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Job-Hunting Rules Have Changed in Digital Age


NORTHRIDGE — Just as technology has changed the way retailers sell everything from groceries to cars, the digital wave has altered how fresh-faced college grads, anxious to land that first big job, must sell themselves.

The transformation goes far beyond the ability to search thousands of Internet job boards. It extends to things as basic as how you portray yourself to potential employers in a digital world.

While some experts caution that the use of technology has led to an increase in resume fraud--including identity theft--most agree that the changes have opened up new avenues and made searching for a job easier.

"Utilizing electronic technology and the Internet in the job search today is critical," said Vivian VanLier, owner of Advantage Resume and Career Service, a 10-year-old Valley Glen company. "It has become an integral part of the job search process."

VanLier advises all of her clients to craft not only the standard "presentation" resume on paper, but also a highly formatted, scannable one. In this type of resume, the urge to be creative must be suppressed.

"There are stringent protocols," VanLier said. "You use 1-inch margins on both sides of the page and you use a typeface, like Helvetica, where the letters don't touch."

There's more: no bullets, boxes, boldface or other graphic elements. And no indenting.

It may sound plain vanilla, but in today's market, VanLier said, it's what works.

She noted that increasingly, when a resume is faxed or e-mailed to a company, it automatically goes into a large database, accessed by hiring managers within the firm.

"The manager will put in the keywords or search parameters to access the resumes that fit their search requirements. Without the proper formatting and the heavy use of keywords, you can get passed over for a job," she said. "Can it be that your resume will only be seen by a machine? Yes."

Ronit Farkas, campus recruiting coordinator for Arthur Andersen, said about 80% of the resumes the company receives from college students come in digitally.

The worldwide accounting firm was among the nearly 50 companies looking for new recruits at last week's Tech Fest, the third annual job fair for technology majors at Cal State Northridge.

CSUN educators said students, even those in non-tech majors, are becoming more comfortable with the new digital drill.

"We train them to register with us online so they can find job listings online and submit resumes online," said Adele Scheele, director of CSUN's Career Center and the author of five books on career development.

"It used to be that there were only three ways people could find out about jobs," she said: classified ads, postings on campus bulletin boards and networking.

"Technology opens the job search process quite a bit," she added. "You can click into your career center's page and you can reach all different kinds of employers. Technology opened wide the gate."

And VanLier noted that with the Internet, it's much easier to find background information about a potential employer--a must if you want to be impressive in the face-to-face interview.

But some job search experts caution that along with the bright glow, the increased use of technology has cast a shadow over the recruiter and recruit.

A 1998 study by New York-based Michael G. Kessler & Associates Ltd., a corporate investigation firm, showed that of 1,000 resumes the company examined, 25% were fraudulent in some way. Resume writers fudged on everything from degrees obtained to GPAs, according to Kessler.

And in many cases, the false claims were bolstered by bogus documents obtained via the Net.

"I would say that 25% has probably gone up a few percentage points," Kessler said of the increase in fraud since the study was completed. "Based on the work that we're doing, we see more and more people taking liberties today."

For the job seeker, experts urge caution when posting details of one's life for all the world to see.

"People are really underestimating the loss of privacy associated with posting a resume online," said Susan Joyce, president of Massachusetts-based NETability Inc., which owns the Web site ( "This is a big issue that nobody's paying any attention to."

Some recruiters tell stories of rare instances of Internet-aided identity theft. Someone else's resume can be downloaded, revamped to change identity, and voila: you're a rocket scientist.

In addition, Joyce warns that some workers have been fired after an employer, trolling for new recruits, stumbled across the resume of a current worker who had posted it on the Internet in search of another job.

"It's really an old-fashioned, pre-technology thing. Employers don't want their employees looking around," Joyce said. "They don't like it any better now than they did then."

But now, with tens of thousands of job boards, there's a stronger lure for employees to post, and those postings are easier for employers to find.

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