5 insider secrets to beating Taleo

Another very interesting article on applicant tracking systems, otherwise known as Taleo (and other terrible sounding software apps). Highlights include what an HR rep actually sees when you submit a resume through Taleo, and 5 tips on making sure your application isn’t rejected by the software.

Job seekers can increase their resumes’ chances of getting through an applicant tracking system by heeding the following do’s and dont’s:

1. Never send your resume as a PDF: Because applicant tracking systems lack a standard way to structure PDF documents, they’re easily misread, says Ciampi.

2. Don’t include tables or graphics: Applicant tracking systems can’t read graphics, and they misread tables. Instead of reading tables left to right, as a person would, applicant tracking systems read them up and down, says Ciampi.

3. Feel free to submit a longer resume: The length of your resume doesn’t matter to an applicant tracking system, says Ciampi. It will scan your resume regardless of whether it’s two pages or four. Submitting a longer (say three or four page) resume that allows you to pack in more relevant experience and keywords and phrases could increase your chances of ranking higher in the system.

4. Call your work experience, “Work Experience”: Sometimes job seekers refer to their work experience on their resume as their “Professional Experience” or “Career Achievements” (or some other variation on that theme). “People get very creative on their resume because they think it will help them stand out, but in fact it hurts them,” says Ciampi. “Often the computer will completely skip over your work experience because you didn’t label it as such.”

5. Don’t start your work experience with dates: To ensure applicant tracking systems read and import your work experience properly, always start it with your employer’s name, followed by your title, followed by the dates you held that title. (Each can run on its own line). Applicant tracking systems look for company names first, says Ciampi. Never start your work experience with the dates you held certain positions.

The whole article is worth reading, and can be found here.


Refreshing job search advice

I came across 683 Way to Fail to Get a Job Offer, written by Mark Manson, and thought it was a refreshing change from the usual drab magazine job search advice that’s become ubiquitous in the past couple of years. The article details the selection and hiring process after the author posted a job ad for his company.

The best applications did the following:

  • They attached or linked to copies of their previous work for me to look at even though I didn’t ask for it.
  • They custom designed their application materials to match the design of my website and even used the same font on their resume.
  • They built entire WordPress sites to act as their application, with separate pages for their cover letter, resume, favorite books and so on.
  • They included lists of errors they had already found within my articles and suggested corrections.
  • They came up with design and illustration ideas to accompany my current articles without me asking.

If you’re creative, proactive, and a problem solver, then prove it. Send something I would want but didn’t ask for. Suggest improvements I never thought of. Write something that surprises me.

Read the full article here.




How I got hired: a lesson in never giving up

Looks like all the job hacking has finally paid off – I start a new full-time job next week! I won’t go into the details here (you can creep my LinkedIn profile if you’re really interested), but I’m glad to say it’s a great position in the Marketing & Communications department of a non-profit career and employment services agency. As you can imagine, I’m very excited and relieved. This has also given me some time to reflect on my job search since I was laid off, and analyze what went wrong and what went right with my job search technique and methodology.

I’m always curious as to how people with great jobs get hired, because it seems like such a one in a million chance. The answer is usually not as detailed as I’d like (“Oh, I just applied and they called me for an interview…”), so allow me to sperg out and explain to you, in excruciating detail, how I got hired. If you can learn from what I did right, and avoid what I did wrong, perhaps this will help you in your own job search, or at least make you feel more confident that you’re on the right path. For those who just want to jump straight to the point, skip down to my chart where I list what I did right, and where I went wrong.

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Send fewer resumes, get more interviews

Conventional job search wisdom tells us that we need to apply for as many jobs as possible in order to increase our chances of getting an interview. The job market is flooded with people looking for work, companies can afford to choose only the most highly qualified candidates, and job seekers need to pump out as many applications as possible to stay afloat in the murky waters of competition.

What if I had evidence that this conventional job wisdom was wrong? What if I told you that it’s possible to send out fewer resumes, and get more interviews? It may sound like a paradox, but fortunately I have some data from my own job search to back this up. This blog post will discuss the golden ratio of job applications (it exists, trust me…), and suggests an optimized job search methodology that will get you hired faster.

