Quite sometime ago, I did a post about a job search resource called Preptel, which aimed to help job seekers prepare their resumes for the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) gauntlet–making them keyword-rich, organizing sections appropriately, and so on. It seemed like a good resource at the time. Unfortunately, Preptel is about to disappear.
A recent announcement indicated that after three years of trying, the company has been unable to turn a profit and has reluctantly decided to call it quits. What does that mean for you as a current or future job seeker?
What Job Search Value Did Preptel Offer?
For starters, it focused our attention more sharply on the whole issue of keywords and the growing use of ATS as a tool to screen (weed-out) job seekers during the employment process. Unless you can identify a way to deliver your resume directly to a hiring manager, you could find yourself being ATS-screened and eliminated from consideration before you get to square one.
Preptel provided a tool for trying to align your resume with specific postings you planned to pursue. You could upload your resume and have Preptel compare it to the job posting, then receive an evaluation of how near (or far) it was from where it might need to be in order to get you considered as a candidate.
I did have a few reservations about some of the hoops you would have to jump through to get anywhere near a close match without having a resume that was ridiculously worded and hard for a human being to read, but I thought the potential usefulness outweighed that possible disadvantage. However, it now becomes a moot point, since Preptel will no longer be a job search resource.
Alternative Job Search Resources
You might ask what your alternatives are now that Preptel is disappearing. Some of those alternatives aren’t earth-shakingly new. For example:
- Review and revitalize your network before you need to start mining it for help in a job search. Hint: A good book to read on effective networking, although not new, is Harvey Mackay’s Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.
- Avoid the impersonal ATS route if at all possible and practical. Get to know people where you want to work and become known by them as a potentially valuable asset. Use your network to develop desired connections you don’t already have.
- Research the companies whose postings have caught your attention and interest; then tailor your submission to each company’s requirements as much as you legitimately can. Assume that in this case you will run up against an ATS screening, so diligently identify and use all the relevant keywords and phrases you can to help you navigate that obstacle.
- Look at the areas where you might not be as strong as you’d like in comparison with what the company is asking for and determine whether (or how) you can try to upgrade your qualifications in those areas. Ideally, take steps to accomplish that before you embark on a full-scale job search.
No Substitute for Smart Job Search Techniques
Preptel and other high-tech proposals to help solve your job search challenges could never eliminate all the obstacles from your path, anyway. To think they could is self-delusional at best.
In today’s challenging employment market and the increasing reliance on technology to deal with it, you still need to use smart job search techniques that stem from who you are, what you can offer, what you view as your potential value and/or limitations, etc.. Also consider how much time, thought and energy you’re willing and able to put into all aspects of the job search.
Sorry, but no one said it would be easy–or if they did, they lied!
Whether or not you consider yourself a well-organized person, it’s likely that adopting a relatively organized approach to your current or next job search will produce worthwhile benefits. The process of finding and capturing a new job has become more and more complex in recent years, and that trend appears likely to continue into the future–possibly even at a faster rate than it has done in the past. Unless you have an encyclopedic mind and can also manage multiple, sometimes conflicting priorities at a time without missing something, a degree of organization is essential to a successful job search. That’s true whether you’re a senior executive or a recent college graduate with limited business experience.
Why use checklists for your job search?
Checklists enable you to accomplish several desirable goals, including the following:
- Lay out all the critical steps you need to take and develop an approximate order and timeline for completing them.
- Identify “missing pieces”: possibly useful actions you might not otherwise have considered.
- Track your progress and spot actions that haven’t been completed yet but need to be done soon.
They’re also customizable to your preferred style of operating. You can make them as simple or as involved as you choose, because you’re the only one who is going to use them. If challenges arise and you need to reschedule an item on your list, no one is going to hassle you about that. As long as you’re fine with it, it’s okay.
What kind of checklists should you use?
As mentioned above, you get to choose how you develop and use your job search checklist. You can design your own or get ideas from lists that others have used and tailor them to fit your needs. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about the type of checklist. Personally and as a business owner, I like project checklists that give me a column for the target completion date and another column to check the items as I complete them. That style can work well for a job search, too. You can also make use of a number of high-tech tools, including resources like JibberJobber.com, to help you manage the list.
You can and probably will want to incorporate a variety of items in your job search checklist. The following are useful to include:
- Source of the position you’re pursuing (online posting, referral from a friend or colleague, etc.)
- Company, title and brief description of the position
- Date you submitted your resume and cover letter or other materials
- Return contact(s) you received (phone, email, letter, etc.)
