How I Updated My Resume And Got Job Offers After 8 Years Out Of The Corporate Workforce

I’m a big believer in practising what I preach. I’m also very keen on testing, re-testing and testing my resume again.

I don’t think it would be fair of a resume writer to sit behind a desk all day telling job seekers how to write a resume, what to include, what not to include, how to position yourself for a new job, how to change careers, or how to write a resume to re-enter the paid workforce after a career break, if I hadn’t tried and tested any of things I recommend myself.

So, once a year, sometimes twice, I update my resume, tweak my LinkedIn profile, and check that everything is current, just in case I’m asked to send a copy of my own resume for some contracting work. Once a year, I also set up some job alerts on Seek (Australia’s leading online job board), and wait for jobs that sound interesting to me to land in my inbox.

When they do, I get busy yet again with my resume, tailoring it to suit the jobs on offer that I’m pretty confident I could do, and have experience in, or transferable experience and skills, and I send off some job applications.

I get out the guidelines we give our resume clients and work through the steps so I can see things exactly how they do, at the same time updating and amending our top tips for getting a resume that will get job interviews. I also run my own resume through an applicant tracking system so I can test and score my resume against a job advertisement, so I know I have the best chance of getting invited to job interviews.

It’s a brilliant exercise in my mind. Firstly, it puts me right into the very same position my clients are in when searching for a job. Getting back into the head space of my job seeker / career-changer / re-entering the workforce clients keeps my feet on the ground, my advice current and relevant, and constantly reminds me just how hard it is to get noticed in an incredibly crowded job market where employers and recruiters seem to have the pick of the bunch.

It also makes me really anxious – because all of a sudden, I’m riding the job-seeker roller coaster that every single one of my resume clients does when we first connect.

I always learn a few new tricks from the exercise too, that I happily pass on to my clients, so they can learn from my experience.

The response has been amazing, not necessarily in a good way.

As of today, I’ve applied for 8 advertised jobs, all of which I am qualified (or overqualified) for, and have direct experience in. While the sample size isn’t yet significant, it is enough for me at this point to draw some conclusions about the current status of my resume, how my resume is being responded to in the current job market, and the process I’m following in my hypothetical 2017 job search.

For 4 of those jobs, (no longer advertised following 28 days on Seek), I’ve not even had the courtesy of an email of acknowledgement confirming receipt of my application.

I was absolutely convinced that I would get a call back from the very first job that I applied for (just like my clients!) I ticked every single box. I had the qualifications. I had the experience. I even had an extra qualification and medical experience that I was convinced would blow them away when they realised how much value I presented as a candidate. My resume was a 99% match when I ran it through the ATS. I did my research on the company. I found out who to address my letter to, read up on the decision maker, and researched some of the new work they were doing so I could include relevant examples of my experience doing something similar, and how it could help them move this new work to the next level. I actually went to sleep that night feeling a little smug because I was so absolutely sure that they would be on the phone the minute they read my resume and cover letter. Only thing is, that didn’t happen. In fact, nothing happened. No acknowledgement. No rejection. Nothing.

Not only do I find this insulting (as many of my clients do), but it astounds me that these organisations don’t realise the reputational damage they’re doing to themselves. Seek couldn’t make it any easier for recruiters to do this, given that it has a built-in feature that enables recruiters to send a generic email of acknowledgement. Many jobs also list the contact details, including direct email address and telephone number of advertisers, so when that happens, I also apply through Seek, and also send a copy direct.

Many of my clients have told me they quietly make note of those ‘non-responders’, determined to shun them in future as possible employers and product or service providers,  just as they have to them as job candidates.

Personally, I take it as a sign that if this is how an organisation treats a potential employee, the way they treat their paid workforce isn’t going to be any better, so I’m better off right from the start because they’ve already shown their true colours.

Just last week, I spent 6 hours carefully tweaking my resume and a cover letter to suit the job on offer.

