SOLVE THE RIDDLE: TRANSLATING A POSITION DESCRIPTION INTO SUCCESS

So you’ve printed out your resume, highlighted key phrases, and written some great questions for each
of the central bullet points. Now we need to take a deeper dive into the position description – section
by section.

The company description section of the position description is a great place to hunt for the values and
hints about the corporate culture. Remember that much time and energy has been put into mission
and vision statements and this is a big clue on how the company wants to be perceived. Think about
the difference between “customer-focused” and “results-driven” in the mission statement. Most
importantly – this changes the lens by which you will create your cover letter and what you will want to
convey during the interview.

The position overview will provide some details about reporting structure and general responsibilities.
One of the biggest flaws I see in position descriptions occurs in this section – it is often quite difficult to
determine what the actual day-to-day responsibilities are. The verbs, or action words, that are used will
provide some additional context. What’s the difference between “direct” and “oversee”? If you need to
pull out the dictionary and look the words up – there are subtle differences that may have some impact
on how you portray yourself.

Human Resources and the employment relationship reflect one of the fastest growing areas of litigation
in the United States today. And with that comes something most HR folks dread – compliance. If a
company has government contracts, they are required to follow OFCCP. Aside from sounding scary,
this alphabet soup has a big impact on your job search. If a company uses the phrase “minimum
qualifications” in the requirements section this means that they are truly minimum qualifications. The
HR representative is not allowed to consider you for the position unless you have these qualifications.
Do not waste your time on applying for positions that you only have 3 out of 5 the minimum
qualifications.

The additional requirements section is where recruiters puts the “nice to have” elements of a job. If
you have many of these skills and abilities, you have an increased chance to landing the position. You
will also notice that many of the “soft skills” of the positions are mentioned here. Be sure to use those
themes in your cover letter, resume, and for your interview preparation. Here’s one way to think
about it: If the company says they are “customer-focused” you will want to prepare an example story
to demonstrate of when you delivered exceptional customer service. Also, sometimes you will see
a requirement such as “must come to work on time and be ready to contribute” – which sticks out a
little bit or doesn’t have the same voice as the other parts of the description. This may be a clue that
the person in the role before you had problems with punctuality or brought problems at home into the
workplace. In these cases, be sure to highlight your punctuality throughout the hiring process.

In summary, use the key words and phrases used in the position description when you are tailoring your
cover letter, resume, and through the interviewing process. Pay particular attention to the verbs being
used. Make sure that when preparing for your interview that you are able to highlight examples in your
work history that reflect not only the tasks/skills of the position, but also the values of the organization.

And finally, remember to use the 5 W’s: who, what, where, when, and why to be able to ask exceptional
questions during the interview. Good luck!


Angela Harris has a 15 year career in human resources, with several years in management consulting and quality. She current works at ASQ, the American Society for Quality, where she works on the development of ISO standards.  In addition to working at ASQ, Angela owns a consulting practice (ASHconsulting), is a Wisconsin Forward Award Examiner, sits on the SHRM Task Force for Metrics & Measures, is on the Board of Directors for the Wheaton Franciscan Foundation for St. Francis & Franklin, and was Executive Director of Milwaukee JobCamps.  She received her M.S. in Human Resources from Marquette University.

Feel free to connect with Resume Survis Lady:

Twitter:  resumesurvisldy

LinkedIn:   http://www.linkedin.com/in/billye

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SOLVE THE RIDDLE: HOW TO READ AND ANALYZE POSITION DESCRIPTIONS

When I work with my job-seeking clients, one of the first skills I teach them is how to read and analyze a position
description.  This is a critical skill that all job seekers must learn.  Once you get the hang of it you will realize it is fun – like solving a riddle.  Think about it this way:  does your resume convey everything there is to know about you and your experience?  Of course not!!  The position description serves the same purpose:  it provides the starting point for a very important conversation.

There are many benefits to learning how to read a position description.  You will:

  • Only apply to those positions you are actually qualified for – saving time and effort
  • Save your reputation with recruiters by not applying to things you aren’t qualified for
  • Be able to better tailor your cover letter and resume
  • Discover what made your predecessor successful (or not!)
  • Be well-prepared for an interview
  • Be able to better guessimate the compensation range for the position

So with all those benefits, I know you are ready to take the first step.

