How to Get Your CV in Front of a Real Person & Past an Algorithm

As recruiters change the way they filter and select candidates, you’ll need to revolutionise your CV to make sure it lands on their desk.

Digital CV

The Corporate World has changed more in the last 20 years than at any time in history, procurement probably more than most. The Procurement function wasn’t even represented on Boards and certainly wasn’t a strategic, value-add function.

However, the importance of the CV hasn’t changed, and in the wake of the ‘Procurement Revolution’ comes a necessary ‘CV Revolution’.

What’s Really Changed?

Recruitment fees have been halved in the last 10 years with RPO’s, Procurement, and internal recruitment teams, all driving down costs. This has meant that recruiters (either agency or internal) have had to become agile and change methodologies.

They need to be quicker, and better, at identifying good candidates. Unfortunately, this has driven more and more investment in IT, rather than the human factor. This means CVs need to be different now to 10 years ago.

Digital CV Searching Now the Norm

To stand out, a CV now needs to be readable by a human, but first by an algorithm, or search software, to get it on the longlist. It’s vital that your CV is set up to pass the algorithm test.

The good news, though, is that if you know the rules, you can use it to your advantage. With some small changes to your CV, you can end up on more longlists, giving you more chance, not less, that decision-making humans will be reading your CV (or LinkedIn profile).

Whether you are looking to optimise your CV or LinkedIn profile, the first thing you need to do is put yourself in the mind of the searchers. Whether it’s HR managers, internal recruiters, external recruiters or line managers, they should be searching for similar things. But you need to understand what they are looking for, and how they are looking for it.

Manually added codes or keywords are the only 2 ways of searching LinkedIn and CV databases. Manual codes are added by the person viewing your CV, so are purely subjective. But if your CV is focussed enough, it should be coded right by anyone that knows their business.

Getting your keywords right is the silver bullet to either scenario.

Keywords – What are Mine?

Keywords for CV searches are exactly what you think. They can be anything, depending on what the searcher could be looking for. They might be specific or vague (BSc Hons vs Degree; MCIPS vs CIPS). Or they might include category, industry, level, achievement, or team size, or similar.

To work out what your keywords are, you need to think about what the searcher will be looking for when recruiting the role:

  • Categories
  • Industry sectors
  • Management level
  • Competencies
  • Technical skills
  • Software
  • Languages
  • Education level
  • Qualifications

Some of these are simple, but if you’re struggling to come up with keywords for tougher questions, come at it from a different angle:

  • Which are the things you are most proud of?
  • What is your boss and business happiest with?
  • What projects have you been on?
  • Do you have old appraisals or what did you discuss in them?
  • If you’ve been applying for jobs what are the similarities (and therefore keywords) between them?

Once you have your keywords, you need to add them fluidly into your CV. Some keyword searching software counts the amount of keywords and rates the CV appropriately, so don’t be afraid to add them 3 or 4 times (where appropriate).

And so it doesn’t stand out as overkill, spread the critical ones through your summary, a job title and a job overview.

Word Configuration Oddities – Beware

Depending on the software’s (and searchers’) complexity and skill, it may search in a number of ways. Don’t assume these are Google-level algorithms – they absolutely aren’t. Some engines and searchers will search for a specific word string which will not be flexible.

For example, if they search for “Marketing Category Manager” then “Category Manager Marketing” wouldn’t come up.

There are ways to search for these strings (or any other configuration), but you should set your CV up on the basis that it’s being read by the cheapest, simplest system possible, run by the least IT literate searcher. Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

To get around this, make sure you vary the word order through your CV, so you will catch whichever configuration they are searching.

Multiple Category Job Titles

For the same reason, make sure you shake up your technical skills.

  • IT/Telco Procurement Manager
  • IT/Telco Category Manager
  • Hardware/Software Category Manager
  • Procurement and Supply Chain Manager

In these examples, if someone does a basic search for IT Category Manager, IT Procurement Manager, Hardware Category Manager or Procurement Manager, then you won’t appear in the search. Make sure you vary it, switching it around in job titles, your personal summary and job overviews.

This gets harder as you get to an executive level but play around with the idea.

Natural Text

Never forget that you are trying to make your CV as easy to read as possible. Don’t shoehorn keywords in – the holy grail is to get your keywords in your CV without anyone noticing what you’ve done.

