What Recruiters Are Really Looking for

Katherine Bouglai:

Well, hello, everybody. Welcome to Conversations with Blossom Career. This is our sixth episode and we have a new episode every month. Today’s episode is called “What Recruiters Are Really Looking For.” This is actually part two from last month’s episode, which was what hiring managers are looking for. So, this one is about recruiters and, as you can see, both are connected. Before we go on, I have a special guest today which I will introduce in just a moment. But before I do that, I would like to just recap some key points from last month’s episode about hiring managers and what we’ve discovered last month. And, by the way, it’s not just one hiring manager, I did speak to a few others. The major question is what hiring managers are really looking for are two things. That’s what came up.

Katherine Bouglai:

One is they all pretty much said that if you make it in the interview process to an interview with a hiring manager, then it’s already assumed that they know you can do the job. So, they’re not going to test you on how well you can do the job although some of them may appear like they are doing just that. But what they’re really looking for is the right fit. Is this person going to be the right fit with my team? And the other question that they ask, well, in their mind, they don’t tell you, but that’s what they have in mind is what new can this person bring to the team? Or sometimes can this person think outside the box? So, that seems to be a reoccurring theme.

And now, I am very excited to find out what the recruiters are looking for. So, how do they find the right person? What are the key points and what to pay attention to on your LinkedIn profile and your resumes to get noticed? So, with that, I’m going to introduce our guest. A senior recruiter and a good friend of mine, Elizabeth Shaddy. Elizabeth, it is so awesome to have you as a guest on my podcast.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

It’s great to be here. And, as you mentioned, I’ve been a senior recruiter for almost nine years. So, I’m very familiar with this topic.

Katherine Bouglai:

Great. So, my first question for you, which is the question of the day, what are recruiters really looking for? And if you could list, maybe, at least three points or five, if you have more than three. What would those be?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, the number one thing that drives recruiters when they review resumes or when we search for people on LinkedIn is really all of the skills and requirements listed on that job description. We’re looking at using those as guidance for our search. So, those really guide a big part of it. The other thing is total years’ experience that someone has and how it correlates to the level of the position that we’re hiring.

Career progression is another thing. People are often worried about having multiple jobs, but if there’s a clear career progression through multiple jobs, meaning you’ve moved from junior to mid-level to a senior level throughout your career, that’s something we’re looking for. Or progression within a company or organization, meaning that you joined the organization and you had a promotion to another position with another organization.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, those are things we really look for. Another thing is impact to the business. Resumes should tell a story about how your work in your position impacted the business meaning, increase of revenue, decrease of loss, percentage of growth, greater than or less than or faster lead time than last year, slower lead time. Something where there’s a comparison and I always tell people that this boils down to anything with the symbol sign, right? So, a percentage, a dollar sign, a greater than or less than, those are things that we look for in a candidate. Can you tell me how you impacted the business? Not just what you did, but how did it impact the business?

And then communication style and how are they aligning with the organization or the team that they would be working with. You mentioned earlier hiring managers are trying to figure out how will this person fit. There’s the skill side of it and then there’s the communication and work style side of that. So, we’re looking at how people tell their story about their work and their resume tells you a lot of that. So, that’s something to keep in mind.

Katherine Bouglai:

Could you tell me more about that last piece? The communication style, what do you mean by that?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, some people really just copy their job description and make that part of the resume, right? They didn’t really articulate what they did or how they impacted thing. And so, I don’t really understand their communication style because it’s not written in their own words about what they did. And, also, communication style, meaning their type and method of communication that they were using to communicate and apply for the job and how the cadence was.

When you message them on LinkedIn to ask them about the position, where the first thing they said is, “Well, I’m only talking to people with a job that’s making this salary.” Or, did they say, “That’s interesting. The company sounds interesting. Can you tell me more about it?” How do they communicate with you and what does that tell you about how they’d be a fit for the organization.

And it’s different for every type of job you’re hiring for, right? What you would look for in communication style for someone who would be, maybe, a sourcing or purchasing manager would be very different than you would look for from, let’s say, a data analyst. Right? So, the communication style is something that you can pick up early on when, basically, start to connect and have a conversation.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah, interesting. So, how do you typically look for candidates? My understanding is LinkedIn is the major hub.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

LinkedIn is the major hub and this is why it’s really important to make sure things are documented correctly on your LinkedIn page. However, there’s something called Boolean searching that recruiters do and this is, you can go to Google and you put in these strings of search words. So, as I mentioned before, there’s a list of skills they want. So, I put in all those skills and then I would put in some other things.

