More often than not in the current job market, companies are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applicants that come to them online. While systems that track applicants and pull applications based on key words are helpful for managing the influx, the odds of your resume coming to the attention of the hiring manager can be very slim. So what is a talented, well-qualified applicant to do? Below are a few of my favorite tips for catching the eye of your next employer:
Network. The single most important thing any job seeker can do is network. Start by identifying your target companies and industries, then identify friends, family members, former colleagues, alumni etc. at those organizations and request an informational interview. The trick is not to ask the contact for a job, but to take the opportunity to learn as much as you can about the company, the culture, the hiring process, the department that interests you, etc. By doing this, you build a network of connections in the companies you are most interested in pursuing for employment.
Leverage Your Network. When a position does appear online, reach out to your networking contact at that company. Let them know you applied online, and ask them if they would forward your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager. Busy managers are much more likely to review resumes forwarded by a trusted colleague rather than digging through the mountain of online applications. And throughout the process, be sure to keep your contact posted on your progress, and always remember to say thank you. Personally, when I am hiring, I always start with the resumes referred by a colleague.
Focus on Key Words. Be sure your resume and cover letter use key words from the job posting, as systems will often search based on those key words. Try to have as many key words early in your resume such as the summary and core competencies sections to increase your visibility within the system.
Beware of formatting. Ensure that there is no formatting, such as underlining, that will cause the system to reject your resume. As a general rule, companies will never tell you that your resume fails to make it into their system. Keep the formatting very basic to ensure that it is accepted, and remember that you can have a different format for when you share it in person.
Above all, it’s good to keep in mind that it is still people who make the hiring decisions – not job application systems. You need to be proactive and use your network to get your resume into the hands of the hiring manager. Don’t just sit back and expect the system to do the work for you. As with most things, you get out of them what you put in, so approach the process thoughtfully for the best results.