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Choosing metrics that matter: the Top Two KPIs for Job Hackers

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been slowly absorbing ‘The Book’ on modern web analytics, Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik. It’s taking a while due to the depth and detail which the author goes into on the subject, while covering everything from how to choose a web analytics platform (perhaps slightly dated now – the book was published in 2010) to the intricacies of how platforms define and track individual metrics. Don’t be put off by the exhaustive detail; the major strength of the book is that it outlines a universal process for understanding and using web analytics instead of presenting a one size fits all formula to copy. In that spirit, lets use the process to identify and understand the best metrics to use for job hacking, and share some tips on avoiding common mistakes Job Hackers may encounter along the way.

To combat the overwhelming amount of data gathered in the old “track everything” mentality, modern analytics best practices has shifted to finding one or two metrics that best represent the overall performance of your business. These Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will be different for each website and each business, depending on the business model you are operating on or the specific outcomes and goals you are hoping to achieve.

So which KPIs should Job Hackers use to measure the success of their portfolio. I have identified two…

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Segment your data: creating valuable insights for your job search

Building on the previous Job Hacking blog posts where we use UTM trackers and A/B testing techniques to track interest from potential employers in our applications, lets now look at how to configure Google Analytics to take the data we’re gathering and turn it into meaningful insights. This blog post will explain how to segment your job search data and set up custom reports that give you the information you need quickly and effectively.

You’ve tagged your links, created specific campaigns for a group of resumes and applications, and have sent them out to prospective employers. Logging into your Google Analytics account tied to your online portfolio or website, you see that you’re getting visitors – awesome! People are clicking the links, which means they’re interested in finding out more about your skills and experience. The next question is, who is checking you out?

Google Analytics default home screen

Google Analytics’ default view

At first glance, this looks great. Over 30 sessions, 26 unique visitors, nearly all of which are new visits from English speaking people (nothing against Russian speakers, but if I’m applying for jobs in Canada my applications shouldn’t be getting many visitors from overseas). On the other hand, it doesn’t show me any of the information that would be helpful to my job search, such as which employers are checking me out. To fix this, we can segment our data to show visits that originate from the geographic area of our job search campaign.

To show sessions from visits in your area, click the “+ Add Segment” outline directly underneath the Audience Overview report heading at the top of the page. Create a new segment using the Location field at the bottom of this list. Since I am applying for jobs in the Greater Toronto Area, I select City from the first drop-down menu, is one of for the second, and type in all the cities around me in the text box separated by hitting enter after each one. Hit Save, and you should see something like this:

Google Analytics segmented data view

Visits segmented by visitor location

Ah, this is better. The orange line now shows the visits from users in the specific locations I added to my segment. I can now see that most of my traffic is coming from inside the Greater Toronto Area, and therefore more relevant to my job search. Segments can be applied to any of the report views offered by Google Analytics, and are essential to understanding who is coming to your website. To read more about creating data segments, check out Google’s help page.

It’s great that I can see exactly where my visitors are located, but it still doesn’t tell me if those clicks are originating from my applications. We’ve spent a lot of time tagging our applications with UTM trackers, so lets put them to good use! Under the Acquisition section on the left menu, select the Campaigns report. Campaigns tracks visits from all clicks that have been tagged with a UTM tracker, in this case our job hunt campaign we’ve been embedding in all our resumes and cover letters.

Graph of Visits segmented by campaign

The gold: website visits by employers you’ve applied to

The primary dimension of this report is the Campaign Name field from the URL builder, which in our case is ‘Job Hunt’. Select the secondary dimension drop-down underneath, and choose Advertizing > Ad Content to add a second line that shows the Campaign Content field from the tracker, which in our case is the name of the employer (blurred out here for privacy). This is only possible if you’ve been diligent in filling out all the fields of your campaign, but the payoff is huge! I can now see exactly which companies have clicked the links to my work in my applications.

This is far more valuable than relying on Google Analytics’ default reporting, and a powerful source of information in your job search. Click the Shortcut button at the top of the report and the report is now available in your Shortcuts menu every time you log in.

By knowing exactly which companies are checking me out, I can see which applications are working and tailor future ones with more confidence. Next, we’ll explore how to dig deeper into our data and leverage our insights to become more proactive in our job hunt.

What kinds of segments will you use in your job search, and how will it help you improve your application process?