Titles, maybe, potential job titles that they would be listed with. Cities I want them located in, that sort of stuff and you build this long search string. And so, it goes out into the web and finds resumes and people in all places, not just on LinkedIn. This is why you need to make sure that you’re posting of yourself in the web, even on Facebook, there’s a place to list your job, list it because then you’ll pop up in some of those searches.

And, even if your profile is locked and no one can do anything but see that you got a name and this is what you’re saying is your job, guess what? A good recruiter, then, will go find you someplace else and will try to contact you for that job. So, Google ends up being a major friend to most recruiters and it uses that SEO to search people out in the web and could be a part of an organization for whatever type of work you have. If there’s a marketing association you’re part of, you might be on a roster for them and you might come up in that search. There’s lots of different places that it pulls people from. So, we start there and then, usually, it drives us to LinkedIn or to some other way where we could try to get in contact with you.

Katherine Bouglai:

Awesome. That is such a valuable inside information that most people just don’t know or think about. And what I’m hearing in this, yes, LinkedIn is important. It’s probably one of the most important thing, other than your resume, that you’re going to need in order to look for a job. But, also, what I’m hearing is pay attention to other online activities that you do. Other social media sites. List your job, list what you do, talk about what you do. If you are a member of any affiliations or organizations that are relevant, make sure that it’s going to be visible as well. So, pay attention to your full online presence, because you can find anything on Google these days.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

It’s so true. And, really, if you think about it, SEO is really what it uses. Right? So, keywords that we’re putting in and saying, “Look, find me people that have a marketing degree from this school, that have done portfolio marketing for medical.” And somehow, it’s magic, you get this pool of people to then start looking through. And this is what you mentioned is LinkedIn is really important. So, one of the most important parts of LinkedIn isn’t just being there and having all of your jobs below with your work history. But at the very top third of the page, in the end, where your profile is, where you put a summary about who you are. Adding a string line of skills that would pick up in that SEO search.

Katherine Bouglai:

Interesting.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, that top box is the top part that LinkedIn’s algorithm is going to search and pick up from. If it’s in the body, it will come up but you might come in further in the search, right? So, when it gives us searches as a recruiter, it says like, “Here’s your recommended best matches and here’s everybody else.” And so, the best match is the top 25 or so go on one tab and the rest go in another area. A good recruiter is going to look through all of it. But anything you could do to get yourself in the front is always better, right? Because you can get in and get interviewed sooner.

Katherine Bouglai:

So, just to clarify, you’re talking about the header section.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yes.

Katherine Bouglai:

So, anything right under your name. And then, some people would say, “John Smith, project manager”, which is not going to give you much information at all.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah.

Katherine Bouglai:

But if they expand a little bit on more skills, what kind of project manager? Healthcare specifically, working with data entry people.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, it’s the section that’s titled About. There’s about you where you write a summary of who you are, right? And, in the bottom of my About, then it says specialties and then there’s a line listing of things that says full cycle recruiting, volume hiring, candidate screening, human resources, employee relations. It’s just a whole long list of areas that I have as a specialty in recruitment. So, what happens is, when someone’s looking for those items, I pop up. Those items are also below if you read into each job, right? But it’s harder to see them. But if you have this About where you have two or three sentences about who you are, what you’re looking for, like the summer you would have on your profile.

Katherine Bouglai:

I see.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

And then, underneath that, you can put a little skills block, so to speak, just separate them with commas, and it will pick up in a search.

Katherine Bouglai:

This is very helpful, I think, for the listeners. Those of you who are listening, wow, you are lucky people. You will know all this information. There’s so much misunderstanding, people just don’t know. And when I work with clients, most of the people I work with, they don’t even have that about me section. They skip it, it’s too much work, they don’t bother with it and not even realizing how important that section is.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

It’s really important because, really, it’s just like your resume. The top third of the page matters.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Same thing on LinkedIn. The top third of this page on LinkedIn, it should be telling everyone they need to know about you. Because you’re hoping they go down and read all your experience and all the jobs listed below and how many years you worked every place, but they might not look that far. So, top is going to be best. Have a headline, have a title up there that people can understand who you are, what you’re looking for under your name and then make sure you add this about me section.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah, awesome. And, by the way, this is what I do for my clients. I actually write these sections for people. I interview them, I take a bunch of questions and then I make some notes. And then, I come up with a really good statement. So, a few questions about About Me. I know we are derailing a little bit.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah.

