One of the most frustrating things about searching for a job isn’t finding a good job to apply to, or even the nerve-wracking interviews. It’s knowing that once I hit submit on that online application, my resume is going down some deep dark hole never to be found again.
Companies receive hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants for each job they post online. So needless to say job hunting is a competitive venture, but we all knew that already. So what can we do to give ourselves a leg up, and make sure our resume’s don’t end up in some black hole in an HR website?
This past weekend I asked this very question of a friend of mine who is the HR manager for one of the largest private companies here in Buffalo. Here are some of her tips, along with some things I’ve picked up from my own experience.
1. Learn Some SEO
SEO, or “search engine optimization” is how bloggers such as yours truly get our blog posts and websites to stand out from the crowd and reach the first page of Google. Some of the same tactics can be applied when submitting your resume online. Tailor your resume to the specific job you’re applying for by sprinkling in some of the key words and phrases from the job posting. The screening software the company uses will be searching for key words and phrases in the resumes. You can increase your chances by making sure your resume includes those key items from the job listing.
Some other tips for a more effective online resume are to forget about all the fancy fonts and formatting. It may look good to a human, but can actually hurt your chances with a computer. Instead, make sure your resume is made up of clearly defined, well organized sections. Any graphics, logos or pictures you may be using should go too. Keep your resume to plain text, and use a traditional font.
You can have a more eye appealing resume to bring to the interview, or if you are submitting any physical copies. But for the online submission you want to keep it plain and simple.
2. Utilize Your Network
For years I would read career advice about networking and blow it off as something I didn’t need to do. But each of the past 3 interviews I’ve had have come from working my network and connections as opposed to finding a position on a job board.
By networking I don’t mean going to “networking” events and BS’ing with strangers. I mean talking to your friends and family and seeing what they can do for you. I’m not exactly the most outgoing person in the world, and I hardly have what you would call a large network of friends, family and acquaintances to call on. But everyone you know has their own network of people they know, and that can go a long way!
Another advantage of using your network to find a job is that you may bypass the whole online application process by finding jobs that aren’t publicly available yet. I casually mentioned during a poker game that I was starting to look around for a new job and less than a week later a friend from that game called me up with news that someone in a department he works closely with was retiring and the job would be opening up. He took my resume, gave it to the hiring manager and put in a good word for me. I got skipped past the initial HR phone screen and got right in for a face to face interview with the hiring manager. In the end, I ended up not receiving an offer, but the point remains: using personal connections got my resume in front of the hiring manager before the job was even available to the public. It would be pretty hard for it to get lost that way!
While Linkedin is most commonly looked at as a networking tool, it can be very useful in other aspects of your job search. For starters, Linkedin is a living breathing version of your resume. You can make your Linkedin profile much more robust than a traditional resume, your connections can “endorse” you for certain skills you’ve acquired, and best of all people can write recommendations of your work right there on your profile for all potential employers to see.
Linkedin is another way to bypass the black hole of corporate HR sites. After finding the job you want to apply for you can try to do some detective work to find out who the hiring manager is, or at the very least a contact in HR. After that you can try to connect with them on Linkedin, or even have a name to mail a physical copy of your resume/cover letter to. No one is going to be offended by you reaching out or going the extra mile in trying to land an interview.
4. Recruiting Agencies
Sometimes the best way to not get lost in the shuffle is to have someone working for you. Staffing agencies such as Robert Half, Manpower, Adecco and countless others have professionals who sole job it is to play matchmaker between companies that hire them and qualified people looking for jobs.
These companies work closely with you to find an opportunity that matches whatever you may be looking for, and they work closely with HR departments who entrust them to present the most qualified candidates. I actually got the first two jobs of my career by having a recruiter work for me. One of them I had actually applied to in the past and had my resume go ignored by whatever screening software was being used by the companies website. Often times recruiting firms get a reputation for only placing people in low paying or temporary jobs, but they do far more than that and can be a huge asset to your job search.
These are just a few of the ways you help your self stand out in your job search, and avoid your resume falling into that black hole of online application websites.
Readers: What are some of your best job searching tips? How do you get yourself to stand out from the crowd when searching for a job?