May 13, 2016

The job selection dilemma, post graduation!

You got the degree, now it's time to get the dream job.  You have a lot of motivation to find a job. Let's do a quick motivation countdown. How about family pressure, add in some peer pressure and finally the bill collector for your student loans, does that sum up your motivation? If it does, then you are about to experience one of your first post-graduation decisions, the job selection dilemma.

What is the job selection dilemma?  It is the crossroads of waiting for your dream job or taking a stepping-stone job that will eventually move you towards your dream job. So what is one to do? Should one wait or take something that is not exactly what you spent at least four years of your life preparing for the day you would start dream career?  So what is the correct answer? Unfortunately there isn't one, or as I call it, this is a job selection dilemma.

The dilemma is, should one wait for their dream job or take a reality starter position. Some individuals will wait for their dream job. In the fine arts universe many theater majors will wait tables and take on other similar jobs while they audition for roles in major theaters. Weeks, months, even years go by before some get their break and their dream job. The theater process is a good role model for almost anyone who is waiting for their dream job. One must be willing to sacrifice and keep the dream burning to grab the ultimate brass ring.

How do you know if you are trying to land a dream job? Use some metrics and not just gut feel.  If you apply for one hundred open job positions and you have zero interviews, then you are looking for a dream job. Many times you will not be qualified since the open positions require six to twelve months experience.  Does one wait it out for a job that requires no prior experience or should one take a stepping stone job? It's a dilemma, both ways work. However, be aware that if you choose to wait, you really must fight the big D, Depression! After awhile one may begin to wonder why they don't have the job they studied for and paid good money to obtain a degree so they could qualify for employment in the field that they love.

Another option is to take a starter position in a related field.  This will not be your dream job. The pay may not be at the same level as your dream job but you can gain some valuable experience. You may even turn out to actually like the starter job even though you didn't think you would like it when you took the position. Starter jobs can be very important even if they have a very remote link to your dream job. One can learn some key generic job skills that every employer desires.  Basic skills like timeliness, communication skills with your peers and management, and work ethic under both normal and deadline conditions. One can also develop contacts in your dream field if you can find a related job. If your job is not in a field that is related, then you can still develop contacts in your dream field during your off hours. A key factor to remember in following the related field strategy is that you are making some money while you work at pursuing your dream job.

The following is some advice when dealing with this dilemma. First, stick to your vision. It may take a little more time than you thought but your dream job is your passion. Test out both options and use metrics to determine your odds of securing the job you desire in a timely manner. Always have a fallback plan.  If option one isn't working try option two. Believe. Believe that your dream job awaits you but you haven't found it yet. Don't fall into the trap of thinking about what's wrong with you. Resist temptation of taking any job, especially one that you know you will hate. Be flexible and open to learning new ideas or jobs. Don't panic and keep in touch with your college career center. The career center may have some advice or opportunities that they can share with you post graduation. Finally, use a job quality check. provides employee feedback on the working conditions of many many businesses. You can learn if the job is a sweatshop or a nurturing organization.

Good luck and remember that you are not the first nor the last to face the job selection dilemma.

May 09, 2016

A Checklist for a Digital Resume Tune-up

In today's wired world the vast majority of large and medium sized corporations use some form of automated resume screening. Even small firms may purchase resume screening services from vendors who will collect, sort, rank and reject or select their resume applications. A generic  name for this automated software is Applicant Tracking System or (ATS). This type of software automates resume screening  and other processes that are related to the job recruitment process.

You can be confident a corporation is utilizing an ATS system  if you are directed to load your resume and it is parsed by a computer to auto-fill in many of the requested informational questions on their digital job application form.  The job application directions may then tell you to review the data fields that have been filled by auto extracting data from your resume.  Not all ATS systems use the technique listed above, some just parse the data and if you created your digital resume correctly, the key fields will be filled in and if not, then most likely you will receive a rejection notice.  Finally your completed digital job application form is screened by a computer against the employer's desired education level, work experience,  skills and keywords.  All job application submissions for the job you applied for are ranked then compared, with the highest ranked moving forward to have a human review the trimmed down list of the top ranking job applications.

Now that you know who will be the first one to read your resume, make sure you compose your digital resume for that audience.  The following checklist can help prevent your resume from being screened out for  simple things like formatting or the lack of job specific key words.

Checklist for a Digital Resume

1. Don't submit a generic resume. Tailor each resume to each open job position.

2. Use the key words or phrases that match the job position description.

3. Avoid using graphics, the computer is blind and can't see the pretty  colors.

4. Keep away from submitting your resume as a PDF. Errors may result from the ATS software's inability to convert the PDF format correctly.

5. Keep to the basics. Use terminology like "Work Experience"  instead of "Career or Professional Experience".

6. Avoid putting a date at the beginning of the sentence for your work experience.  Help the computer screener by listing the company first, your title and then the date or date range.

7. Pass up on the use of fancy or non-standard fonts and don't use the smallest font size to squeeze in more information.

8. Steer clear of using headers or footers. At best the screening software will ignore them and worst case,  reject the entire resume.

9. Don't try to hide key words, it is an old tactic that is not looked on favorably. The old trick was to insert key words into your resume using  a "white" font color which would make them invisible to a human but not to a computer.

10. Review each requested piece of information on your job application before submitting.  One blank field is enough to create a rejection.

Hopefully by following the checklist your digital resume can make it past the automated screener and into the hands of a human.