Job hunting in 2023?

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What Recruiters Look at Before Checking Your Resume


Before the days of the Internet and ecommerce; resumes were received via the post, or the business got a knock at the door and were personally handed the document. What happened then? Then, the manager had a pile of resumes littered all over their desk. Which one would they read first? The one that stood out of course! Perhaps it was the one with the interesting font or the one with bright colours over it. Either way, people had their tricks on how to make that paper catch the eye, and if they didn’t, C’est La Vie.

But now, in the world full of technology, how does one application stand out over all the others? More often than not, it is the pre-screening questions that will make the hiring manager decide if they will open the link to read your resume or not. You know the ones – when you go to the ‘Apply here’ button, you are asked to attach a cover letter and resume, and just before you hit submit; five questions or so appear. Questions such as ‘years of experience’, ‘VISA status’, ‘salary expectations’….well, we have some good news and some bad new for you.

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The bad news first: there is little to no way of being creative in your answers to make you “stand out”. These questions are to be responded honestly because they are very specific enquiries; ones you cannot ‘talk around’. It’s a version of a yes or no question. You cannot say ‘I sort of, roughly, have five years’ experience’, ‘I kind of have a driver’s licence’ or ‘I am sort of allowed to work in this country’. It is either you have a licence, or you don’t. Period.

If you read the job advertisement carefully, you should get a sense of what kind of individual they are seeking. Experienced, bilingual, licensed, and so forth. So, when it comes to answering the questions, be sure that these questions put forward are specific (there is a reason for them) and in most cases, albeit not always, are non-negotiable to the recruiter. If they require someone with five years or more experience, then a person with only one year will be overlooked quickly. It is the reality we are not thrilled to share with you. Upon carefully reading the job advert, you will know if you are matched for the position or not; however, there are many times we apply for roles that we know we are not fully suited for just to try our luck. And of course, you should apply to a job that sounds appealing to you; however, you must have realistic expectations with the outcome to.

Having said that, you may not always know what a company is looking for (we are not mind readers), such as the question about salary, for example. It is a very tricky area to tiptoe around. How do you answer the salary expectation question without knowing the company budget for the role? You do not want to over ask, nor under ask. Our advice is to always answer honestly but with wiggle room. You should always make sure that your personal minimum budget is met – after all, you need to be able to pay the bills.

You also need to make sure you are aware of the value market of the job you are applying for. So, for example, if your minimum budget is $500 a week and the value market for this level of work is $550, then you can say your salary expectation is $500-600 per week. You don’t want to be asking for much more than the role is worth, nor do you want to be underselling yourself. When you get to the interview stage you can ask about the salary range on offer and then further down the track if you’re the successful candidate that gets offered the role; you can negotiate some perks, salary reviews and promotion timelines. If the company, however, can only afford to pay $400 a week, then is this really the company you want to work for? Do you really want to work in a role that is undervalued and does not even allow you to make ends meet?

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So here are the blessings to these pre-screening questions, the good news: if your resume does not get a look at because of your answers, then fantastic as they have not met your expectations either! Do you think taking on a more senior role, where your experience is limited, is something you can handle? Can you perform a duty without proper licencing? Do you want to work for less money than desired or required These questions go both ways so that both the recruiter and you can find the right match.

In many ways, this is a much more effective way of filtering through resumes than the old-fashioned paper on the desk business. Imagine how many resumes one would have to read, phone calls they would have to make, wasting everyone’s time going through the basic questions before deciding to bring the candidate in for an interview or not. Imagine then going to said interview, getting to the third stage and only then finding out that your salary expectations did not align. How frustrating for everyone.

Well, now you know the truth about these questions and can understand perhaps why you did not get that phone call. Our advice: answer honestly, even if you are tempted to lie just so your resume gets a look, the truth will come out either once your resume is viewed, at an interview or with a job reference. It is best for all parties to be honest, because you don’t know who else has applied and which question is non-negotiable or has a preferred but not mandatory answer to it.

Happy Job Hunting,

My Career Angels

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

 Winston S. Churchill