You heard right! 6 hours … 6 hours carefully tweaking my resume and a cover letter to suit the job on offer.

I swapped out any irrelevant experience. I re-ordered my skill sets so the ones they were most interested in for the role were top of the list. I added a little over the most relevant key words so they would jump off the page for a skim-reader.

I detailed very specific examples (using the Challenge | Action | Result process) alongside each response to the essential and desirable selection criteria.  I included weighty facts and figures to substantiate my claims. I included a recent testimonial to add social proof, and even when to the trouble of creating a micro-website to showcase some experience I had in past marketing career, because the advertisement had asked for examples.

The early bird gets the worm. 

For another advertised position, I received an email response from a recruitment agent advising the role had been filled. It had been advertised for 18 hours by the time I submitted my application.

All credit to the recruitment agent however, because we did enter into a number of email exchanges in follow up, during which it was divulged that they were inundated with applications for the role (30 applications within the first 30 minutes) and as a result, they immediately started screening resumes (using applicant tracking software).

They then telephone interviewed 3 candidates within 4 hours and they even did a face-to-face interview with one candidate later that very same afternoon, and that candidatewho immediately received (and accepted) an offer.

So by the time I had tailored my application the night before pressing ‘apply here’, and emailed it off the next morning, one very happy job seeker was handing in their resignation letter from their previous employer and looking forward to their role starting 2 weeks later. One hour wasted the night before, and my application never stood a chance. The same could be said for the no doubt numerous other applications they received, as the job remained advertised on Seek for another 5 days. As they say, the early bird …

All in a week’s work. 

For another role, I applied for the job at 9:00 am on the Monday. Got the job offer at 3:00 pm on the Friday of that week. For this particular role, ego suitably bruised having had no acknowledgement or responses to my previous 4 applications, I now had no expectations whatsoever when I pressed ‘send’. But then I received an email response and invitation to interview less than 5 minutes after I had submitted my application. 4 days later I was interviewed. 15 minutes into the interview, I received a job offer. Quite possibly the quickest recruitment process I have ever participated in.

My takeaway? The process can be really quick if you’re the perfect job candidate.

It’s OK to ask what the salary range is.

One job for which I was really suited and was made an offer for, came down to salary. Rookie mistake on my part because I always advise clients that they should ensure that no matter how amazing the job will is, that the salary must meet their expectations.

Don’t assume that because you are a perfect match for the role, that you will get an interview.

Back to my 6 hours tailoring my resume and creating a micro-site to showcase my collateral … well, I did get a response. 4 days after submitting my application, and again, while the job advertisement was still active.

While I was ‘grateful’ to at least get the ‘thanks, but no thanks’ email, the thing is, they never bothered looking at 2 pages of the 3-page micro-site (how I know this is for me to explain another time). The email highlighted the high quality and calibre of the candidates, and necessary academic qualifications, the absence of which they used to justify my rejection. But I did have the qualification, along with another qualification that I know only 40 others have in tandem with the very specific academic credentials they requested of the applicants. I can only assume that was an oversight that I received that particular rejection email, or that they didn’t actually read what was on my resume and cover letter and micro-site, where I clearly detailed responses to the very specific selection criteria.

Should I have followed up to point this out? Perhaps. Would it have made a difference? I’ll never know, but it has highlighted yet another obstacle job seekers endure every day, and I can certainly empathise with the predicament.

Lessons:

  • Whenever recruiter contact details are listed on an advertisement, make contact with them (ideally by phone). It could save you hours if the role has already been filled, or the screening and shortlisting process has begun.
  • Just because a position is advertised on Seek, doesn’t mean there is still a position to fill. Recruiters may leave roles advertised that have actually been filled on Seek.
  • If a role does not list a salary*, it is OK to ask what the range is, if you get invited to interview. What waste your time (and the interviewers) if the role was to present a significant downturn in salary for you, that you weren’t prepared to accept, no matter how great everything else with the job sounds? We’re all working to pay our bills and finance our lifestyles, right?