subject line can be rounded off with anything that sets the candidate
apart, perhaps an MBA or other advanced degree, knowledge of an highly-desirable
computer language, or niche experience. This sounds like a lot, but
Guarneri points out that subject line holds from 60 to 80 characters,
and that it is perfectly all right to use standard abbreviations.
to technical knowledge and a firm grasp of what keyword software looks
for, and Guarneri says this is not a bad thing. "I’ve seen too
many people who don’t figure out what they want to do, and put it
on others," she says. With the keyword resume, there is no waffling,
no "Gee, I don’t know exactly what I want to do. I just want to
work with people." The job candidate must be crystal clear about
who he is and just exactly where he fits in.
New Jersey’s surgeons are threatening to cancel all
elective surgery on Monday and Tuesday, February 3 and 4, to draw
attention to what they say is a critical problem in getting malpractice
insurance. As it happens, the Women’s Heart Foundation and Robert
Wood Johnson Medical School are holding a medical conference that
keynote speaker of "Getting to the Heart of It: Interventions
to Improve Women’s Outcomes," on Monday, February 3, from 11:30
a.m. to 7 p.m. at the medical school at 125 Paterson Street in New
Brunswick. Cost: $30 for nurses, $65 for physicians. Call 609-771-9600.
Other speakers will be Lou-Anne Beauregard
professor of medicine, and Bonnie Arkus
Beauregard hopes to point out the gender bias that women encounter.
"Women need to know about the manifestations of heart disease
for us, as women, as well as to have a better understanding of epidemiological
and clinical research that is taking place in these areas," she
says. Among the topics to be discussed as they relate to women are
the use of estrogen for heart disease, cardiac arrhythmias, underutilized
pacemakers and ICDs, and shortness of breath as it relates to congestive
Perhaps surgeons not planning to be in the operating room will have
a better opportunity to attend this conference.
Employers are still looking for a few good men (or,
of course, women) to fill senior positions. "There is a critical
need for salespeople and sales managers, right up to the v.p. level,"
says Steve McGrath, founder and president of McGrath & Associates
(609-844-7579), an executive recruitment firm with offices in the
Princeton Pike Corporate Center. "There’s a pretty good demand
for scientists and engineers, too," he adds. "Mechanical engineers
are in great demand." And while there are not as many opportunities
for chemical engineers right now, the market is pretty good for electrical
and manufacturing engineers.
That’s the good news. Those are the bright spots in an economy that
is still refusing to turn around. "Since I’ve been in business,"
says McGrath, who founded his company in 1995, "I’ve never seen
so many people available. We have more candidates than at any point
since we started." Certain industries, he says, "have been
decimated." His firm specializes in placing executives with companies
in the financial services, pharma/healthcare, consulting, and high
tech industries. In that group, the only sector he immediately thinks
to list as doing well is medical devices.
While the overall economic climate leaves a lot to be desired, strong
candidates are getting jobs, and McGrath says his is one of the few
executive recruiting firms willing to work with those candidates.
Like most recruiters, McGrath goes out and finds most of the executives
he places. Typically, they are sitting at desks, more or less happily
employed, when he calls with an opportunity. Unlike most recruiters,
he and his staff are willing to spend time with candidates, many of
them downsized executives, who come to them.
"I spend one day a week working with candidates," says McGrath.
He does this because he might find a perfect match for a client, and
also because "you never know where business comes from." In
other words, it is entirely possible that one of these out-of-work
executives will one day be in a position to retain an executive search
firm. "People have long memories," says McGrath.
When executives do come to him, McGrath puts them through their paces.
"It’s a process," he says of the road to a good, new job.
He finds that many executives don’t quite grasp how the process works,
but provides insight when he speaks on "What the Recruiter Can
— and Can’t — Do for You" on Tuesday, February 4, at 7:30
p.m. at a free meeting of Jobseekers, a networking and support group
for downsized workers, at Trinity Church in Princeton. Call 609-924-2277.
McGrath earned a degree in chemical engineering from Worcester Polytech
in 1974 and an MBA from Wharton in 1977. He went into management consulting
and found the part of the business he liked the best was selling consulting
services. After nearly 20 years, he decided that "if I can sell
X million for you guys, I can sell some smaller amount for myself."
He left his corporate job, set up his own shop, called up all of his
former clients, and soon had a substantial roster of clients.
The way McGrath started his company points toward what he considers
to be the key process downsized executives need to employ in looking
for a new position — targeted networking. Here is how to hone
know how to network, but, says McGrath, there are relatively few good
networkers. "You need to find the people who can open doors for
you," he says, acknowledging that this is far easier said than
priceless contacts, find out how you can help them. "Understand
what they’re looking for," says McGrath. Shortly after the meeting,
and armed with an idea of how you can be of service, follow-up.
whom McGrath & Associates agree to work come through referrals.
That is also the way most people land in good jobs. "Identify
companies you would like to work for, and then work your way in through
referrals," is McGrath’s advice.
no longer carries even the hint of disgrace. In fact, McGrath says
that on at least a few occasions he has counseled job changers to
leave their current jobs in order to devote all of their energy to
looking for a better job. "If you’ve been out of work for two
years, that’s a red flag," he says. But no networking contact
— and no employer — will care if you have been downsized.
postings, and polished interview skills all require work — more
work than many job hunters expect. "A lot of people who approach
us make the assumption that we have jobs sitting on the shelf,"
says McGrath. But no, he declares: "It’s their responsibility
to find a job, not ours."
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