The Work-Life Balance Challenge

Over the last few months, I’ve had plenty of friends and family get on my case about my work-life balance. As always, they’ll ask me what’s new in life and I’ll go off on a tangent, telling them all the different things I’ve been involved in or what I’m currently learning. Once I catch my breath and the glazed-over look leaves their eyes, they feel the need to express their concern for my work-life balance. “You need to give yourself a mental break,” my family will say. “You need to get out and have a life,” my friends will add. Of course, this annoys me to no end. It might seem like I’ve dedicated my whole existence to work or networking or blogging or whatever else to help my career, but such is not the case. What they don’t realize is that I can accomplish all of these things easily in a 40-45 hour work week. Therefore, the balance is fine- I’ve just learned how to make the most out of my time.

No, I’m not a superhuman by any means. I’m just a woman with a type A personality and a slight obsession with whiteboard calendars. My whiteboards and my intense scheduling skills are another thing that my friends and family feel the need to critique but these things are what help me accomplish as much as I do within a reasonable time. Maybe not everyone is great at working their lives around a schedule, but here are the things that help me:

  • Determine necessary time for each task: Take a couple weeks to determine the appropriate time each task takes you to do. This can help you regulate how much time you would need to block off.
  • Schedule accordingly: every person has their favorite way to schedule things, such as phone task apps, email calendars, and so on. Although I use those forms of technology, I still like to keep it old school. Writing it down and seeing it in front of my face each day can help reduce any anxiety about potentially forgetting something. It also keeps me on track. I literally have three whiteboards: monthly, weekly, and daily.
  • Set realistic goals: the reason why I put things on a schedule is because it automatically makes it feel like a goal that I need to achieve. Nothing motivates me more than seeing all my “to dos” crossed off on my list. It also makes me feel like I’m making steady progress.
  • Give yourself wiggle room: I usually set my to-dos to be completed at least a couple days in advance. I also try to give myself a few minutes in between each task. Life is crazy and you never know what can happen that could potentially knock you back a bit. Giving yourself some wiggle room can help you still accomplish your things on time without stressing, even if an unexpected situation occurs.

Maybe some of my friends and family don’t get it at this point in time but doing these things have honestly allowed me to progress in my career, professional development, and professional education. I spend less time running around clueless and more time getting things done. And like I said earlier, it might seem like I have a lot going on but setting up my days like this have truly allowed me to be the most efficient that I can possibly be. I work hard but I get things done within the 40-45 hours a week which allows me to have plenty of time to “relax” and “live a little” like I’ve been advised to do. Take these tips and test it out. See if it makes a difference in your life, whether it is for work or your own personal goals.

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Are Applicant Tracking Systems Helping or Hurting?

Today, I spent some time thinking about the many different HR topics I could share with you all. After some careful consideration, I felt that a post about applicant tracking systems (ATS) may be a useful subject for both recruiters and job seekers. As we navigate through the technology age, more companies are using online application systems for their job posting and candidate selection processes. This can be a very useful tool when it comes to finding a candidate/job fit. However, many recruiters and job seekers are not using it to their advantage. Thus, making the applicant tracking systems hurt rather than help.

ATSs are used to help weed out resumes and applications that are not qualified based on the job description criteria. This can help the recruiters tremendously by cutting down the time they need to spend sorting out these resumes. However, if your resume is not formatted in a way that is favorable to the system, you may be losing out on opportunity.

First, I would like to go over information and suggestions for the job seekers:
in order to properly restructure your resume in a way to benefit you, you need to know what type of information these systems pull from it. Keywords are one of the most important things you can focus on when reformatting your resume to your advantage. ATSs look for specific keywords unique to the job description and then rank your resume against those metrics. So, in order to be ranked in the top percentile, you may want to consider trying the following:

• Use keywords and phrases that are similar to the content in the job description.
• Send your resume in format that ATS can read, such as a .doc or rich text (ATSs have a hard time reading PDF format).
• Get rid of things that ATS can’t process, such as tables, graphs, or pictures.
• Don’t get too creative with your section headings. If you have “Professional Overview” for your job experience but the system is looking for “Work Experience”, your work history may be overlooked.
• Your employer and title should be presented before your dates of employment.

Those little tips could help you get your resume noticed by the recruiter which is the first step to proving that you are a fit for the job. After that, it is up to you to stand out in the interview process. Feel free to look at some of my previous posts for tips and suggestions on how to do so.

Now, onto the next part: it’s not only up to the candidate to find ways to best utilize the applicant tracking system. It’s also up to you, recruiters. I’ve done recruiting before in different roles and have used ATSs like Taleo and Field Glass. One issue that I noticed on our end (and really irked me) was the lack of documentation in the systems. I know there is only a specific amount of information that we can place in those systems for legal reasons, however, there are things you can do to create a useful and detailed history. Some suggestions of good applicant tracking from a recruiter standpoint are:

• Update statuses through the hiring process (i.e. referred to hiring manager, interview set, offer, etc.).
• Make notations of information gathered in each step. (i.e. Candidate interviewed well and has brought in an interesting portfolio that is attached to hard copy of resume).
• Document the outcome (i.e. candidate has great potential but was passed due to lack of education. Currently finishing school and is interested in applying again once he/she meets the requirement).

I feel that having this documentation could help recruiters make better decisions. If a recruiter saw that an applicant had the status of “Not Hired” in the system they may wonder things such as: what was wrong with the candidate that they weren’t hired; did the candidate interview poorly; did the candidate fail pre-employment checks; and so on. These thoughts could potentially make them pass on a perfectly good candidate. This candidate could have been well suited for the company but the recruiter would never know because the documentation wasn’t there, nor would they know which recruiter to ask if they were trying to get more clarification.

Applicant tracking systems can be great tools. They can help impressive candidates get noticed by recruiters and they can help recruiters find qualified candidates sooner. In order to make that situation happen, we must use it for its intended purpose to the best of our abilities. Hopefully, some of these suggestions will make your experiences with ATSs more successful.

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I’d love to hear more suggestions on how you made applicant tracking systems work for you. Send me a comment or tweet @ashlaurenperez

Some great articles to read on the subject:

5 Insider Secrets to Beating Applicant Tracking Systems
LinkedIn Q&A

Companies Mentioned:

Taleo
Field Glass