Katherine Bouglai:

But you just hit such a major point that I don’t want to skip it. What do you like to see in that section specifically? Because I’ve heard so many different opinions on that. Some people are being formal, some people will just copy from their resume and paste it there and some people say, “You know what, it’s actually recommended to put a story there that’s interesting to read.”

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Exactly. I like to say tell me where you’ve been, tell me where you want to go and tell me why I’d want to hire you. Three sentences, right? One sentence for each.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay. Well, let’s say it again. So, tell me where you’ve been.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yup.

Katherine Bouglai:

Tell me where you want to go and why do I want to hire you.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Exactly.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

You only really need three well-crafted sentences. And then, underneath that, you can put that whole list of specialties and skills, right? And that’s where you can tell me that you know how to use all these different software platforms or whatever. There’s a place for it but you don’t need to make this a giant long paragraph. That should be short and to the point. And I tend to discourage years experience. People like to say, “20 years of senior experience.” Just say you have senior level experience, you don’t need to tell us how many and there’s a lot of reasons for that.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah, we’ll talk more about those reasons.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah, so just tell me. You’re a seasoned senior professional, worked many projects in banking, looking to continue growing my career in a company with great culture that can use my skill set.

Katherine Bouglai:

That’s great. I would discourage people from using the word looking, though, for other reasons. I know you want to know what they’re looking for, but if they are already working and their boss thinks that they are happy and they want to keep it this way.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

You can talk more about your career, where you’re looking to build your career. Increasing my number of projects, something that could translate even to your current job.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah, okay.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

But you have to explain the direction you’re heading, if that makes sense. Are you hoping to become a manager in the future? Do you want to stay a direct individual contributor? Do you want to grow more in the avenue of project development and you’ve really been on the side of something else? You have to give some direction.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay. So, what your passions, goals and aspirations are-

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay, that’s good to know. So I wanted to change the specific topic and go back to what we were talking about earlier. About what you mentioned, the number one thing you’re looking for is qualifications. So, this is good to know for people, but we also don’t want to discourage them from applying for the job that they find really exciting.

And, particularly, I find it with women versus men. So women have a tendency to not apply for the job if they don’t meet, 100%, all the requirements that are on paper. Versus men, on the other hand, they seem to be a little more bold. And even if they’re 60% qualified for the job, they will go for it, because, well, what else am I going to lose? And, sometimes, I actually have to really convince my clients, especially women. “Yes, you should apply for this job. Yes, I think you’re going to be great at it, you have all the skills.” So, maybe, out of 10, you only meet seven. So what do you have to say about that, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

You don’t need to meet all 10, but there’s some critical non-negotiables, usually, in every job, right? If they need you to meet specific computer software experience or specific experience with a specific product or type of product, that’s going to be a non-negotiable if it has that need. They usually don’t want to have someone get into the position then have to teach them that if it’s listed in the requirements.

What’s a little bit more negotiable, sometimes, is years of experience, right? If they say five and you’ve got three or four, apply. Let them decide if what you have equals. Because five years of experience in one company, may yield a different result than five years or three years in a different company, right? Three years in a startup, you might have really done a lot more than you would at five years in a corporate company.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, there’s what I would call the non-negotiables, items that they really can’t break on. They’re going to be things that are really specifically called out. Needs to have SQL experience. Okay, well, if you don’t have that, don’t apply. That’s a very specific item. But if it says needs five years of that and you’ve got three and a half, but you have some great background and you get some internships and all that equals, maybe, five years, apply. If you’re at four years, apply. If you’re at three years, apply. Let them decide. If you’re two years, you’re probably a little too light, you’re not going to be at the level that they’re looking for in that job.

