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The Hi-Tech Resume

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Here to Stay or Gone Tomorrow?

So you think you've got the hang of writing a resume? Now that you've learned all the tricks of the trade, we're going to throw you a curve ball. Recent trends indicate that many large organizations are switching over to computer based applicant tracking systems to screen resumes. The fact is that computers are much faster and more efficient at reviewing resumes than their human counterparts. Computers can evaluate thousands of resumes in the blink of an eye, and select those that meet the criteria the employer has specified.

Computer Illiteracy

A Fortune 500 company, the implications of the computer resume revolution are substantial. You see, computers don't read the same way people do. They don't have the capacity to make assumptions, interpretations, or read between the lines. Computers can only search for information in a very literal sense. If your resume has the qualifications they've been told to seek by the employer, you're still in the hunt. If not, you're out.

Be Nice To the Scanner

The first hurdle your resume has to face is the scanner. The scanner is an electronic device which translates your resume into a code that the computer can read. Peter Weddle, chairman and CEO of Job Bank USA, offers the following formula to make your resume scanner friendly.
  1. Always laser print your resume.
  2. Make sure it arrives flat use a 9 x 12 inch envelope.
  3. Use point sizes no smaller than ten and no larger than fourteen.
  4. Don't use italics or graphics.
  5. Reserve bold print for headings only.
  6. Use fonts without serifs, such as Helvetica or Avant Garde, or with limited serifs, such as Roman.
Unfortunately, even if you adhere to these guide lines there's no guarantee that your resume won't be eaten, mutilated, or permanently lost in cyber land. You might as well put a second resume in the mail just to play it safe.

Words Are Key

Once you've gotten past the scanner, you'll need to impress the computer. To do this, Mr. Weddle recommends that you include on your resume the keywords that an employer is likely to use in a search. This means thoroughly researching your industry before you submit your resume, and knowing precisely what skills are in demand. Assuming you have these skills, and assuming you include the correct keywords, the chances of your resume being selected for closer scrutiny are pretty high. Of course, at this point you're back to dealing with humans. Hopefully you still remember how to do that.

Resume Databases

Another development that has the potential to significantly alter the way you look for a job is the renaissance of so called third party or independent resume database services. These firms have actually been around since the 1960s, but because of recent technological advances they are just now beginning to have a more profound impact on the employment scene.

For a nominal fee, these services offer you the opportunity to have your resume stored on a database which in turn is marketed to employers. The advantage, it would seem, to both employers and job hunters is a tremendous savings in time and money. Employers can gain practically instant access to the resumes of only the most qualified applicants for a mere fraction of what it would cost them to have an employment agency or head hunter do a comparable search. The job hunter, on the other hand, can receive tremendous exposure without the time consuming and expensive practice of sending out hundreds of resumes.

But Do They Work?

In practice, the effectiveness of resume database services, particularly for college students and recent graduates, has yet to be determined. Very little data is available on placement rates. Also, the general consensus is that these services lend themselves more readily to job hunters who are seeking positions in more conventional fields. If your goal is to find a position in the arts or human services, don't expect a resume database service to be your savior.

Despite their limitations, resume database services certainly can't hurt your job search, and in many cases they may help. The cost of subscription is usually so inexpensive that you might as well give one a try.

A Sampling of Electronic Resume Database Services

For a $75 annual fee, Job Bank USA provides what chair man and CEO Peter Weddle calls "electronic networking and career insurance" twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Approximately fifteen to twenty percent of the 30,000 or so Job Bank USA subscribers are re cent graduates, and Weddle's organization has contracts with about seventy alumni associations. Weddle notes that al though the single measure of merit of a database service has always been "did you get me a job?," Job Bank USA offers more than just potential placement. Membership includes a quarterly newsletter concerning career management and job search counseling. Job Bank USA can be reached at 1  800 296 1 USA.

People Still Hire People

Of course only time will tell whether computerized applicant tracking systems and electronic job hunting become the norm rather than the exception. For now, you need to be aware of the implications of these developments and adjust your approach when necessary. In some cases, you may need to prepare two resumes one that will satisfy a computer, and one that will satisfy a person.

In the meantime, try not to lose sight of the fact that even in this age of reliance on technological devices to perform tasks that were previously the domain of humans, it is still people who make the hiring decisions. So in the end, the best path to success is to get out there and do some good old fashioned job hunting.
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