The economy is HOT-HOT-HOT.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the unemployment rate in April was 3.9% following 6 months at 4.1%.
Unemployment is low, jobs are everywhere – but why is it so hard to find a job? Simple reason – the economy is hot so people are looking to move which means that the competition for jobs is significant.
If you are on LinkedIn and use their jobs function to look for work, do a simple search for PROJECT MANAGER for the United States. LinkedIn returned over 131,000 listings. Of those, I took a look at only the top 3 listings shown:
- Project Manager for Adobe in Boston, MA. Posted May 11, 2018. At 8:50pm PST there were 266 applicants. Of those 38% had Bachelor’s Degrees, 34% have Master’s, 26% have MBA’s.
- Project Manager for Perficient in Atlanta, GA. The posting is about one-week old. There are 199 applicants.
- Project Manager for Hays Recruiting in Houston, TX. The posting is about one-week old and has 214 applicants.
- Project Manager for Amazon in Seattle, WA had 206 applicants and has been online for about two-weeks.
If you are looking to move into a large, well established company – the competition is fierce. Even when I looked at postings from smaller companies or start-ups there are still many applications. For example Home Depot had over 90 applications for a project manager position.
What this means is that you need to stand out. The first step is to get past the ATS (applicant tracking system) with a killer resume that has the right number of keywords so that the ATS doesn’t reject you automatically. Then your cover letter needs to tell a story, not simply restate what is on your resume – you need a disruptive cover letter. Something that an internal HR recruiter will look at and instead of putting it down, will take a second look because it is different from every other cover letter.
If you get past the initial screening and get to the phone screen, and recruiters have told me that they will spend maybe 6-15 seconds per resume then you need to kill it on the phone screen. Get past that then you still need to kill it in the in-person interview.
Today most companies are not satisfied with one interview. Chances are you will speak to multiple people over several weeks before a final decision is made.
Companies are investing tremendous amounts of time in the interview process to ensure that they get someone that is a good culture fit. A bad hiring decision can be disastrous for the company and the morale of the team. According to several articles I read, it can cost anywhere from 24% to 30% of an employee’s first year salary if you need to replace them. This is only the monetary value and doesn’t include the soft costs of lost productivity, decreased morale and having your HR restart the process either internally or use an external agency — which has its own costs (most agencies charge 18% of the salary as their fee and this will increase for more specialized and technical roles).
So companies have to get it right the first time.
As a job search candidate what can you do to ensure you make it past the ATS?
While you need to ensure keywords related to the industry you work in are on your resume, look at the job description for the position you are applying for and look at what they require. I would recommend printing out the posting and using a highlighter identify the keywords that are important to the company.
In the Amazon advertisement, here is what I saw as key to have on the resume:
- Oversee content creation
- Comprehensive understanding of online and offline creative development and execution
- Creating project estimates
- Product management
- Coordinate and support designers, producers and production teams
- Seamlessly manage multiple projects, own schedules, outline (identify) key milestones
- Thrive in a dynamic, fast-paced environment
- Implementing processes and interfacing (liaison) with multiple internal teams
- Excellent project management skills
- Strategic thinking & problem solving
- Strong communication skills
- Ability to work independently with cross-functional teams
There is a lot more that I could have picked out, however you get the idea. The job for you will be to weave the keywords into your resume so when you send it through LinkedIn or into Amazon’s ATS your application gets flagged for review. You build your story into the bullet points that tells your experience from previous positions.
The resume templates you see all over Google – crap. Total crap. Everyone is using them and they are heavily formatted using layouts that may not get past an ATS. Your resume needs to be clean, simple and effective.
What seems to be working is your details in the header (leave out your address), include an e-mail address, contact phone number and VERY IMPORTANT – your LinkedIn profile address.
Next section a quick overview of your experience 6 – 8 points like “Process Improvement”, “Agile Project Management”, “Operations Management”, “Strategic Thinking & Planning” — basically some of the keywords (from that Amazon posting, for example) that truly describe you. DO NOT LIE because you will get caught.
In the same area, list the technologies you have worked with and understand for example, Microsoft Office, Google Apps, JIRA, Slack or any other specialized tools.
Next up is your work history.
The format should be
POSITION TITLE, COMPANY, LOCATION (TIME THERE)
Under each heading tell your story in bullet points. Prove to them you are work $150k or whatever you are asking for.
Finally show any relevant education – college, university. What is important is to show that you are a continuous learner, companies want to know that you want to grow, and will grow.
The disruptive cover letter is key to securing an interview, your skills are equally as important lets not forget that. Cover letters of old are just restating your resume – nobody will read it. You need to really tell a story in your cover letter.
- Paragraph 1 – Make the pitch that you are perfect for the role
- Paragraph 2 – Get them excited
- Paragraph 3 – Hard hitting highlights
- Paragraph 4 – Say goodbye while refreshing their memory
Continuing to use the IT Project Manager example:
I am confident my ability to lead million-dollar projects from end-to-end and jumpstart those long-stalled could benefit ABC Company. Thank you for your time and consideration.
There are jobs out there, but you need the right tools and use the right methods and processes to get your foot in the door then WOW them into hiring you.
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