So, that’s what I would say and it’s hard to give one answer here, because the non-negotiables are going to be different in every job. But what I could say is, look for the items that are super specific skills that you would need to learn, that you would actually have to do quite a bit to learn it. If it’s a specific software. We see this a lot with coders and developers. It’s a new code that they’ve never used, so they really have to have that code. If they don’t know how to use a specific code, they can’t take them. They really need someone that knows that. So, look for what you would think are the non-negotiables. I think degree is not what it used to be. So, some companies still stand on you have to have a degree. Less than less all the time.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Many companies look at job experience equaling a degree. So, if you have five years of real-world experience, they tend to look at that as covering a degree, if it’s in that same discipline. So, if you have five years of managerial experience, they look at that as covering a management degree.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

But if the Job says, must have five years of managerial experience plus a bachelor’s degree, then you need to be looking that you have 7 to 10 years of experience and no degree. So, there’s like an equivalency scale thing happening there. And some companies have rules and there’s no way around it, but many don’t. And so, I say apply if you think you have the right amount of experience to equal, equivocating the degree

Katherine Bouglai:

Awesome. I’m glad you touched that topic because this is a hot topic and it was on my agenda to ask you that question. I actually have worked with a few clients who have all these years of experience and they’re really smart and they have a lot of potential. But life just sometimes pulls you in weird directions, so they just didn’t get a chance to get a degree. Or, they went for college and then they had a baby and they didn’t finish, whatever the reason is. And now, 20 years later, they don’t feel like going back to school but they have so many accomplishments and they really feel insecure about the lack of degree just because there is so much prejudice going on against that. So, I’m really glad that you spoke to that.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

In some companies, there’s not really any way around it and it’s just the way the organization is. This is more like banking or financial I see it, where they’re hardline on it and, maybe, some medical profession. But in anything else, general business, you’re able to really prove it through the experience. There’s plenty of certifications that people can get that don’t take very long either. You have 20 years experience and then you went and got your PMP project management certificate and put that together or a business management certification, something like that, and that also can help.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah, anything you have that gives you a credentials and, if it’s relevant, is going to be helpful.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah.

Katherine Bouglai:

There is another thing. So, the degree or lack of is probably the number one barrier people are concerned with. If they have that issue, most people have at least a bachelor’s degree. But there’s always that 20% who don’t. The other one is ageism. So, this is a hard topic to talk about, but I thought we’ll touch on it because it’s so important and people need to know. So, Elizabeth, how real is ageism? And how do you work around it? So, if you’re over 40 or over 50 or whatever that age limit is, what are your recommendations?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, my first one is — be relevant. Age is a number, but relevancy is something you can control, right? We can’t control how many years we’ve been on earth. We were born a long time ago for the age we are, but we can make sure we stay relevant. Do you know how to use Zoom, Slack, Teams? Are you using apps and things? Are you staying relevant in the workplace? Can you communicate the way the rest of the workplace is communicating? Are you keeping yourself relevant to the world today? And this even I would extend into your whole self.

When I used to be a recruiter for an agency, meaning I was helping candidates go out to get a job, I would sit with candidates sometimes that had been at the same company for 15 years. So, they never bothered to go learn any different new ways of how companies were communicating. Their company only used X, Y and Z. They had no idea how to use Google. They didn’t ever learn this because they never had to. That’s their downfall, right? When you stay at one company for a long time, it’s obviously really great for your career in many ways, but you’ve only had exposure to how things worked in that company in your career.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, getting involved in associations, on LinkedIn and conversation with other people in similar jobs to keep yourself relevant to what’s happening in the marketplace at other jobs is going to really help you a lot. Making sure you know how to use all that current technology. And, I think, when you do meet with interviewers, making sure that you’re using really relevant examples of communication and work. And if there’s something that you don’t know, but you’re going to have to teach yourself on it, do it while you’re trying to do your job search on the side. Learn how to use Teams, learn how to use Slack, learn how to use your instant messaging and video interviewing and all these things. There’s definitely a change in the workplace and if you’ve been at an outdated company for a long time, that’s going to hurt you.

So, I look at it more about being relevant to the company that you would work for in your skill set. Age is an issue in some industries, obviously. I came out of the fashion industry originally. Age is a huge issue. It’s a very young industry in many ways. However, people that stayed relevant and they stayed connected to what was happening now in fashion and stayed on their game, knew who was who in the market, what people wanted to buy right now, those people stayed relevant and there wasn’t an issue about their age because they stayed relevant to what fashion was doing today. And, because of whatever reason, if you left the job market for a while to raise children and now you’re coming back.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Sometimes that’s an issue where things change so much with technology right now. You’re gone a few years, you might have missed a lot. Connect to people, get in conversations on LinkedIn, get an organization that are specific to your career path where you can interact with others and make sure you’re staying relevant.