Use A/B testing to optimize your job search

A/B testing is nothing new – online marketers have been using this scientific method for years to track the effectiveness of digital campaigns and advertisements. What may be new however, is applying it to our job search in order to find the most effective resume and cover letter combo that gets employers’ attention. This blog post will show how you can optimize your job search using A/B testing in conjunction with an online portfolio, resume or website.

For our purposes, A/B testing is simply an online two-sample hypothesis test where we take two versions of similar content and track which version gets the most views, clicks, or visits. We’ve already covered how to use UTM trackers to gauge employer interest in your resume, so lets take things one step further and use that data to create an organized and optimized job search technique. The best way to explain this is to use an example, so here goes…

I’m looking for a job in the communications industry, and I’ve found four positions that I’m really excited about. The positions all have different job titles, but the responsibilities and qualifications are very similar. I’ve done my research and have only targeted companies that are looking for entry-level or recent graduate candidates (or have a history of hiring them), found jobs that are in-line with my experience and skills, and positions that are in the same industry or sector with similar responsibilities and roles*. For the science and engineering types following along, what we’re doing is establishing a control for our experiment: a set of unchanging base-line conditions to which we will apply the test.

Now for the testing, where we create two different versions of our applications for the group of jobs we’re interested in. Ideally, since all of the positions are similar, for four positions we should be able to create two versions of our resume and cover letter, since the responsibilities and skills required by all four jobs are similar. Context and common sense is key here – each application should still be tailored and tweaked to the position you are applying for. Rather, we’re taking a broader approach and creating different themes, formatting or tones and seeing which one resonates more with employers. So if I was unsure whether its better to go with a more creative, highly formatted resume or a pared-back basic one, I’d create two versions of the URL links to my portfolio/website/resume with Google’s URL builder with unique Campaign Content identifiers, like so:

1. Fancy formatted resume application links: (emphasis added)


2. Basic formatted resume application links: (emphasis added)


ab testing graphic map

A/B testing for job postings in action

Because the UTM trackers we’ve embedded in our applications will tell us exactly which links are being clicked, we can analyze which versions (or even portions) of our applications are the most popular, or enticing enough for hiring managers to click on. Using the example above, we would see if the links in the fancy resume got more clicks than the basic version to determine which formatting style is the most effective for your job hunt.

Examples of how A/B testing can help you optimize your job search include:

  • deciding between two or more different resume formats or layouts
  • getting the right tone (formal/casual) for your cover letters and applications
  • deciding which skills or projects to highlight in your resume
  • deciding which projects to highlight on your portfolio

The possibilities are endless, but it’s important to note that A/B testing will only be accurate if you maintain a strong control and use a sample size (ie. # of job postings) of four or more. This means that the jobs you are applying for MUST be similar in terms of responsibilities, qualifications and experience.

In real life, A/B testing in online marketing is a continuous process of tweaking and adjustments, with marketers constantly testing and improving versions of ads, campaigns and digital media in order to create content that will be widely seen and shared. Using the same approach in your job hunt will give you valuable feedback as to what’s working in your search and what’s not, allowing you to tweak your applications until you find the sweet spot. Employers who are checking out your work online are probably interested enough to call you in for in interview!

How would you use A/B testing to improve your job search?

* Real life job titles I have used for this experiment include Communications Coordinator, Community Manager, Insights Analyst, Marketing Analyst and Digital Marketing Specialist, all for small to medium sized companies looking for someone with less than 5 years of experience.

How to track employer interest in your job applications

Does sending out endless resumes to employers sometimes feel like dropping small pennies into a vast abyss?

You spend weeks sending out dozens of carefully tailored applications, and never hear anything back. Ever wonder if they’re even getting read?

Here’s a neat and simple trick I’ve started using in order to see if intrepid HR managers are actually checking out the applications I’m sending them. We can use Google Analytics and UTM codes to rig our resumes to create a digital breadcrumb trail that lets you see if employers are clicking links in your applications.

This technique assumes that you have some kind of website or online portfolio set up with Google Analytics, and are comfortable with basic HTML coding and updates. Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1.