Natural text is critical. There’s no point getting past the algorithm hurdle to get rejected because it doesn’t make any sense to a human. Thankfully we are still a way away from the robots rising up and making these decisions for us!

Alarm Bells

If you’re getting lots of calls for completely irrelevant roles, you may well have the wrong keywords on your CV, or the wrong codes on their system.

Feel free to ask how they searched for your details. If they use codes, ask what codes they have, and feel free to help them correct them if you feel they’re wrong.

Make sure your keywords are clear. There are a number of categories that could be mistaken for other roles (Marketing and IT are a couple). Make sure it’s obvious in these areas that it’s procurement you are responsible for, and not marketing as a department.

I hope this helps you tweak your CV and make it appear in more, better, searches.

Building on over a decade of corporate recruitment (and reading in the region of 250,000 CVs), Andy Wilkinson set up The Chameleon Career Consultancy to coach CV Writing, Interview Technique and LinkedIn Profile writing. 

If you would like any advice on any of these areas or more help on your CV feel free to get in touch by e-mail, or visit the Chameleon website or LinkedIn page.

Adapt and Thrive – Success in Cross-Cultural Negotiations

Adapt and survive is often a key strategy in business. It turns out that it’s just as important in cross-cultural negotiations too.

Adapt and Survive

In our previous articles on cross-cultural negotiations, we had heard what our experts had to say about preparing for cross-cultural negotiations, and the importance of building relationships before negotiations even start.

In the final article in this series, we hear from our experts on how to adapt for negotiations, and how best to handle negotiations with people from their own nationalities.

Preparing for a negotiation – Middle Eastern Challenges

More and more companies are heading to the Middle East as part of their primary business and supply strategies.

However, the cultural differences between Europe and, in particular, Saudi Arabia are stark. Getting to grips with these differences is key to creating good business relationships, and having successful negotiations in the region.

The Roundtable were asked for their thoughts on how to prepare for a first cross-cultural negotiation in Saudi Arabia. They shared what information they would aim to collect, and how they would collect it.

One key element mentioned was to understand the hierarchy and power dynamics of the organisation. Thierry Blomet talked about needing to understand how the organisation is mapped out, and how it fits with the various stakeholders in the country. As Saudi Arabia has a very different, rule-driven, culture, it’s important to understand the dynamics of the organisation and the people.

This view was echoed by Jonathan Hatfield, who added that it’s important to have diversity in your own teams, to help prepare for going into different geographies. The more diversity in your team, the better prepared you are for the global market.

The conversation then turned towards how individuals could better adapt to different cultures by being more aware of their own behaviours, and how to change behaviours to be in line with local customs.

The importance of “cultural mirroring” was put forward by Carine Kaldalian, in particular regarding dress code especially when dealing with a country with strong rules like Saudi Arabia.

Giuseppe highlighted the importance of knowing some etiquette elements that may offend the other party, like which hand to use to hand over your passport, and not showing the soles of your feet to others.

Adapt Your Behaviour

In the modern, digital world, collecting information on other cultures is far easier than it was in the past. Ali Atasoy suggested using both two common websites as prime source of information.

First Wikipedia, to understand the country, social conventions, and recent history. Then LinkedIn, to understand the individuals you would be meeting and have some ‘icebreakers’ prepared.

However, once the information has been collected, it needs to be put to good and effective use. The extent to which individuals should adapt their own behaviour was subject to some debate.

Bérénice Bessiere argued that Europeans frequently underestimate the capacity of Asian business people to adapt to European culture. The common thinking is that it’s them who will have to adapt their behaviour.

The importance of avoiding stereotypes was raised again by both Matthias Manegold and Jonathan Hatfield. Both highlighted the potential mistake in thinking that all the people in a single culture will be the same.

The different norms of different generations, and the constant evolution of cultures, mean generalisation should be avoided. However, by being aware of this, adapting behaviour and building up trust, you will create a better relationship, and any hiccups will likely be forgiven.

Negotiating with Nationalities

The final part of the Roundtable discussion focused on the participants’ views on the key advice for negotiating with people from their own countries.

It was a lighthearted way to end the discussion, but the points raised were both interesting, and highly applicable.

  • Turkey (Ali Atasoy)

Be prepared to explain why you have chosen to do business with this supplier. Any uncertainty, or lack of a valid reason, may lead to the supplier being offended by the approach.

  • Switzerland (Stéphane Guelat)

Punctuality is a huge thing, so be on time. Also, negotiations will frequently focus on product, quality, and other factors. Price is unlikely to be a key focus.