Other things we touched on a little bit earlier was trying to stay away from using number of years as a statement of your worth to the workplace, right? Senior manager with 20 years experience. You’re valuable because you’re a senior manager. How many years you’ve been doing it, you don’t need to put that in here. That’ll be part of your interview process later, someone will ask you.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

But don’t put it out there because you might be editing yourself away.

Katherine Bouglai:

Interesting.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

If it’s a new company and they mostly have less experience, they might not even call you and give you a chance to talk to them.

Katherine Bouglai:

Interesting. Because I’ve heard different opinions on that. I’ve heard people say don’t put seasoned senior manager, put 10 plus years of experience. So, if you have 20 years, you put 10 plus.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah, you could do that. But you definitely want to stay away from quantifying things. And I’ve even told people before, you don’t have to put the dates of your schooling on your resume. You need to put where you went to school.

Katherine Bouglai:

Oh, that’s been a known fact for a long time.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah. But, still, people do it every day.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah, especially if it’s 1985.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

[inaudible 00:26:00]. When you finally get through the process and you do your background check, they will then ask you what date you went to the school and you could tell them that, but you don’t need to be putting this information out there until you make sure that you’re getting a chance to show them who you are and what you can do and how relevant you would be for what they need in the company.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay. So, this brings me another question, another rumor that I heard out there, which, again, very conflicting opinions and very strong ones and people tend to believe what they want to believe. So, about the date of your graduation on your resume, you don’t have to do that. That’s a known fact. It’s been around for many years. All recruiters know it, resume writers know it and we have to school people on that all the time. But when it comes to LinkedIn, that’s a different opinion, different matter altogether. I’ve heard that you actually are recommended to put years of experience, not experience, years of graduation-

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yes.

It calculates your total years of work experience based on when you graduate. So, on the back, I can say, “Show me candidates that have 5 to 10 years work experience.” And it looks at when they got that degree that I asked for and it looks for jobs that happened before the degree. You might have had jobs before it, but it’s going to measure for me what you had after the degree.

Katherine Bouglai:

Interesting. Not really good news for candidates, I would say.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

What I’ll also tell you is that most recruiters don’t scroll down to education till they go through that top section first.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, the good news about it is they’re going to get to it after they’ve already seen something that spiked their interest.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay. But what I’ve heard actually was something different. What I heard was that years of graduation is the only way recruiters can tell whether you graduated from college or not.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

If they check it in a database, yeah.

Katherine Bouglai:

So. if you don’t put years and if you put, “Oh, I went to so and so”, one of the database and, sometimes, recruiters will look at it. So, I went to, let’s say, University of Washington. I took a few classes but I didn’t finish, I didn’t graduate and I moved on. So, I’m going to put the school name and what field of study, but I’m not going to put the dates. So, it’s not really clear, it’s a little bit vague, whether I graduated or not. But on LinkedIn, if you don’t put a graduation date, it doesn’t show up on the form. So, if they are specifically looking for people who have a four-year degree-

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Correct. Yeah. Companies are going to run the background check against what you said on LinkedIn and what was on your resume and what you filled on the background check application. So, you can’t control it everywhere, but where you can, you should. That’s what I would say. So, the best practice would be, on your resume, go ahead and follow the best practice. Of course, LinkedIn is requiring for you to put a date in there to get credit for that college. So, I would-

Katherine Bouglai:

No, they don’t.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

…but it doesn’t show up in the search, I think, as being graduated. Yeah.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah. It doesn’t show up in the search, but you can actually skip the dates, leave them blank and it will still let you put it out there.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

I mean, it just depends how sensitive you think that is of an issue for your personal search. So, that’s something that you would probably bounce off other people in your world, in your organization. If you’re in a career development program with someone and see what’s the best course of action, there’s not probably one answer there. I can’t say that there is because there’s people in both schools.

Katherine Bouglai:

Oh, yeah, there’s always going to be conflicting opinions no matter what the question is. Well, all right. So, my next question is about ATS, which is applicant tracking system. And, in the good old days, the old traditional way or the assumed way people think how to look for a job. So, there is a job opening and I’m going to apply for this job and the most important thing is that I have all the keywords on my resume. So, what’s your take on that?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, applicant tracking systems work how they were programmed by the company. And, they allow you to put applicants into bins, we’ll call them, right? And these different bins can represent how close they match the qualifications or there could be a deal breaker bin. Meaning, if you had a qualification that this person had to have certain things and they don’t, they would go into the deal breaker because it’s a deal breaker to hire that person.