STEP #1:  PRINT OUT THE DESCRIPTION

After a quick scan and interest, print out the position description.  This is not a time to worry about trees – most descriptions will be 2-3 pages and the investment you make here is well worth it.  Once you have a job – feel free to make a donation to your favorite environmentally-friendly group.  I have found that I can read more easily on paper versus the computer screen.

STEP #2:  ACTUALLY READ THE POSITION DESCRIPTION

I mean actually READ it.  Not skimming.  Not scanning.  Not reacting.  Read the document for COMPREHENSION.
Pay particular attention to the verbs being used in the general responsibilities section.  The verbs not only give you a clue to actual tasks, but also to the level of responsibility of the position.  For example:  there’s a big difference between “Manage multiple communications projects…” and “Deliver web-based content by target deadlines.”

STEP #3:  HIGHLIGHT THE KEY WORDS

Get out your favorite color highlighter and find the 5 or 6 phrases or sentences that seem to be central to the position.  Use a different color to highlight industry jargon, certifications, or buzz words. You should use these exact key words in your cover letter and resume.  For example:  if the position description says “Must be proficient in Microsoft Office” write “Microsoft Office” – if it says “Word, Excel, and PowerPoint,” write the same.  This will ensure that when a recruiter runs “Google-like” searches in an applicant database, your resume will come to the top.

STEP #4:  WRITE QUESTIONS ON THE DESCRIPTION

In the above example, I would want to know WHO I am managing, HOW many projects, and WHAT type of communications they are referring to.  Back in high school, I remember learning the 5 W’s – who, what, where,
when,
and why.  And let’s go ahead and add the how too.  You should have questions for all of the key bullets on the description.  Writing these questions down will have many benefits for the interview process, particularly with the hiring manager.   First, having this completed will show that you took the time to read and understand the role.  Opening the interview with, “I read the position description and I have some questions I really would like to ask you…” allows the interview to become less Q&A style and more like a conversation – which is better for everyone.

In a follow-up blog, I will show you how to look at each of the key sections of a position description and how to use that information to land your next job!


Angela Harris has a 15 year career in human resources, with several years in management consulting and quality. She current works at ASQ, the American Society for Quality, where she works on the development of ISO standards.  In addition to working at ASQ, Angela owns a consulting practice (ASHconsulting), is a Wisconsin Forward Award Examiner, sits on the SHRM Task Force for Metrics & Measures, is on the Board of Directors for the Wheaton Franciscan Foundation for St. Francis & Franklin, and was Executive Director of Milwaukee JobCamps.  She received her M.S. in Human Resources from Marquette University.

Feel free to connect with Resume Survis Lady:

Twitter:  resumesurvisldy

LinkedIn:   http://www.linkedin.com/in/billye

Keywords, Keywords and More Keywords!!!

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

It’s been a long time since I’ve needed to update my resume and I’m sure there have been a lot of changes with how to format a resume and what you need to put on it.  I want to maximize the number of times my resume is reviewed and I’ve heard adding keywords are the way to do it.  What are keywords and how do I incorporate them into my resume? 

Ahhh….keywords!  I love keywords!  First of all let me start by explaining what keywords are for those who may not know.  Most resumes are now submitted and stored electronically.  This would include resumes that you upload to a job board such as CareerBuilder or Monster or a profile that you have created online on a site such as LinkedIn.  For most positions you apply to, you will also be applying online through what is known as a company’s “Applicant Tracking System” or ATS for short.  This would be when you visit a company’s career website and apply to a position that
is listed on their site.  All electronic databases have the ability to search the resumes stored through entering keywords or search strings.  Think of it like a search engine such as Google.  If you go to the Google home page to search for a specific product or specific information, you would enter your search string of keywords and hit enter to see your results.  It’s the same with electronic resume banks.  A potential employer can use a search feature to enter specific keywords of things they are looking for.  This could be something like CPM (Certified Purchasing Manager) to PE (Plant Engineer) to Automation experience, etc.