  • United Kingdom (Jonathan Hatfield)

Don’t arrive at the negotiations and be very aggressive, because you will lose your audience. Also don’t assume that you will become a business ‘partner’ immediately – this is something that has to be earned.

  • Lebanon (Carine Kaldalian)

If they have the upper hand, expect the other party to be late. It’s all part of the power play in the negotiations. Expect to be invited to dinner, even before a tough negotiation. The social side of business is very important in Lebanon.

Also, expect some heavy bargaining, as Lebanese are natural born traders.

  • Germany (Matthias Manegold)

Be on time, be credible, and be trusted by the other party. You need to demonstrate that you are interested in the other party’s well-being and outcomes, not just your own.

Small talk is unlikely. Germans will only ask “how are you?” if they are interested. It’s not a throw-away line, like in the UK or the USA. You must walk the talk – doing what you say you will is very important.

  • China (Xin-jian Carlier Fu)

A smile doesn’t necessarily mean that they agree with you, they might just not want to let you down. Don’t make assumptions about the deal or how the other party is feeling about it.

Also, don’t over talk. Know that the other party is listening, but maybe are just looking for the right way to respond.

Beach vs. Coconut

The final comment fell to our facilitator Giuseppe, who showcased the difference between the peach culture and coconut culture. A beach culture, often associated with Americans, is easy to get into, but difficult to in-depth, while a coconut culture, often associated with Germans, is hard to get into, but once you are in it is worth the effort!

And with that, the Roundtable was complete. It provided a fascinating insight into cross-cultural negotiations, cultural diversity, and how procurement professionals can best prepare themselves for cross-cultural interactions.

If you want to find out more, you can get in touch with Procurious, or with Giuseppe Conti at Conti Advanced Business Learning.

This roundtable was organised by Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a Swiss training company that specialises in Negotiation & Influencing training. Giuseppe Conti, has over 20 years of Procurement experience and 10 years of negotiation teaching experience at leading Business Schools (including Oxford, HEC Paris, IMD and ESADE).

Investor Confidence & Debt – A Study in Trans-Atlantic Contrasts

It’s a time of contrasting fortunes for trans-Atlantic businesses, as high investor confidence is matched by high debt.

Investor Confidence

Trans-atlantic businesses are always going to see some contrasting fortunes, given the diverse nature of the market environments. However, two new reports published this week suggest that these contrasting fortunes may have more impact than usual.

Despite a period of ongoing uncertainty in the UK, a new study has shown that investor confidence in UK SMEs remains high. Over 50 per cent of UK investors have stated they will support SMEs through private investment, even as confidence drops in shares, bonds and property.

However, in the US, another report suggests that companies are failing to maximise favourable conditions to lower their debt levels. A lack of improvement in supplier payments, and inventory management, has left overall working capital performance at its lowest level since 2008.

UK SME Investor Confidence

Despite the uncertainty surrounding financial markets and a variety of investment products, the majority of British investors are resoundingly confident in the country’s SMEs as an investment vehicle.

The research was commissioned by private equity house, IW Capital, and crowdfunding specialist Crowdfinders, and surveyed 1,000 UK investors. The survey revealed that over half (52 per cent) of investors said they would support the UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises through private investment channels in the wake of the referendum vote.

This equates to over 12.9 million potential investors for UK SMEs, and comes at a time where investor confidence in traditional assets, such as shares, Government bonds, and property, has dropped significantly.

The Lloyds Bank Investor Sentiment Index has helped to demonstrate the impact of the post-Brexit economic climate on investor confidence levels across the UK.

In mid-July 2016, the Index fell to its lowest level since it was launched in March 2013. Property (down by 35.3 per cent), government bonds (down 15.5 per cent) and UK shares (down 21.7 per cent) all experienced notable declines in investor sentiment.

Young Investors on the Rise

Encouragingly, 70 per cent of the younger age bracket of investors – 18-34 year olds – said they will consider investing in SMEs post Brexit.

Furthermore, the highest proportion of investors in a regional comparison who would back SMEs post Brexit was based in London. A significant 68 per cent of investors in the capital said they would support small businesses through private investment.

Luke Davis, CEO of IW Capital and Co-founder of Crowdfinders, commented on the report’s findings. “Following Brexit, Britain has been in a state of limbo, with consumers and investors unsure how the economic landscape will change over the coming months and years.