And so, they get programmed either by the organization or by the recruiter and when each search is taking place as to what these things are. For example, a deal breaker could be that if they have to have a US citizen for this job or someone who is ineligible to work in the US, that could be a deal breaker if they’re not. So, they might go in the deal breaker bin because they applied and they don’t have that. It could be a degree, it could be a specific coding language for a programmer, right? If they don’t have this, they can pick what those are.

Usually, most companies that I’ve been at keep it fairly high level. They don’t have a non-compete, they’re able to work in the US, they’re able to work Monday through Friday, whatever the hours is that they need, something like that. They’re generic things that, as you’re applying, it’s asking these questions or taking this information from you. Then, from there, depending on the company and how they program it, they might be heavy keyword-focused meaning there’s long amounts of words you have to match to get in the bin that the recruiter looks at or it could be fairly open.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

The more progressive ATS systems, like my company uses today and the last two companies I’ve been at, actually aren’t like that. They don’t have all these different bins. They put everybody who applies in front of a recruiter and a human looks at every resume. The old style wasn’t working very well. It was designed to help with volume. Many companies still use it, you can generally tell. There’s companies that when you apply, so you gave them your resume and then it gives you this other page where now you have to enter everything that you just put on your resume and now you have to enter it all again.

Chances are, they’re using a pretty programmed ATS with bins and questions that it’s routing resumes by. If you just upload your resume and you put in your name and your address and you answer two or three questions, and then it says, “Thank you for applying”. It’s the more modern ones like I’m talking about where you just applied and you went into the system. So, a big function of the ATS is that when candidates apply, it asks them some things that we legally need to make sure we cover to be able to move forward with them as a candidate in the experience. It’s important. I’m not allowed to accept resumes any other way.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, someone could email me their resume on LinkedIn and I have to say, “That’s awesome. I totally think you’d be great. Can you do me a favor and apply through this link so I can actually share your resume with the hiring manager?” Because I’m not allowed to share their information. So, a resume contains personal information about a person. Usually phone number, email, addresses. These things are protected data. So, you have to have it go into an ATS system. You don’t have to program it to do all that work that some of these companies have it doing where it’s scrubbing and performing SEO analysis on the resume, but it does happen.

So, a good clue for someone applying is when it’s asking him to re-enter all the information, chances are they have a multistage ATS where there’s different buckets. Recruiters can access all of them, except for, usually, the deal breakers. They can go into any bucket, but they usually start in the best matches.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay. So, which actually leads me to another question. On average, how many applications do you get per position? Talking an average technical project management position.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

I would say 70 to 80.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay. Well, that’s optimistic. I heard 500, 200.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

I mean, I think it depends on the organization and the levels of the job. But on average, right now, I usually see 70 to 80 that are coming in for any specific job.

Katherine Bouglai:

And are those filtered or unfiltered?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Unfiltered.

Yeah. And then that includes people that I reached out to on LinkedIn. Now, there are some weird jobs. For example, I have a data analyst job right now that, for some reason, I get 50 resumes a day on that one.

Katherine Bouglai:

Oh, wow!

Elizabeth Shaddy:

But on an average project manager or purchasing manager or buyer-

Katherine Bouglai:

Operations.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah. Those are not too … But then this data analyst job, the numbers are, how do you go through all that? I mean, I have to go through all those. And a good company has a great talent acquisition team and they have a program set up around that to make sure they’re hiring the best talent, not a program to keep the best talent out. Right? They have a well-thought program to say, “How do we go through those 50 and make sure we thoroughly looked at them with the right amount of time to give the recruiter?”

And they assign you a time period. You need to get through those resumes and applicants by this date. A resume can’t just sit. They want you to be moving them through the system and reviewing them and making sure that you’re actually going through all of them. Similar way in those ATS things, they do have buckets where it’ll push you to clean out the buckets.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay.

So, my next question was going to be, out of those 70 to 80, how many of them do you actually look at?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

All.

Katherine Bouglai:

All of them?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

I have to look at every single one.

Katherine Bouglai:

That’s good news.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Even the 50 that come a day for data, I look at their whole resume. I don’t always go to their LinkedIn if I’m looking at their resume and they applied, but I look them through there. But in our ATS that we use, there’s tabs and I see their resume on one and their LinkedIn tab shows up on another one.

