2015 has been a challenging year in Calgary. The ripple effect of low oil prices has resulted in layoffs, diminishing incomes/opportunities, and lower job satisfaction in every part of the oil and gas sector. There are lines of very qualified, skilled, and hard working people applying for the best jobs.People are thinking how on earth do I give myself any sort of advantage in this process? Is this going to come down to mere luck? I recently had this exact conversation with a good friend of mine (an engineer) who is looking for work in Calgary. Together we discovered that while making a descriptive resume is being taught in engineering, making an effective resume and effectively communicating to potential decision makers is not being taught. Working with him and other engineers I discovered the following:
1) Engineers often expect a detailed approach to reading their resume
2) Engineers often expect the first person reading their resume to read it in full and have a technical understanding of what is being read
3) Engineers often expect a fair assessment of each person’s capabilities and a purely objective, mechanical approach to determining who gets called for an interview.
If the person reading your resume is not an engineer or a highly experienced engineering recruiter, I can tell you from first hand experience that most often those things simply are not true. Often the first person reading your resume will be someone working in administration, human resources, or is an outsourced recruiter. While it’s safe to assume they have a vague understanding of what they’re looking for, they are likely not able to make assumptions or connections based on the information you provide. I want to give some very basic advice that has been a great asset to both my candidates and to friends and family who I have advised informally. Hopefully this helps and creates a better understanding of the behind-the-scenes processes that work to decide who gets interviewed.
1. Make your resume as clear as possible and as relevant to the job posting as you can. HR and recruiters are often inundated with hundreds of resumes for a particular job posting. Though it’s easy to feel slighted if your resume is deleted without it deserving to be so, remember that these folks have to slog through literally piles of information. In the case of HR, this is often not their primary job responsibility and they may not enjoy recruiting. Make it as easy as possible for people to read your resume and understand why you’re qualified. Take the time to tailor your resume to the job you’re applying to. Omit unnecessary details and try to answer, point by point, the requirements for the ad. I’ve always subscribed to Laszlo Bock, chief of HR at Google’s advice: make statements in your resume as simple as possible: “achieved x result using y for period r” or some variant of that simple formula.
2. Force the reader to continue reading rather than delete your resume. Most people will delete a resume in less than 30 seconds if they have hundreds to go through. Begin your resume with important information. For example, if the job is a mechanical engineering project manager specializing in heat exchangers, make your objective statement something like “mechanical engineer with 5 years of heat exchanger experience looking for project management opportunities ”. Avoid platitudes like “focused, hard working engineer looking to join a great company where I can grow and succeed with the company”. It’s unlikely these statements are being digested, as they offer no important information. Objective statements are only effective if they convey an actual concrete objective; achieving emotional responses is almost impossible in a resume (that’s what the interview is for).
3. Keep things short and concise. While it may seem like a good idea to include every detail, it is very unlikely your resume will be read in great detail. Make the page easy to read and navigate and be sure to emphasize the most important information.
4. PERSONALIZE THE COVER LETTER AND RESUME! I can’t stress this enough. There is nothing that looks worse than sending a resume and cover letter that has the wrong position in the title. Take the ten minutes and make it obvious that you put some time and thought in to the application—it will go a LONG way to improve your chances. Not only will your resume and cover letter be more focused and relevant, but you’ll also stand out from the people that spent 30 seconds applying to every job they saw. It’s your career; if the job isn’t worth taking ten minutes to personalize your cover letter and resume maybe it’s not something you really want anyway.
5. FOLLOW UP AND BE RESPECTFUL! Sourcing the name of the hiring manager is easier than ever with tools like Linked In. Following up your application with a quick, polite call asking if your resume was received and if you need to submit any additional info makes you stand out more than anything else. DO NOT BE PUSHY. This is the worst thing you can be. Taking the time to ensure the HR person or recruiter understands you respect their process is essential. Make sure you do not interrogate or harangue them for more information or to jump the queue. Even if the person seems mildly irritated, I can assure you that—if you’re respectful—they WILL read your resume. If you’re not qualified, don’t expect a call but if you are human nature suggests they will read your resume, and will read it in much greater detail. I understand that this equates to a “cold call” and is not generally part of an engineer’s toolbox. Working with an engineer friend we came up with a very simple, easy script that ANYONE can use to help in this process. I would be happy to share this script with anyone reading this blog, should they so request.
Of course these are only the first steps and acing the interview is a whole other matter.If you have any questions about anything that you’ve read, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have!
Thanks for reading and best of luck in the job hunt!