- Dates of interviews scheduled and completed
The beauty of using checklists for your job search is that it helps you manage diverse important tasks even while other demands on your time and attention preclude devoting your full time to the job search. It’s easy to keep tabs on what’s happening, what you have and haven’t done, and so on, without making yourself crazy over it. Job searching can be enough of a hassle without subjecting yourself to that!
In a recent post on job search tools–specifically, TagCrowd–I promised the next post would cover Preptel as a job search tool. To be brief, life got in the way! However, from my preliminary research, I think Preptel is a tool you might want to investigate. It might help you cope with the aggravating trend toward forcing job seekers to fit their resumes into the ATS (applicant tracking system) mode if they want to avoid being prematurely ruled out by employers, so this post is a quick look at what Preptel is and does.
What Preptel Offers to Job Seekers
Preptel is a company that “provides Candidate Optimization services to improve a candidate’s chances of getting an interview and securing an offer.” [Quoted from their website.] The actual name for their Resume Optimization service is Resumeter(TM). It offers you help in customizing your resume to increase its odds of being reviewed and considered for an interview. Among other things, it can highlight errors and areas that could stand improvement in order to meet the specifications of the employer’s system.
The company’s Interview Guides give you a detailed analysis of how you stack up compared with other people who are applying for the same position as you are. It ranks your strengths and weaknesses in 7 major categories, including education, work experience and industry experience. Since I haven’t tried it out myself, I’m not sure how they access information about the people are who are competing against you, but I imagine that’s covered somewhere in their information that I haven’t read yet. In any case, it seems like a potentially useful concept.
Why You Might Want to Try Preptel as a Job Search Tool
According to the company, “job candidates have less than a 2% chance of getting an interview. Preptel is the first technology company to focus on improving a candidate’s chances by providing proven solutions to help a candidate be positioned for each job.” That’s essentially typical marketing verbiage, but it basically says you could be up against some stiff odds in trying to land an interview and they might be able to offer a useful option for improving your odds.
The good news is, you can check out their free trial and decide whether you think the service is worth hanging onto. If so, you’ll pay about $25 for one month or $50 for three months. It’s hard to see how you could go very far wrong with this arrangement.
A Word of Caution about This Job Search Tool
This cautionary note doesn’t necessarily just apply to Preptel. The key point is that you must have a specific job opportunity in mind for Preptel to evaluate your resume against it and against your competition. If you’ve designed your resume to fit a number of opportunities in a job field you’re interested in, the postings for the jobs might contain at least some elements that are different from each other. I assume that means you’d need to make changes in the resume to fit each specific job opportunity. Depending on your circumstances, though, you might figure it’s worth the trouble. Like many other situations, the final decision rests with you and what you think makes sense.
I recently learned of a new tool that could be useful to job seekers and wanted to pass the info along to you, in case you didn’t already know about it. The tool is called TagCrowd, and it’s currently free for personal use (I paid a modest $19 to use it as a business). Here’s a brief description from their web site: “a web application for visualizing word frequencies in any text by creating what is popularly known as a word cloud, text cloud or tag cloud….TagCrowd specializes in making word clouds easy to read, analyze and compare, for a variety of useful purposes.” Those purposes include speeches, resumes and website SEO analysis.
How does TagCrowd work?
You can copy and paste text, specify a web site URL or upload a file. You can make choices regarding several options, including how many words you want it to highlight, whether or not you want it to indicate the number of times a word was used, etc., and you can tell it to exclude certain words from consideration. So say, for example, you want to find out what employers are looking for (emphasizing) in their job postings; you can ask TagCrowd to go through the wording for you. Then you click “Visualize,” and TagCrowd does the rest. It provides some neat visual indicators, such as making words appear in larger and/or bolder print if they’re used more often. The idea is that you then make sure you include any of those often-used words in your resume that are a good fit with your experience.
Another possible use for the service is to check something you’ve written and see whether you’re over-using a particular word or words. I know I sometimes do that unintentionally (as opposed to deliberately using keywords to attract search attention, for instance), and this tool would help me avoid that problem. You might find it useful in that regard as well.
Any Problems with TagCrowd?
It’s early yet, but so far I’m not aware of any big drawbacks to using it. It seems to work fairly quickly, so unless you’re asking it to go through a succession of multi-page documents, you shouldn’t run into a problem. It does have some limits: plain text inserted must be 3MB max., and an uploaded file must be 5MB max. However, you could presumably do more than one request in a row and look at longer/larger items that way, if you have the time.
