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

Do I Want To Be An Open Networker On LinkedIn?

Dear RSL,

I see you are a member of an open networking group on LinkedIn. I joined that group partly because I
saw you there.  I’ve also joined some other open networking groups, but many of them seem so “spammy” and it seems like all a lot of them do is promote connection invites. I’m not getting the point of that unless that’s the only purpose.  So… which groups do you belong to and why?

You’re right; I am an open networker on LinkedIn.  What that means is that I accept all invites sent to me.  As for the open networking groups, their primary purpose is for open networkers to grow their networkers
and connect with other “like minded” open networkers or LIONS (LinkedIn Open Networkers).  I started off on LinkedIn about 5 years ago and from the start I have been an open networker.  There are different schools of thought on open networker with some wanting to only connect with people that they know personally, others want to only connect with others in their area of expertise and others like myself who will accept invites from anyone.

Why am I an open networker?  As a recruiter the biggest part of my job is building relationships and networking.  Over the years I have recruited professionals with a wide array of skill sets.  By being an open networker I have been able to not only connect with people as first connections, but by connecting it also allows me to be able to contact their connections if I want to.  So, it may not be my direct connection I’m looking to recruit or network with, but their connection.

As for the different groups that I am in on LinkedIn and why, I am in a number of different groups and they primarily fall into 3 categories.  The first category contains groups that are related to the types of positions that I’m recruiting for at the moment.  These categories will change periodically and you will notice at the moment they are focused primarily on Engineering and IT.

The second set of groups that I belong to on LinkedIn is centered around my resume writing business so you will notice that I belong to a few groups for Resume Writers.  These groups allow me to connect with others in my industry where we exchange ideas and ask each other’s questions.   I also belong to various job seekers groups and HR groups.

The third set of groups that I belong to on LinkedIn is related to my blogging.  These groups are for people like me who keep up with a blog and enjoy writing

To make LinkedIn Groups work for you is to determine what it is you want to do on LinkedIn and from there join appropriate groups.

 

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

Other ways to connect with RSL:

Twitter:  resumesurvisldy

LinkedIn: Resume Survis Lady

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

What Do Recruiters Look At When Looking At LinkedIn Profiles?

Dear RSL,

I hear you mention LinkedIn quite often, that you use it to recruit people.  What do recruiters look for when they are looking at people’s LinkedIn profiles?

You’re right; I do use LinkedIn very heavily!  What can I say; it’s been a great recruiting tool for me to find great candidates.  It’s also worked out very well for me as my profile on LinkedIn has led to 2 jobs finding me.

LinkedIn is a tool that should be used by all job seekers.  Think of the profile you create as a ‘casual’ resume.  What I mean by that is you will still want to have all of the relevant information contained in your resume as part of your LinkedIn profile including work experience, significant accomplishments and education but you also are able to be more casual with things like your summary.  For example, in my summary I state that in addition to being a recruiter/resume writer/blogger that I am also a superhero wife and mother 24/7.  Now that might make you laugh, but
quite often I will get comments on it and people remember who I am.  Just today I received an email to connect with the person requesting the connection saying they always wanted to know a superhero.

In addition to the typical “resume info” you will want to make sure that your LinkedIn profile is 100% completed to increase your visibility to those looking for people with your skill set.  This will include making sure you have a summary, list specialties, have contact information and references and belong to LinkedIn groups.  LinkedIn gives preference to those users who complete their profile by listing them higher in the rankings during searches and enable more people to find you.

As a recruiter I look at the groups that people belong to. I like to know that people I am recruiting are active networkers with others in their chosen profession.  It’s always good to show that you are keeping up on current industry standards and I think that belonging to and contributing to appropriate groups is extremely important for not only potential employers to see but to also network with others in your field.

Bottom line with LinkedIn: make sure you include all of your career history/education and include personal referrals.  If you don’t currently have any referrals, ask current and former colleagues/managers/clients if they will write a referral for you.  Make sure your profile is 100% completed.  If you’re interested in what a completed profile looks like, feel free to view mine:  www.linkedin.com/in/billye  Also make sure you have joined groups appropriate for your profession and are active in them.

Lastly, let me know if you have any questions and how it’s working for you.  Good luck!

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 through twitter:  resumesurvisldy her LinkedIn group: Resume Survis Lady and on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Resume-Survis-Lady/150368705033497

I’m Still 29… How Old Are You?

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

I am an “older” professional that has been displaced and have found myself unexpectedly in the job market.  I am worried that my age is going to hinder my ability to get a job.  What do I do if they ask me how old I am?

Before I answer this question, let me just start with a disclaimer that I am not an attorney or am I an expert on employment law.   Now that I have that out of the way we can get back to the question.  First of all, it is illegal for an employer or potential employer to discriminate against
someone due to age.  A “Best Practice” for industries is to avoid any questions that could be construed as trying to determine the age of the candidate.  This can include questions such as “What year did you graduate?” or “When did you go to college?”  The job interview should be
focused on previous experience, job skills and future goals.