So, should you use keywords in your resume?  ABSOLUTELY! One of the biggest mistakes I see with resumes that are not professionally written is the absence of keywords.  A great example of this is when you list your employment history.  Do you have the industry listed or what each company does? This is an area that is often overlooked when writing a resume.  If a recruiter is looking for someone who has experience in the “specialty chemical” arena, they will often use keywords like: Chem, specialty chemical, specialty chem, chemical.  If you do not have it listed in your resume,
your resume will not be pulled back.

There are different ways that you can include keywords into your resume.  The first would be to include them in the body of your resume as you are writing it.  Enter a short “blurb” about the company after you list it on your resume such as:

XYZ Company, Milwaukee, WI                                                                                                 4/2006-11/2010

XYZ Company is a Recruitment Process
Outsourcing (RPO) company known as a global pioneer of innovative and uniquely
effective talent sourcing and strategy for its clients.

 You can also create a keyword section at the bottom of your resume where you can list in succession all the keywords that are not already listed in your resume:

Manage, Strategic, automation, DCS

There is no limit as to how many keywords you can add to your resume.  Just make sure that the keywords you enter are relevant to your experience.  The goal of submitting any resume electronically; be it to a job board or through an ATS for a position that you are applying to, is to have your resume reviewed.  Having keywords in your resume will help to ensure your resume is not overlooked during the initial screening process.

What has been your experience with keywords?

Resume Survis Lady is written by Billye Survis. To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your
questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com

Feel free to also connect with Resume Survis Lady:

Twitter:  resumesurvisldy

LinkedIn: Resume Survis Lady

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Hundreds Of Resumes And No Response….

Dear RSL,

I’m in the middle of a job search and I have sent out what seems like hundreds of resumes.  Other than a couple of interviews and a handful of emails letting me know I was not being considered, I have not heard
anything.  Is this normal?

Searching for a new position can be daunting and at times a bit frustrating.  You’re doing a lot of work trying to find a new position and would like someone to acknowledge that they’ve at least received your resume.
So why are you not getting a response?  There could be a number of reasons as to why you’re not hearing anything back.  First of all, take a step back and look at the jobs that you are applying for. Look at the job description and what is stated as minimum or basic qualifications.  Do you have the experience and skills that are required for the position?  Or instead of having the qualifications feel that you could do the job and be good at it?  Chances are if you do not have the experience and skills required for the position and instead feel it’s something you’d be good at, only those applicants that do have what the company is looking for will move to step in the process.

Another reason that you might not be getting a response to your resume is because of the sheer number of applicants that are applying.  Take one of the positions that I am currently recruiting on.  It’s an electrical engineer position.  In one day alone I received 25 applications.  It is not unusual for me to be dealing with over 100 applicants or more for a position.   Of the applicants that apply to a position, I will only forward the top candidates to the hiring manager for consideration.  If you’re applying to positions that have a lot of applicants, it might be that your application was received too late to be considered or that there were other applicants more qualified.

While it would be nice to receive some type of notification with every resume that is sent, not all companies are set up to respond to the large number of candidates that have applied.  Also remember that if you haven’t received a response to your resume submittal, it’s okay to follow-up to ensure your application was received and to find out if you’re being considered for the position (https://resumesurvislady.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/help-who-do-i-follow-up-with/).

Resume Survis Lady is written by Billye Survis. To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com

Feel free to also connect with Resume Survis Lady:

Twitter:  resumesurvisldy

LinkedIn: Resume Survis Lady

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Resume-Survis-Lady/150368705033497

Who Do I List As My References?

Dear RSL,

I am going to my second on site interview for a position I really want.  The company has asked me for a list of references.  Should I include personal references, peer references, managers or a combination?  What types of questions does a company ask a reference?

Great question!  A company asking for references is a good sign! When you are preparing your list of references, it’s always good to have a combination of people including at least two people who you have directly reported to as well as one or two peers.  There really is no need to add a personal reference unless it is an entry-level position or a first position.