In the body of your cover letter include a link to your online portfolio or website. I like to put the link toward the end of the cover letter after a bullet list of key assets I feel I’d provide, like so;

Key assets I’d bring to your company include:

  • Amazing asset
  • Even more amazing asset
  • Skill that highlights why I am perfect for this job

To view examples of my work mentioned above, please visit my online portfolio <insert hyperlink>.

Step 2.

Now, in the hyperlink include a UTM tracker pasted directly at the end of the URL you’re linking to. For example, if your website is http://www.myportfolio.com/index.html, adding the UTM tracker will make it look something like:


The code from the UTM generator is generated by Google’s URL builder tool, which is free and easy to use. Just fill in the campaign info boxes with the requested information, hit “Submit”, and the code is generated for you!

Example of using Google's URL builder

Step 2: How to fill out the URL builder fields

Step 3.

You are ready to track visits to your website from people who click on that link. The results will show up on your Google Analytics account under the Acquisition > Campaigns tab, making it easy to see exactly who is clicking your links and what content they view on your websites.

How is this helpful? UTM trackers can be used on any link to an online URL, which means you can get creative with campaigns and A/B testing on your job hunt applications.

If you’re sending out many resumes and not getting any interview requests, the tracking data is useful for figuring out if your cover letter or resume is the problem. If you can see that employers are clicking the links you’ve provided to your work, it at least shows that your application is being considered and that your resume is enticing enough for them to want to find out more. If however you’re not getting clicks, it may be time to rethink the wording, content or formatting of your cover letter and resume, and reconsider how to get prospective employers checking out your work and skills.

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of job hunting today is the lack of feedback given to prospective candidates and job seekers. Companies are too busy, or too lazy, to send feedback or reasons for rejecting an applicant. In this type of environment, it’s easy for HR myths and hearsay to circulate as strategies for job seekers, often in the form of conflicting or flat-out bad advice. Using data in your job hunt is way to take back some control over your situation, and get some feedback on how your applications are being received.

To take UTM trackers to the next level, learn how to segment your UTM data with custom reports, and how to integrate A/B testing to perfect your applications and increase your chances of getting an interview.

Obviously this method is far from perfect, so any suggestions on how to improve this would be greatly appreciated. How would you use UTM trackers or data analytics technique to help your job search?

What is Job Hacking?

You won’t find it in the dictionary, which is a relief because I was looking for a catchy title for this blog. The name is derived from the term growth hacking, which Wikipedia helpfully defines as;

“a marketing technique developed by technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to sell products and gain exposure.

First, some back story…

Back in September 2014 I was laid off from my job at an organization in Toronto. After the initial shock had worn off, I quickly set about applying to as many similar positions I could find, only to run into the same problem that everyone else under the age of 35 (and even some who are older) is having: our hyper-competitive job market post-2008.


The traditional job hunt: throwing resumes into the sea

After many dozens of carefully tailored resumes and cover letters disappeared into the void of HR email addresses and Taleo URLs, it quickly became clear that the traditional method of sending applications to job postings wasn’t going to cut it. At the same time, I’d been using my suddenly decongested schedule to jump head first into the deep end of web design, data analytics and marketing techniques like growth hacking.

It’s still an on-going process, but the more I read the more it made sense to use the techniques that many online marketing teams are creating to get their content seen on the internet to… you know, actually find a job.

So with that in mind, lets kick-start this blog project with the first, formalized and semi-official definition of the term “job hacking” (Merriam-Webster, eat your heart out):

Job Hacking


1. a job search technique influenced by the practices of technology startups which uses creativity, analytical thinking, and social metrics to showcase an individual’s talents and gain exposure.

2. a career mindset and methodology for the digital age.


1. the process of creating, sharing or analyzing original content in order to showcase talent or expertise

Age-old advice, wrapped in a nice <div> with some meta tags and tweets with embedded URL trackers for conversion data.

For various reasons, we may be in one of the worst job markets for young people since the Second World War. The well meaning advice from older generations is largely obsolete, as evidenced by high youth unemployment, a sagging economy, and technological advances that have changed our society for better and for worse.

A new economy calls for a new approach to finding a job. I propose that job hacking is the best way to develop your career and showcase yours skills that companies value. I could be wrong, but I’m willing to find out…

Learn the first job hacking trick I used to track employer interest in my job applications.