Katherine Bouglai:

Wow. That’s a lot of work and you are a hero for doing all of this. And I am amazed how your head doesn’t explode at the end of the day. But it’s good to know, I think, for people because there is a lot of belief out there that well, if my resume doesn’t have the right keywords, nobody gets to see it.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

I think that’s still true with some companies. I’m not going to say that it’s not. But more and more, we’re seeing companies go to this new type of ATS where it’s an easy apply and people can easily apply and those don’t really have much of that barrier.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah. Except for the deal breakers.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah. But if a human’s going to look at your resume, they need to see the same things.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

If I start reading the resume and I don’t see any of the right buzzwords from the job, I might move to the next one that does and I would first grab the ones that match the job description closest.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay. So, you mentioned the word buzzwords, the B word. What are the buzzwords?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

It’s really the words that are on the job description that are part of the requirements.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay. So, those are the keywords?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah. I’m not looking for generic ones where people say productivity and these things.

Katherine Bouglai:

Excellent communication skills.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

If it says contract negotiation, I’m looking for contract negotiation. So, I’m looking for that.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

But, again, everything at that skills and requirements section of the job. How close does their resume and their background match that? And then, how close does their industry that they’ve been working in align with our industry? That sort of stuff.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah, that’s good because I had another episode with a resume writer back in February, I think, or was it March. I don’t remember. But it’s about resumes and we specifically talked about buzzwords versus keywords. And the buzzwords are things like, I don’t know, proven track records of successfully delivering, blah, blah, blah, corporate words that are really fancy but don’t carry any meaning whatsoever. Versus-

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah. Like it says, provided sanitation engineering to the office. They were a janitor.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah, yeah.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

I don’t need that. I need to know, did you use a mop? Did you use a bucket? Are you familiar with industrial cleaners? That’s what I need to know.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay. So, the next thing I wanted to ask you about the resumes and you did mention that you look at all of them and you look at the real resumes and not just the parsed version into the machine that only creates their skills. So, that being said, the presentation or the actual look of the resume, a nice formatted resume versus something that was just a bunch of text. How important is that?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

I think it really depends on the type of jobs you’re applying to.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

If you’re applying for a graphic designer job, marketing job, a visual job, I think you should showcase some of that in your application.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

If you’re applying for a project manager job, I think it’s fine for it to just be great text. If you do too much to your resume in terms of all this formatting, when it does get uploaded, it doesn’t always transfer the same way. I actually have many that I open and there’s nothing but bullet points on the page. I emailed the person and said, “Hey, your resume comes up blank. Can you send me a PDF so I can upload it for you?”

And it’s because their resume, probably, was in one of these special templates that had colored blocks and things and it doesn’t come up. So, then, I see nothing about them. If I was really busy and in a hurry, that might get to the end of my day. I might contact everybody else first and then message them later. And somebody else could have been the candidate in the first call I made that I get into an interview. And it’s not that the other person wasn’t qualified, but I couldn’t tell because their resume came across blank.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

So, it can be an issue for sure. I’m also not a big fan of pictures on resumes.

Katherine Bouglai:

Like photos, you mean or-

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah.

Katherine Bouglai:

…SmartArt? Or graphics?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Photos, yeah. SmartArt and graphics, a lot of times, doesn’t come across depending on the ATS. If you upload a PDF, it generally does, but sometimes it doesn’t. So, it’s something to keep in mind.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Or you can always apply with a less interesting dynamic resume that has the same content but without all that graphic. And then, send the recruiter if they contact you, if they’re interested in that, before you actually go interview with people.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

You know how we used to bring in a resume to an interview in person in paper in the past, right? But if you wanted to bring a different virtual copy that was a little more dynamic, you could always do that. But it’s hard because I know people want to use those formats to set themselves apart, but they don’t always transfer very well.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah, and it really makes a big difference where or who you get your resume with. So, I’m just going to share my opinion on that. I think the look matters. It matters that it looks good, especially if you’re a graphic designer or you work in marketing and you want it to look nice, you want it to look presentable and professional. At the very least, have it clean, have a clean format and not just a bunch of lines together without one bullet point has, I don’t know, a margin of two inches and the next one is a five inches and everything is a mess. You don’t want to send anything like that because it just doesn’t read well.

And there is also the strategy behind it because you do want to have some bullet points, because it’s easy to read through the bullet points. But you don’t want your whole resume to be bullet pointed because nothing gets separated.

