Recruiters give tips on resume writing More firms are using computer scanning

Human resources

October 12, 1997|By Taylor Lincoln | Taylor Lincoln,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A quote was wrongly attributed in an article in Sunday's Business section. Corp. of Plano, Texas, said: "You need to do whatever is possible to get your resume up from the depths of that database to get it before a recruiter. If the 'must-have' is [familiarity with] Excel and the person doesn't have Excel on their resume, it won't come up."

The Sun regrets the error.

With 100,000 resumes spread around nine district offices, the process of keeping track of prospective employees had become unwieldy for Gaithersburg-based ManorCare Inc.

"We were kind of recruiting in little silos all over the country," said Mark Sneff, director of human resources for the nursing home company.


"There was no way to coordinate the resumes we had on file, so we looked for a technological solution."

ManorCare decided to purchase Restrac Hire, one of two major computer software programs designed to allow companies to scan applicants' resumes into centralized computer databases.

The programs use an improving technology called optical-character recognition to "read" the resumes, converting them into computer text that can be stored in specialized databases. Personnel officers can then search their resume banks by typing in "key words" that fit the required skills of the positions.

"A good recruiter can look at 100 to 200 resumes tops," said Sneff, whose company began piloting the new software three months ago. "Now we can look at tens of thousands."

ManorCare is one of a growing number of companies that are using the software programs in hopes of reducing recruiting costs while improving their success at finding the best candidates for jobs. And, experts say, as use increases, applicants will need to know how to make their resumes pop up on a recruiter's screen.

Beyond focusing searches on desired skills, the software programs also allow companies to maintain digital files on candidates, including letters and interviewing notes.

"It allows us to keep track of all of our correspondence -- that's the big advantage for us," said Seth Feit, manager of college recruiting for McClain, Va.-based DBM, an information technology software development firm, which also uses Restrac.

While there are no solid figures on how many companies are using the technology, David Yockelson, vice president and director of the Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group, which provides companies with technological advice, said that perhaps 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies are using it.

The two industry leaders, Restrac Inc. of Massachusetts and Resumix Inc., a subsidiary of Ceridian Corp., each boast about 400 clients. Their software packages often cost over $100,000.

Even if only a minority of companies are currently using the technology, experts say, job seekers need to be aware of its use, which has blossomed in the past three years.

How well applicants adjust to it could determine whether they get considered for jobs.

Specifics are essential, said Carolyn E. Ford, a campus relations representative for Plano, Texas-based Electronic Data Systems Corp. Ford advised students on how to make their resumes scannable during two recent workshops organized by the Career Center of the University of Maryland, College Park.

"You need to do whatever is possible to get your resume up from the depths of that database to get it before a recruiter," said Sneff. "If the 'must-have' is [familiarity with] Excel and the person doesn't have Excel on their resume, it won't come up."

In addition to software programs, applicants should list all former job titles, academic degrees, skills and professional affiliations, experts say. An advice sheet published by Resumix suggests that applicants describe appropriate personality traits, such as "dependable," "high energy," "sense of responsibility" and "good memory."

While jargon is in, fancy resume designs are out.

"The days of lavender-colored paper and fancy prints are over," said Sneff, who recommends that applicants use white or cream-colored paper.

And straying too far from a basic font can be costly.

Ford recalls an example of an applicant who had impeccable credentials for a systems analyst position, but whose name, address and phone number could not be read by the computer. The resume was rendered worthless.

Though artistic designs are out, the new technology means resumes no longer have to fit on one page.

If they know they're applying to a company that uses scanning technology, applicants shouldn't hesitate to produce two- or three-page resumes, Ford said, adding that she recommends that job seekers design two resumes -- one for computers and one for people to read.

The new electronic order may be intimidating to applicants, but there are potential advantages. Because human resources workers at large companies have access to the same database, applicants might get calls from distant regions.

"I tell people I may follow up, but you may also get a call from Michigan or Arizona," Ford said.

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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