Anna S' Peer Connect Blogs

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Applicant Tracking Systems- What they are and 4 tips on getting your resume past them

Monday March 19th – Anna S.

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are special software programs used by HR and recruiters to quickly sort through the piles of applications they receive for a particular position. Usually an ATS will narrow down thousands of candidates into the top ten or so. So how can you make sure that your resume isn’t going to get filtered out?

1. Key Words

One of the biggest factors that will ensure your resume is picked up by the ATS is key words. Go through the job description and highlight any key words that relate to your past experience, for example “managed”, “teamwork”, and “organized”. Try to include these key words as many times as possible throughout your resume. The more key words you use, the higher the ATS will rank your resume. Make sure that you are using the EXACT words from the job description. For example, if the job description contains the key word “teamwork”, don’t use the word “collaborated” instead as the ATS won’t pick up on synonyms.

2. Keep it simple

Make sure that you are using simple bullets, and don’t have any pictures, graphics, or page borders. These things can clog up the software and your resume will be instantly rejected. Fancy bullet points don’t get read by the system, so the software sees your text as one huge sentence. The same thing applies to using tables or text boxes, just don’t do it.

3. Font

Again, you want to choose a simple font for your resume. Depending on the ATS software used, serif fonts such as Times New Roman may be difficult for the software to read. Sand serif (or Gothic) fonts such as Arial or Verdana are generally easier for the software to read. You should also avoid having coloured or gray text as this can also make your resume difficult for an ATS to read.

4. Format

Make sure that you pay attention to any instruction about how to submit your application. The job posting make specifically ask you to submit your resume as either a PDF file or Word Document. Make sure you follow the format specified as some ATS are not able to read PDF files.

While ATS software is definitely a huge time saver for employers, job seekers have to know how to avoid getting their resume rejected by the system. Hopefully you have found these tips helpful!

Happy job searching!

- Anna


Making Your Extracurricular Experience Work for Your Resume 

Monday February 5th – Anna S.

Most have us have been involved with extracurriculars at some point in our lives. Whether it's a high school sports team, university club, volunteering at an animal shelter or a leisurely hobby, we all have activities outside school and work. We may not think about it too much, but did you know that your extracurriculars involve skills that can be a great addition to your resume? Keep reading to find out how to use your extracurriculars to build an all-star resume!  

Why put Extracurriculars on Your Resume? 

Including interests and activities outside of academic and work experience shows that you are well rounded. It also gives your potential employer a better glimpse of you as a person. Extracurriculars are a great way to showcase your accomplishments and skills, especially if you don't yet have work experience in your field of study. Employers want to know that you are driven to contribute and achieve goals in your personal life as well as at school and work. It shows a good work ethic and what you are passionate about. Identifying the skills that you developed during these activities also demonstrates your self-reflection abilities as these skills can be more difficult to identify than those developed from school and paid work experience. 

How do you Write About Your Extracurriculars on Your Resume? 

In the world of resume writing, you will often hear about "accomplishment statements" or the "WHO Method". This is a way of writing about your experiences so that employers can clearly see your skills, and what you have achieved using those skills. Accomplishment statements have three parts; What you did, How you did it, and the Outcome of what you did. Many people make the mistake of simply listing their extracurricular activities, with little explanation that tells the employer why you felt these were important enough to go on your resume. Consider the statement: 

Captain of Highschool Soccer Team for two years                (2012-2014)

 That really doesn't tell the employer much other than that you are probably good at soccer. When we turn this into an accomplishment statements though: 

Team Captain                                                                         (2012-2014)

  • Elected as Captain of Highschool Soccer Team for two consecutive years as a result of outstanding teamwork skills and sportsmanship 
  • Mentored younger team members by using verbal communication skills to praise hard work and provide constructive criticism, resulting in a high player retention rate for the next year 

this experience provides a clear picture of what skills were developed (i.e. leadership, teamwork, sportsmanship) and what was accomplished (i.e. promotion to team captain, high retention rate). 

What Extracurriculars Should go on Your Resume? 

When deciding which extracurricular activities, you want to include on your resume, you want to mindfully select activities that add value to your application, showcase skills from the job posting, or have some connection to company/hiring manager. For example, if the job description talks about leadership skills, you would probably want to include activities such as sports or scouts. If it talks about creativity, you could include the fact that you play a musical instrument or were part of your school's drama club. 

It is also helpful to do some research on the hiring manager or the company to see if any of your hobbies match up with theirs. The hiring manager's LinkedIn profile might mention that they enjoy sailing, or the company might have a monthly dodgeball game. If you can include interests and hobbies on your resume that align with your potential employer, you can help them see that you will fit in well with the company culture.  

Where Should You put Extracurriculars on Your Resume? 