Katherine Bouglai:

However, people go for the look and they will download a nice looking template. They’ll just Google resume templates and they pay $50 for it or they go to some resume service, the really cheap ones. And really cheap ones, I would say anything under $500 is what I would call cheap, and they come up with those templates that look nice but they don’t really work. Because they don’t get through the ATS or they have some issues or they completely lose the look because once it gets parsed, nothing is visible.

So, what I do, I actually design resumes on a Word document, I don’t use any template. And, every time, I will use a little bit of color just to highlight things. I will use some color on the header to make it look nice and stand out and then make sure all the bullet points are aligned. It does make a difference because I’ve seen I could just take a plain-looking resume and just add a little bit of a color and highlights and it already looks more professional. So, it does make a difference but you have to know what you’re doing so that-

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Correct.

Katherine Bouglai:

… it doesn’t-

Elizabeth Shaddy:

It’s worth it to get assistance from a resume writer or someone that does resumes like you do that know what they’re doing and understand how to present it, but what the barriers are. How you can do it that it will translate. The other thing is just as it’s important on your LinkedIn profile, it’s super important to get some skills block in that top third of your resume.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

And I notice a lot of people miss that.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah. To have a summary that’s clear, easy to read. And then, when you go into the experience section, that your experience and you did say that in the very beginning, tell a story. To tell a story and make sure that all your accomplishments are clear. You’re not just came in there and did a bunch of job duties that anybody else could do, but you actually made a difference in that company. So, that’s really important. And, of course, the content of your resume, what it says is a lot more important than how it looks.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

That’s true. And I think the thing that I see a lot of people do is that, like I mentioned, that list of your skills or what software you know how to use or special tools or special certifications. Oftentimes, for some reason, people put that on the very bottom which isn’t good because if they don’t like what they see at the top, they’re not going to the bottom of your resume.

Katherine Bouglai:

I always tell them to move it to the top. Yes, I know what you’re talking about.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

I see it every day. And sometimes I feel like I really want to tell the candidates like, “Hey, you’re so skilled and so amazing. Make sure they see it right up front.”

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah, I always say, “Move it up, move it up.”

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah. Don’t make the recruiters hunt for it.

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah. The education, your bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, whatever, that could go at the bottom because that’s not going to be the first thing they’re going to see. But if they want to know if you graduated, they’re going to look at the second page.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah. And the summary is also really good because you need to tell people that aspiration, where you’re hoping to head in your career so they understand where you want to see yourself developing into a new role or in the future. So, telling them where you’ve been, what you’ve done and what was great about that and what you learned and then saying, “This is where I want to go with that”, is really important.

Katherine Bouglai:

The next question I have for you is about passive search versus active search. What do recruiters do more of?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

It depends on the role, right? On some more entry level roles, it’s probably more reactionary search to what’s coming in, you’re getting a high volume in. But on mid level or senior level roles, it’s probably more passive search. We’re reaching out to a lot of really highly calibrated people using that skills and requirements and doing those searches to try to find people that are strong matches and inviting them to apply or into the process.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay. So, I think we are at the point where it’s time to wrap up. And thank you so much. This was so helpful. You have no idea how many people are just going to listen to it and have their eyes open because there’s so much we’ve heard today they didn’t know. And just to wrap up, one big question. Do you have any other suggestions for people who are looking for a new job, how to get noticed?

Elizabeth Shaddy:

I think, really, it’s what we’ve talked about already. Maintaining your profile digitally, wherever that would be. Making sure people can find you and making sure that your applications and your resumes really are putting your best foot forward.

Katherine Bouglai:

Okay. I’m going to say don’t always rely on the recruiters to just show up in your email and say…

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Yeah. Apply!

Katherine Bouglai:

Yeah! “Hey, I have a great job opportunity for you.” And who doesn’t love those messages, especially if the job opportunity really is amazing and something that you want. But, really, what it comes down to in the end, you have to be proactive. If you want something, you have to go for it. And if you don’t, then you’re missing out on the opportunity.

Elizabeth Shaddy:

Very true.

Katherine Bouglai:

Thank you for joining me for this episode of Conversations with Blossom Career. For more information on career transitions, visit my website blossomcareer.com to find lots of resources on career coaching, resumes, LinkedIn and more. If you’re interested in exploring what your future career might look like, feel free to schedule a complimentary discovery call with me. I’ll see you next time.

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