Take Your Job Search Seriously: It IS Your Job Today!

The Reality of Today's Job Hunt

In today’s environment, everyone knows about every job that is advertised. The numbers are staggering. You can expect to be one of between 180-250 applicants for each position posted on job boards such as Indeed, Monster, Ladders and others. It’s difficult to make your resume stand out in a crowd that large. While you may be among the most qualified for a position, the screening person may or may not recognize that, given that he or she has a large stack of applicants, and a requirement to only forward a few to the hiring manager for interview consideration. The generally accepted time for each resume to be viewed for the first “cut” is between 8-10 seconds. What this means is that to survive that first cut you must show the reviewer that your qualifications match the position requirements up front, in unambiguous language. There are several ways to increase your odds of getting past that first quick shuffle from hundreds of resumes to tens.

Best Practices to Stand Out

·       Never submit the same resume to more than one job announcement, unless the requirements are identical (not similar, identical). Every job announcement will have somewhere in the neighborhood of four to six requirements. Even those with a full page listing the “ideal” candidate can be reduced to the core requirements with a little study. Your qualifications should be prominently listed on the top half of the first page of your resume, and should closely mirror, if not match, the stated requirements. This makes it easy for the reviewer to see that you qualify. Help him or her do their job.

·       Never take the easy route and apply through the job board where you found the listing. Most job boards permit applicants to upload their resume so that you can apply simply by clicking one or a few buttons. The problem is that it is immediately evident to the person reviewing your application that you didn’t take the time to respond fully, and thus did not take the application process seriously. Don’t expect to get a call for an interview. In addition, a general resume just isn’t going to make the first cut, and there won’t be a second chance to apply. Each application deserves a targeted resume.

·       Always apply where possible through the company’s website. That can be a time-consuming, laborious process, but that is the way companies decide whom they will call for an interview. Few (if any) companies accept resumes in person, and even if the online process is seemingly pages long, only those applicants who work their way all the way through will be considered. Avoid answers like “see resume” for experience and education, for example. There will be plenty of qualified applicants who will take the time and fill in all the blanks. That’s just another way for reviewers to discard an application.

·       There are a couple of exceptions to filling in all the blanks.

  • Reason for Leaving Last Position? Answering this question can be tricky. Leaving it blank often prevents the application from being submitted. Just find a way to answer it that doesn’t include being fired, fighting with the boss or other employees, or anything negative. Be honest, but positive. Say things like “seeking employment that more closely matches my education,” or “interested in working for a company with a better career ladder” or something of that nature. If you were laid off because your contract ended or funding was cut off, that’s okay, just make sure your answer doesn’t give the prospective employer any indication that you will be a problem employee.
  • Salary History or Experience.  If at all possible, don't enter either the salary of your last job or your salary requirements.  Once you put a number into a blank, it becomes your number. Too high a number can disqualify you for consideration, and too low a number can cheat you out of a salary more commensurate with the position for which you are applying. Remember, it is usually the position that commands the salary, not the person going into the position. Consider putting a zero into the blank, so that the application will upload. Save the salary discussion until later.

 Many online applications have a space for cover letters. The rule of thumb for cover letters is that, if one is required, cut and paste a letter that is not simply a restatement of what your resume contains. Some employers look at cover letters, and some do not. The only advice here is to do what you think will enhance your chances of making it to the interview process. A positive letter which contains information not prominent in your resume would be helpful, but a stolid re-hash of qualifications may do little one way or the other. Try to impress with your cover letter, not convince. Your resume should do the convincing.

In Summary

Making it to the interview process is a lot of work. In your job hunt, treat the application process with the same level of diligence that you will bring to the job, once hired. Keep in mind that your resume will not get you hired. It will get you to the interview, and that’s all you can expect

Article by Danny Lindsey, US Army, Retired, Veteran Employment Services Manager - Huntsville.  dlindsey@ssv.org