To answer your next question as to what to types of questions a company asks references; that depends upon the company and what type of position you are applying for. Generally, the questions will revolve around work ethic, attendance, reason for leaving, ability to be rehired, etc.

Do you know what your references will say about you? Although my current position does not include conducting reference checks, I have conducted plenty of reference checks in my past.  What always amazed me is those candidates who give me a list of references and one or two people on their list give them a
terrible reference.   Have a conversation with them before adding them to your reference list.  Ask them what they are going to say about you.  Don’t just assume that they are going to give you a glowing reference.  If you’re not sure what they’re going to say when called by a potential employer, don’t include them on your reference list.

Resume Survis Lady is written by Billye Survis. To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com

Feel free to also connect with Resume Survis Lady:

Twitter:  resumesurvisldy

LinkedIn: Resume Survis Lady or www.linkedin.com/in/billye

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Resume-Survis-Lady/150368705033497

Addresses on resumes?

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

With everyone using the internet to submit their resume and email to communicate, is it necessary to put my full street address on my resume?

I have to say, this is a question I have never been asked before in my 10+ years of resume writing and recruiting.  I have always included full addresses on resumes that I have written, so I needed to do a bit of research before I felt I could answer this question.

I went through and read everything I could on the pros and cons of including the full address on a resume.  It really is a personal call as to if this information should be included or not.  After I finished reading up on the matter, I asked some hiring managers what their thoughts were regarding addresses on a resume, but more on hiring manager’s views in a moment.  First I will address the cons of including addresses on resumes.

The biggest negative I could find with including addresses is around privacy.  If the resume was to fall into the wrong hands, there’s the possibility that their privacy and/or security could be breached.  I have to admit, the only resumes I have ever seen without an address are those received from an agency recruiter who doesn’t want me to contact the candidate without their knowledge.  The second negative I found was that including the street address on a resume could be seen as being outdated, not technically up to date and instead just be sure to include cell phone, email and LinkedIn profile addresses.  The final con that I was able to find was for candidates that want to relocate to where the position is located and do not want to be removed from the applicant pool based on where they currently live.

By including an address on a resume, you are providing the recruiter and hiring manager a complete picture.  When there are pieces missing off of a resume that are usually there, I start to think that the candidate is trying to hide something and there resume gets extra scrutiny.   I also spoke with a few different hiring managers regarding their views of including or excluding addresses on a resume.  What the overwhelming consensus was is that they want to see the address on the resume.  Without that address, many hours could be spent on the candidate before realizing that relocation might be needed or that the candidate is interviewing with the hope that they will be able to work remote within a few months of starting.

I’m curious as to your thoughts.  Do you currently have your address included on your resume?  Until I have a compelling reason not to, I am going to continue including addresses on the resumes I write for my clients.

To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com or on twitter: resumesurvisldy

The Cover Letter Mystery

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

What do I need to include in my cover letter or is it no longer necessary to have a cover letter?

While a cover letter is not required, it definitely is a nice thing to have.  Think of it like the bow on top of a present.  It’s not something that is required, but it brings everything together and makes it look good.  The same can be said for a cover letter, it pulls together your resume, the position you are applying for and why you are interested in the position.

Now that it’s decided a cover letter is a good idea, what all needs to be included?  First and foremost you are going to want to individualize each cover letter for each position that you apply for.  Remember a few posts back when I talked about key words in resumes?  Well, key words are also important in cover letters.  You will want to make sure that you read, read and re-read the job description of the position that you are applying for, highlighting the key skills that are listed.  Once you have the skills highlighted, you will want to incorporate them into your cover letter and how they match up with your experience. 

Another tip with cover letters is to use the same or similar verbiage in your cover letter that was used in the job description.  Often times when recruiters are searching their database of past applicants, they will use verbiage or phrases used in the job description in their search.  Using their verbiage will help to ensure that your resume comes up in their search.

In addition to skills and keywords taken from the job description, be sure to include why you feel you would be a good fit for the position. If the position would require relocation, state why you’re open to relocation.

Now that you know what needs to be included in your cover letter, time to get busy!

To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com or on twitter: resumesurvisldy