“What we can take from this research is that there is a silver lining from a business perspective as our nation’s investors are willing to support SMEs in the wake of Brexit, something that cannot be said for other investment classes.

“In times of economic uncertainty, ensuring support for the nation’s private sector – particularly the SMEs who make up 99.9% of all private businesses – is of paramount importance.”

US Companies Taking on Debt

Across the Atlantic, the situation was less positive. According to a survey from REL, a division of The Hackett Group, large US companies have increased debt levels, rather than improve working capital performance.

The survey looks at the performance of 1,000 of the largest public companies in the U.S. during 2015. It saw corporate debt rising significantly for the seventh consecutive year, as a result of low interest rates. Debt was up 9.3 per cent in 2015, the equivalent of $413 billion.

Since 2009, the total debt position of the companies in the survey has increased by over 58 per cent.

Working capital performance worsened, with a deterioration of 2.4 days or 7 percent in Cash Conversion Cycle (CCC). It is now at 35.6 days, the worst since before the 2008 financial crisis. These figures suggest major inefficiencies in managing their collections, payables, and inventory processes.

The working capital improvement opportunity of companies in the survey now stands at over $1 trillion, or 6 percent of the U.S. GDP. However, this can only be achieved by the companies equalling the performance of industry leaders.

Oil and Gas Performance 

A significant factor in this year’s overall results were the continuing low oil prices. This caused oil and gas companies to increase reserves, dramatically worsening both inventory and overall working capital performance, and dragging down the performance of the entire survey group.

Commenting on the results, Hackett Group Senior Director Craig Bailey stated, “Once again, low interest rates gave companies a perfect excuse to ignore the hard work of optimising receivables, payables, and inventory. This leaves over a trillion dollars unnecessarily tied up in operations. Instead of doing the hard work of transformation, most simply leveraged their future with more loans.”

Hackett Group Director, Ben Michael, added, “Eventually, interest rates will rise again, and there are signs this may happen soon. Then many companies may find themselves in dire straits, after seven years of growing debt and worsening working capital performance. Smart companies are getting out ahead of the curve now, and starting making the changes they need to squeeze unnecessary cash out of these key areas.”

You can access the full report, and results analysis, plus findings for European companies, on The Hackett Group website.

Want to have your say on these reports? Let us know your thoughts on these two surveys by commenting below. 

Away from the world of investor confidence and company debt, we’ve tracked down the key headlines in the procurement world.

NATO IT Division to “Splurge” on Defence Procurement
  • NATO’s Communication and Information Agency (NCI) has announced it will award €3 billion (US$3.3 billion) worth of cyber, air and missile defence contracts.
  • This is the first time since 2009 that NATO has increased expenditure. 
  • Proposals include a €2.5 billion satellite communications contract, advanced software procurement, and further strengthening of NATO’s air defences.
  • The spending increase comes at a time of scrutiny into NATO finances.

Read more at The Register

Nuclear Supply Chain Collaboration
  • Nuclear supply chain organisations from the US and Canada have signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation this week.
  • The MoU will help to facilitate collaboration and innovation among nuclear suppliers and research organisations in both countries.
  • Focus areas include the development and deployment of advanced reactors and small modular reactors, job-creation and combating climate change.
  • The agreement comes ahead  of the major annual summit for utilities procurement professionals, who are due to gather in September for ISM’s UPMG2016 conference.

Read more at World Nuclear News

Aerospace Supply Chains Under Pressure
  • Boeing and Airbus supply chains were in the spotlight at the Farnborough air show, as pressure grows on both companies to deliver record numbers of aircraft.
  • This is putting increased pressure on already stretched suppliers, and is leading to concerns about supplier treatment.
  • Suppliers are expected to sign long-term supply agreements, promising both regular price reductions, and accepting unlimited liability should something go wrong, or face losing business.
  • It also comes at a time when Boeing have started delaying payments to some suppliers by up to a month.

Read more at the Financial Times

New UK Nuclear Power Plant in Doubt
  • A project to build a new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point has been put on hold by the UK Government.
  • Despite EDF directors voting to proceed, the Government has delayed a decision until a further review in the Autumn.
  • The project cost is estimated at £18 billion, but could rise to £30 billion when further subsidies are paid.
  • Much of the debate centres on the guaranteed price for electricity produced by the plant being over double of current electricity prices.

Read more at The Guardian