There aren’t any ways to guarantee that your resume will get read, picked and set aside for an interview. However, there are a few ways to guarantee that it will go straight to the slush pile. It’s still an employer’s market and the competition is fierce. The recession might not be at the lowest point, but there’s still no room for sloppy job hunting skills.
Keep in mind, especially for larger companies, resumes are usually sorted by software before a human even reads them. That means key words that match the job description and SEO-rich words on the company web site have to be included. This will require tweaking a resume every single time it’s submitted. However, it doesn’t stop there:
Keep it personal:
There’s no way to know if a program will receive the resume first or a human, so err on the side of personalization. Whenever possible, find the name of a real person and avoid “Dear Manager.” Some software programs might even scan for key personnel names to gauge just how much effort applicants put into the process. Oftentimes for small companies, it’s pretty easy to find the name of the HR director.
Always address the key points of the company. For example, if someone is applying for a position, the interviewee should do a lot of research on the company online. Just like teaching to the test, it’s important to write for the job. Visit the company’s website, get familiar with their products or services, read about what awards they’ve won or events they’ve attended, and really get to know the people and atmosphere of the company. Highlight your experiences and talents that you feel would fit in well with the company, and downplay or remove unrelated items.
Proof, proof, proof!
Even Pulitzer Prize-winning writers make grammar mistakes. Proofread like mad every resume and cover letter. Whenever possible, get someone else to do grammar checks, too. People naturally fill in the blanks and correct mistakes in their head — although not on paper — because the brain is just trying to be helpful. Sometimes this causes needless mistakes.
An easy way for an HR recruiter to sort applications is by putting those with glaring typos in the slush pile. The result? Proofreading takes some extra time and work, but it’s worth it. If a person can’t bother to make their application perfect, what does that say about their work ethic? Think from a recruiter’s perspective.
Play it cool:
It’s perfectly acceptable to call or email to check in with a hiring company, but no more than once per month. It’s even more acceptable if you’ve already scored an interview. Bullying someone into ponying up a job never works, and you’re more likely to be put on the no list if you annoy them. Instead, stay polite and professional while still in their line of vision.
Recruiters might be bogged down with a lot of applications, so understand that they’re busy. A nice hand-written note post-interview or a follow-up call one week later is essential; daily emails are not. Playing a little hard to get works both ways when it comes to job hunting.
Apply to the right positions:
You might think you have what it takes to be a marketing manager, but does your resume reflect this? Many skills are transferrable, but some aren’t. If you’re looking to get into a new sector, figure out how your current skills and background play into what’s required. If you need a little boost, sign up for a related class, volunteer for a complementary position or consider going back to school if you want a total career overhaul.
Job hunting is partially a numbers game, but not totally. There are almost always more qualified people out there, so the trick is to play up your skills as they relate to the job at stake. There’s nothing wrong with getting creative, hiring a professional resume writer or even seeing a consultant to figure out your angle. However, simply sending out as many resumes as possible probably won’t work.
Job hunting is a more than full-time job on its own and it takes patience and skill. However, avoiding little mistakes can help make the difference between an interview or not. Take your time and create an application you’re proud of, because that will shine through. You might find what you think is your dream job, but there are plenty of fish in the job hunting sea and the one that’s right for you will eventually emerge.
The most important thing is to keep trying and send out a set amount of resumes every day. Choose as many as you can handle, whether it’s two or twenty — just as long as quality and research doesn’t suffer. Keep track of your applications on a spreadsheet so that you know the appropriate time for a follow up email or call. By practicing your organizational skills now, you’re already prepping for the perfect job.