Best practices aside, I have heard stories from others in the job market that they have been asked during the course of an interview how old they are, so I’m not going to say that it’s never going to happen.  What I can tell you is that age discrimination can be extremely hard to prove and the burden of proof would fall on you to prove that discrimination existed.  What you will need to decide if asked a question that is perceived as trying to determine your age is: what is the intent the question is being asked with?  Are they trying to purposely use your age to
discriminate?  And if they are, are they a company that you would want to work for?  But you’re not asking how to determine if age discrimination occurred or how to prove age discrimination so I’ll leave that one for the labor lawyers.

Back to what you should do if you’re asked how old you are.  It’s really quite simple.  If someone asked me how old I was during an interview, I would reply, with a smile on my face: “I’m still 29, how old are you?”

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 through twitter:  resumesurvisldy her LinkedIn group: Resume Survis Lady and on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Resume-Survis-Lady/150368705033497

White Texting Is Like Hiding Your Vegetables….Huh????

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

I just read your post about adding keywords to your resume and I understand the concept.  What is your opinion on “white texting” within a resume?  Will that help me get noticed?

First of all, for those of you that don’t know what “white texting” is, it’s the practice of adding a bunch of keywords at the base of a resume and having the text be colored white so that the words are invisible to the naked eye but a computer will hit on them and pull back the resume during a keyword search.  Now as for if it will help you get noticed, it will but necessarily in a good way.

Have you ever heard a story about how someone’s child hid their veggies in a napkin or fed them to the dog because their parents told them
they had to eat them but they didn’t want to? Maybe you did this as a child? To avoid actually eating them they come up with a way to conceal the evidence so to speak to make it look like they ate them and appease their parents.  White texting is a little bit like that food hidden in a napkin.  It’s a dirty little secret way of trying to cover up experience that one might not actually have and make themselves look better to a potential employer.  When I pull back a resume and I cannot find the keywords or experience that I am looking for, the first thing I do is go to
the bottom of the resume and highlight it to see if there are any hidden words there.   9 times out of 10 the key words I was looking for can be found this way.   Are you getting the picture that I don’t like white texting?

When I come across a resume that contains white text, the first thing I do is scrutinize the resume.  If the keywords I’m looking for are not actually in the resume does this candidate even have the experience that I’m looking for?  Chances are they do not.  My next question as I’m looking through the resume is: “what else are they hiding or being dishonest about?”  Job seekers, if you have certain experience, put it in your resume, don’t hide it.  If you’ve taken the time to research what keywords are important and want to include them so your resume will get hits, find a way to incorporate them into your resume.  This could be in your objective, work experience, technology; adding them to any of these sections would work.  If you’re not sure how to do incorporate the keywords you’ve identified, consult a resume writer.  I happen to know a  good one.

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 or on twitter: resumesurvisldy or connect with her directly on LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/Billye

Is There Something Wrong With My Resume?

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

Is there something wrong with my resume?  I’ve applied to over 100 jobs over the past 6 months and have gotten only a handful of responses which haven’t led anywhere.  I understand that I don’t have a lot of “real world experience,” but I do have an MBA along with 5 internships.  I’m at my wit’s end; any help would be greatly appreciated!

It can be extremely frustrating when you’re putting a lot of time and effort into something, in this case your job search, and getting very little in return.  Let me start by asking a few questions.  What type of positions are you applying to?  Are you sending out a generic resume for each position you are applying to?  What type of networking and self marketing have you done?

Let’s start with the positions that you are applying to.  With 5 internships, you’ve probably accumulated about 1-2 years of “real world experience” so you will want to make sure to target your search for positions that require a degree and require minimal experience.  If you are interested in a position but it’s requiring 5 or more years of experience, I can pretty much guarantee you will not get a call for an interview.  Know your skills.  Make sure the positions that you are applying to are positions that you are qualified.  Often times I have clients wonder why they’re not getting calls on positions they’ve applied to only to find out after some probing that they are applying to positions that “sound like something I’d be good at” but in reality do not have any of the required experience.

Have you changed up your resume for the different types of positions you are applying to or are you sending out the same resume for each
position?  Are you including a cover letter?  In addition to writing a customized cover letter for each position, it’s also very important that you customize your resume for each position that you apply to.  When I say customize, I mean change your heading to the title of the position that you are applying to, change your summary/objective to match the position and make sure your bullet points are showcasing the things that you have done in past positions that make you a strong candidate for the one you are applying to.  You want your resume to be focused.   If you need help, you might want to talk to a professional resume writer for ideas or take a resume writing class that teaches you how to customize your resume for each position.

Have you started networking yet?  No one can market yourself with more passion than you.  Make sure you join professional networks like LinkedIn or professional organizations in your area.  I can’t tell you how often I hear from people who have found their job through networking; myself included.  The last two positions I’ve had were due to being on LinkedIn, the jobs found me.  Don’t be afraid to join groups on LinkedIn or other professional organizations and be active.  These are professionals all there to help each other.  Ask questions and learn from others.

Is there something wrong with your resume?

To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com or on twitter: resumesurvisldy or connect with her directly on LinkedIn by sending her an invite to connect:  resumesurvislady@gmail.com

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