This depends on how many you plan on including, as well as how much space you have on your resume. If you have a few activities you want to include, they could go in their own section. If they were all through school (e.g. sports, clubs, etc.), you could put them in your education section. If you are only including one or two you could consider talking about them in your cover letter instead of making a new section on your resume.

 

Hopefully this has given you some guidance on how to include all your awesome extracurricular experience on your resume!

Happy job searching!

-Anna


5 Tools for Researching Potential Employers 

Monday January 22nd - Anna S

Every employer will tell you how important it is to properly screen candidates, but it seems that many job seekers underestimate the how important it is to screen the companies they are applying for. Just like your employer wants to make sure that you are a good fit for the team/company/role you will be working in, you want to make sure that the company culture and work style fit with you. Here are five resources you can use to research potential employers before accepting a role.

1. The Company Website
This might seem like a no brainer, but so many people don’t pay attention to key pieces of information that is right there waiting for you on the company website! Mission statements, the company’s history and the causes/organizations it supports are all pieces of information you can use to identify the company’s values. Not only will you be able to see if it will be a good fit for your values and passions, but working that information into your application and interview answers will impress the hiring manager.

2. LinkedIn
Many companies have LinkedIn profiles, and it is definitely worth checking them out when you are deciding which companies to apply to. You can see whether you have connections with people who work for that company, as well as content posted by the company that may not be available on their website. These posts can help you get a feel for what goes on in the company on a day-to-day basis, as well as the direction the company is moving in.

3. Connections
Once you have found some connections with links to the company, you can start contacting them to get the inside scoop on what it’s really like to work there. Are there social events? Are co-workers friendly or is it a competitive environment? How do supervisors handle unexpected emergencies? Inside connections can be one of the most valuable resources in researching potential employers, and of course it’s an added bonus if they are able to put in a good word with the hiring manager!

   4. Glassdoor
   If you don’t have any contacts inside the company, Glassdoor is a website where employees can
   anonymously post information about companies. This includes things like company culture,
   interview questions, and salaries. While this can be a
   great tool, it is important to take these anonymous comments with a grain of salt.

   5. The Interview
   Many job candidates forget that job interviews are a two-way street. At the end of
   every interview the candidates will be given an opportunity to ask questions. Don’t
   take this for granted! Hiring managers want you to ask questions because it shows you have a genuine interest in the job. Depending on the type of position you are interviewing for you could ask about training opportunities within the company, how the role is expected to evolve over the next few years, or about the team you will be working with. The possibilities are endless!

Researching potential employers is an important step in your job search, from before you write your application, right up to the interview. Being employed by a company that fits with your values and work style will help ensure that you find a job that you love!

-Anna 


5 Great Questions to Ask Your Interviewer

Monday November 21th 2016 - Anna S

 Interviews are stressful- no matter what your age, industry or level of experience is. Most people are well aware of the importance of preparing answers for some common interview questions, but that very last question that concludes most sessions- “Do you have any questions for me?” can cause many people difficulty. Preparing some questions for the interviewer beforehand is just as important as preparing your answers for their questions. It shows you have taken the time to research the role and/or company, and that you are genuinely curious about certain aspects of your potential work.

1. What would you consider to be the biggest challenge for someone in this role?

Asking this signals to the interviewer that you are someone who anticipates and even embraces challenges. It indicates that you will likely spend some time before starting the job thinking about how you will approach and solve this challenge. The interviewer may give a more general answer that will involve the application of some soft skills such as managing multiple projects at once, or they may offer details about a specific problem that the company is trying to overcome that will involve your input.

2. What would you expect the person moving into this role to accomplish in the first 30/60/90 days?

This question demonstrates that you intend to hit the ground running when you start this job, instead of simply using the initial few weeks to just get settled. The timeframe you choose to ask about will depend on the type of position you are interviewing for. For Co-op positions or summer jobs you would typically ask what would be expected within the first month or two in the role. For longer term positions that are higher up on the chain of command it is more common to ask about key expectations in the first 90 days.

3. What attracted you to the company when you were hired?

Asking your interviewer what they think are the company’s drawing features helps build rapport with them. Most people conducting interviews are quite happy with their jobs, so are likely to list two or three of their favourite things about the company. They will then remember your interview and associate it with the positive feelings created by talking about their job.

4. Can you tell me about the team I will be working with?

This question shows the interviewer that you are eager to be a team player and interested in how your role will interact with other positions in the company. The interviewer might only tell you the titles of the other people you will be working with and their roles within a certain project, or they might give some additional information on their industry backgrounds and outside interests. These details will help you in your first few weeks by providing talking points to start conversations with your co-workers and get to know them better.