My next post is scheduled to touch on yet another job search tool, Resumeter(TM) by Preptel.
Earlier this month, I briefly referenced the topic of applicant tracking systems (ATS) in another post, but I thought it merited further exploration, especially since I keep reading conflicting opinions as to who is using or not using it, how they’re using it, why or whether job seekers should be concerned, and so on. In our technology-driven age, it’s hard to know if there’s any single “right” answer to these kinds of situations, but hiding your head in the sand and hoping it will all go away is probably not the solution.
What is an Applicant Tracking System–What Does It Do?
Basically, as I understand it, an ATS is used by companies to manage all their job openings and screen the resumes that come in, so they only have to really look at a select few compared to the total number received. One way the system helps them do this is by searching for keyword or keyword phrases of particular interest. Okay, you’re probably familiar with the concept of keywords; it’s been around a long time now. In fact, those of us who write resumes for you make an effort to identify and use all the keywords and phrases that seem to be relevant to your experience and that appear to match some or all of the qualifications your target employers are seeking.
However, according to an article by Meridith Levinson, called “5 Insider Secrets for Beating Applicant Tracking Systems” (quoting from an interview with Jon Ciampi, CEO of Preptel), “what matters most to applicant tracking systems is the uniqueness or ‘rarity’ of the keyword or the keyword phrase….That is, the keywords and phrases must be specific to a particular job ad.” Farther on in the same article, Levinson notes that what shows up to recruiters when they see your “resume” isn’t much like the way your original submission looked. That’s because an ATS pulls data from resumes into a database according to pre-set instructions and apparently can make any number of mistakes along the way. Comforting to you as a job seeker? Not much!
Chances of “Gaming” the Applicant Tracking Systems
Can you “game” an ATS? I’m not sure I know the answer to that one, but I suspect two things: (1) it wouldn’t be easy, if possible; (2) someone (maybe a lot of someones) has probably already tried or will try soon. What most of the careers experts I know recommend is that you still aim to incorporate into your resume the keywords and phrases most likely to be of interest to the employers you’re targeting. (If you can access inside information on what those might be, more power to you!) Some say you should avoid using specialized format items such as tables and graphics because applicant tracking systems don’t read them well and will overlook or mess up your carefully formatted information.
Of course, it would almost certainly be best if you can find a way to circumvent all applicant tracking systems by going directly to the hiring manager–or, at the very least, someone who has a direct pipeline to him or her and can move your resume to the desired person without going through a tracking system. Just don’t expect the companies to make it easy for you to do that!
Are you camera-ready? If not, you might want to consider an “extreme makeover” before you find yourself asked to participate in some form of video interviewing for your next position! Seriously, although video as a factor in job searching and employment interviewing has been around for years, video interviewing hasn’t really taken off the way original participants and providers anticipated. Lately, though, I’ve been seeing news items that suggest a trend all job seekers should be aware of.
Most recently, I read an article from Recruiting Trends that mentioned a company called InterviewStream being certified as a video interviewing solution by Taleo, which is a leading SaaS-based talent management solution provider. That’s a potentially powerful partnership, and you might want to know more about it. To do that, you can read the video interviewing article and also visit the InterviewStream website to learn more about InterviewStream as a company. Briefly, though, here are a few points that struck me about InterviewStream’s offerings and the deal with Taleo:
- The company provides web-based solutions to employers, executive search firms, staffing firms, and the world’s leading global career transition firm.
- Its clients use pre-recorded and live video interview management systems to pre-screen candidates and interview talent remotely (i.e., not at its facilities).
- Customers can now “initiate, view, share and provide collaborative feedback on candidates who are interviewed using InterviewStream’s video interview platform.” The solution enables them to cut their travel budget and increase their efficiency in managing interviews.
What’s missing here? Help for job search and career change candidates. It’s geared toward helping companies manage their recruiting process, save money, etc. It is not intended to help you land a new job or achieve career advancement by conducting effective interviews with prospective employers. The one potential benefit I can see is that it does enable you to interview at companies without having to travel possibly great distances (which the employer might or might not reimburse you for).
According to the article, InterviewStream saves client companies a lot of money while “providing a superior candidate experience.” Does that mean the job seeker candidate has a “superior” experience with the video interviewing process, or does it mean the company gets to interview more superior candidates? If the former, in exactly what way is the candidate’s experience superior? The article doesn’t say.