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COLUMN: The Research Resume -- Optimizing Yours To Fit The Hiring Process 


By Norman Fraley Jr., distance learning manager for Kelly Scientific Resources

(the second part of this paper deals with Optimizing Your Job Interview)

OK, I know you are proud of your achievements, and you have every right to be. However, the HR Manager really doesn't care.

 Think about it. You see a job listed in a popular science or research journal and you think, "Hey! I really like the sound of that job. I think I'll send my resume to them." You dust it off, add the last job or two to the list, append the bibliography with the last few papers or seminars you have given, and write a killer cover letter explaining why you are interested in the position. You then mail it within a couple of weeks of reading the announcement, and anxiously wait for the phone to ring. Sound familiar? Are you still waiting for the phone to ring? Did you even get a computer-generated thank-you-for-sending-your-resume letter?

 Listen up folks: Here is how the hiring process really works a lot of the time:

 The Lab Manager finally becomes so fed up with being one or more headcount short that senior management gives in and approves an extra lab position. Human Resources (HR; a group that typically has a limited understanding of the scientific field) allows the Lab Manager, (who typically has a limited grasp of HR functions) to write the position description for the ad. HR then adds the obligatory HR copy to the bottom of the ad.

 The ad gets placed in the local newspaper and in the Lab Manager's favorite journal. Resumes are sent either a) directly to the Lab Manager or b) to a general PO Box routed to a HR reviewer. This depends on how uncomfortable HR is in dealing with the lab or how automated the resume-management process is.

 Scenario A—HR lets the lab do most of the hiring.
In this scenario, all resumes are sent to the Lab Manager—all 600 of them. The Lab Manager, pleased with the great response and used to reading rather boring material, gets started reading the resumes and cover letters. About 20 or 30 resumes later, the Lab Manager realizes that the lab is still short on personnel and work still needs to get done. The Lab Manager then starts skimming. Sixty or so resumes later, the Lab Manager comes to a new realization—there is not enough time to read through all of the replies.

 The Lab Manager then instructs the administrative assistant to review the resumes based on a few simple criteria (two to four primary keywords or functions) to filter them into a manageable number. The filtering process is simple: Two piles are made. One has the words the boss requested and the other doesn’t. (The rejected resumes are filed within the HR department for six months.) Six hundred resumes now become about 15. These are then carefully read and 10 are disqualified. The remaining five are shared with internal colleagues to get their opinions. Three are flown in for interviews. While working on filling the position, the Lab Manager hires a temporary scientist to get the work done. Total elapsed time: Two to four months.

 Scenario B—HR controls everything.
In this scenario, all resumes are routed to the central resume repository where the Optical Character Recognition system converts the resume into a form suitable for the master resume management system. HR then e-mails the Lab Manager a note to tell him or her that resumes have been received and are available for searching within the system. The Lab Manager does keyword searches for the candidates that might fit the bill. After a couple of hours of searching and guessing, a few resumes are printed and shared with colleagues for their opinions.

 Three people are identified and submitted to HR for consideration as candidates for fly-in interviews. After prompt disqualification by HR, three more candidates are identified. HR also disqualifies these. Finally, the Lab Manager gets completely frustrated and obtains a referral from a senior manager or a third-party executive search firm. HR accepts the new recommendation and authorizes a second interview with the Lab Manager. While working on filling the position, the Lab Manager hires a temporary scientist to get the work done. Total elapsed time: Two to six months.

 UNLESS: A local resume is submitted. If local candidates are available, their resumes float to the top of the list. HR will put more pressure on the Lab Manager to consider these candidate. Relocation expenses are incredibly high and, as a manager, limiting relocation expenses shows fiscal responsibility, you know.

 ALTERNATELY: The Lab Manager hires the temporary scientist who has been doing the job anyway. Over half of the scientists placed by Kelly Scientific Resources are hired by companies that first employed them as temporary help.

 Now, assuming either of the processes is true, what are the odds that a hiring manager will carefully review your resume? Unless you are fast in your response or you are local, probably not very good. To make matters even more depressing, word-of-mouth referrals rather than ad responses fill over 70% of jobs anyway.

 What can you do to maximize your odds of being flown in to interview? Move next door to the company, or at least get your mail forwarded from someone who lives nearby. Seriously though, one common factor in both of the above scenarios is keywords. You must make sure that your resume, not your cover letter, contains the most likely search criteria used by the hiring manager.

 To meet these criteria, you must rewrite your resume for every single job you wish to pursue. Does that sound like a lot of extra work? It is. You should position yourself as the obvious candidate and display your experiences in a historical perspective so that it reads like your every career decision has been made in order to get this very job.

 The absolute best thing you can do, however, is to get to know someone who works at the company. Find out what is required for the job and express interest in working at the company. You then become a candidate for internal referral, making you part of the other 70% of the candidate pool.

 Finally, seven basic resume tips:

 1) Use 12-point Arial font (this is easy to read). Limit your resume to two pages.

 2) Remember that the first seven seconds of reading are the most critical.

 3) Create a section called Professional Qualifications at the top of your resume. Use a bulleted format to list the top three to five reasons that you are perfect for the job, using as many of their words as possible to do it.

 4) Format your resume to suit the automated HR systems that many companies use.

 5) Place all of your key cover letter information in the resume itself.

 6) Use keywords that are actually used in the job advertisement.

 7) Make sure that this is a job you really want before you go through any of this effort.

 Your resume is a piece of marketing material. It's sole purpose is to get you an interview where you can speak with the decision-maker. Keep that in mind the next time you apply for a job.

 Please send comments or questions to columnist Norman Fraley at nfraley@verticalnet.com. Managing editor Laura Vandendorpe can be reached via e-mail at lvandendorpe@vertical.net

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