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Want the job? You need to play the hiring game

I've seen my fair share of résumés.

Sure, like other hiring managers, I employed my own strategies to filter the tsunami of applications that flooded my inbox after each job posting. I'd divide them into stacks of "yes," "no," and "maybe" – and those were just the ones that made it through the initial screening process.

Over the years, applications became more creative and visually appealing but my eyes would still glaze over after an hour. I always worried about the applicant I'd too easily dismissed because how can one page adequately sum up a person's worth? It can't.

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If you are sending a résumé to a database, without the benefit of a relationship with the hiring manager, you are already at a distinct disadvantage. A 2013 paper by staffing strategy firm, CareerXroads said that 42 per cent of those hired are current employees and a candidate with a referral is three to four times more likely to be hired. The rest are pretty much out of luck.

Still, there is sometimes a touch of serendipity in finding a fabulous employer. It's like finding the right person to marry. Unfortunately, you are often not given enough time or information to gauge whether to commit to a long-term relationship.

Your résumé may get you a date – a first interview – but even three or four quick meetings aren't enough to determine whether the relationship is sustainable. Certainly, you can always get a divorce – quit or be fired – but by that time both parties have wasted a lot of time, money and productivity.

Some innovative employers offer trials, to see how the relationship pans out. It's a tactic that Bonnie Foley-Wong, founder of Vancouver-based investment firm Pique Ventures calls "experiential due diligence."

"Experiential due diligence is giving yourself [both employers and candidates] the opportunity to work with someone before making a firm commitment. This means working on shorter-term projects together or starting with a contract before entering into an employment agreement," Ms. Foley-Wong said.

Through this trial – let's call it shacking up – employer and employee can learn how each party manages conflict and whether there is a mutual desire to continuing working together long term.

This relationship provides an additional benefit by allowing employers to hire based on potential, not simply rely on someone who has already done the same job elsewhere, widening the pool of available talent. This arrangement widens the potential talent pool by allowing employers to hire based on potential rather than simply rely on someone who has done the same job elsewhere.

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So what happens when you're sure you're a match made in heaven but you can't get in the door?

Tushar Pandit,Toronto-based director of human resources at outsourcing company ADP Inc. advises candidates to increase their visibility by cultivating their brand, a process that includes being active on social media, blogging and even public speaking.

"It is the same concept as being an artist who has to be able to show his or her portfolio at any given moment when asked. Every professional has to understand that he or she is in competition daily with 300 to 400 people, and it is critical for them to constantly be upgrading their skills. ... Being complacent will make a person non-recognizable," Mr. Pandit said.

While an active social media presence seems like an obvious tactic, it can also backfire.

Pamela Paterson,Toronto-based author of Get the Job: Optimize Your Resume for the Online Job Search, recalls working with one job seeker whose hobby included beer making. Unfortunately, when you searched his name, the results merely demonstrated his fondness for beer rather than his professional expertise.

"Recruiters don't like to take chances with candidates they don't know. No matter how good their résumé is, if they have a poor online reputation, they may be rejected from the hiring process – without even knowing the real reason," she warned.

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It's not only one's social media presence than can disqualify you. When applying for a job online, your résumé style may work against you. Fancy layouts and designs that include tables, text boxes, uncommon fonts and graphics may not be read properly by applicant tracking systems, affecting how their information is presented, filtered, and ranked.

"I always advise my clients that some online job systems are more robust than others, so it may not be a concern, but why introduce risk into the hiring process, especially if you really want the job?" Ms. Paterson said.

"The first step to standing out is not being eliminated," Ms. Paterson added. "It's never just about the résumé – never."

Leah Eichler is founder of r/ally, a mobile collaboration platform for enterprises. E-mail: leah@rallyyourgoals.com

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About the Author
Future of Work

Leah Eichler (@LeahEichler) is founder and CEO of r/ally, a mobile collaboration platform for enterprises. More

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