5. Ask a specific question based on the role or interview

Preparing questions that are very specific to the job description shows you are genuinely interested in the role itself, not just finding a job. Although it is always best to arrive prepared with some questions, if you think of a question during the course of the interview based on additional information the interviewer has provided, asking that question should take priority. It shows that you were actively listening during the interview and gives a glimpse of how you might process information during team discussions.

When the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them, it is a great opportunity to gather more information about the role, as well as continue demonstrating the assets you bring to the position. However, this also signals that the interviewer is ready to start wrapping up the session so try to keep it to two or three well thought out and (when possible) specific questions. It also doesn’t hurt to write these questions in a notebook either before or during the interview as they come up- you aren’t being tested on your memorization!

Happy interviewing!

- Anna


9 Quirky Interview Questions and the Logic Behind Them

Monday September 26th 2016 - Anna S

Most of us have heard stories about being asked a question in an interview that seemingly has no relevance for the role you are applying for. However, there is logic behind these odd questions. The most common reasons are to see your problem solving skills/creative thinking in action, to get a better idea of your personality and potential fit within the team, or to see your ability to set priorities/goals and make decisions.

1. What would you do if you had $1 million to launch your best entrepreneurial idea?

This question is designed to show your ability to plan. If you say that you will spend all the money building a brand new office, the interviewer will probably be having doubts about your ability to create a business plan as well as handle money responsibly.

2. If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be?

Unless you are interviewing for a writing or journalism position, this question may seem totally irrelevant. However, the point of this question is to learn a little more about how you think, perhaps about your life goals and what you consider to be your biggest accomplishment. By asking for this information in a more obscure way, the interviewer is hoping to get a more honest and genuine response than they might get from a rehearsed answer to the more typical questions.

3. How would you get out of a blender if you were the size of a pencil?

Odd situational questions like this test your ability to problem solve quickly on the spot. The interviewer may also be looking for creative thinking and deductive reasoning. Try to make your answer unique and, if appropriate, humorous to make sure that your interview is memorable. Some variations of this question include:

• What are 5 uses for a stapler without staples?

• Why are manhole covers round?

4. If you had to get rid of one US state which would you choose and why?

Questions that require you to make a decision and explain your reasoning are usually meant to evaluate your goal/priority setting abilities. The interviewer is more interested in the thought process you use to make the decision than the actual decision itself. If you pick a state based on how terrible your last vacation there was, your application probably won’t be looking as good as someone who gives economic reasons for their choice.

5. What book are you currently reading?

There are a couple reasons that you could be asked this question in an interview. The interviewer could simply be trying learn more about your personality and interests outside of work. Alternatively, they could be trying to assess your intellectual curiosity or whether you are up to date with current industry or professional trends. Use your best judgment about the interviewer’s motivation based on the tone of the interview thus far (casual/general questions or very industry specific questions) as well as the position you are applying for. Start by talking about why you chose to start reading that book or if you can relate to a particular character. 

6. If you were an animal, what would you be?

This question is designed to tell the interviewer more about your personality, strengths and values. People tend to identify with animals that exhibit these qualities. For example, someone who identifies as a lion is likely to have good leadership skills, whereas an eagle may value freedom in a job, so may not respond well to being micromanaged. You may also be asked to explain why you chose that animal. If you are interested to know what animal is associated with your Myers-Briggs personality type, check out the following link:

http://personalitygrowth.com/myers-briggs-mbti-spirit-animals/

7. What do you think about garden gnomes?

This, and other surprisingly random questions, are asked to elicit an honest, genuine answer. The interviewer may be looking for how you react to the question, noting any frustration or humour, to assess how you will fit in with your potential team and the company culture.

8. If you walked out of this interview and found a lottery ticket worth $10 million, and you were the rightful owner of the money, what would you do with it?

Although similar to the first question discussed in this post, this one helps the interviewer learn more about your interests and commitment. Would you travel? Donate to charity? Pay off a mortgage? What if they called you the next day and offered you the job? Would you take it or never again work a day in your life?

9. How many times in a day do a clock’s hands overlap?

Quantitative problem solving questions like this are more concerned with your thought process than whether you get the right answer. The interviewer is looking for analytical thinking, how you approach the problem and your determination to come up with a well thought out answer. The key here is not necessarily to come up with the correct answer, but at least explain your thought process and perservere through the question. Variations of this question could be:

• How many golf balls fit inside a 747 plane?

• How many quarters would need to be stacked to reach the height of the Empire State Building?

Interviews can be stressful, and even with great preparation a quirky question can sometimes throw off your game. Remember, don’t panic, take a moment to think, provide a well thought out answer and explain your reasoning without worrying too much about coming up with the “right” answer.

Happy interviewing!

- Anna


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