How do you stand out from the deluge of resumes submitted by other job seekers?
Follow the directions. Sounds simple and obvious, but apparently it isn't.
When I've posted jobs for employers, I've asked job seekers to answer specific questions (e.g., "describe your greatest achievement in your most recent job") in their applications. While many people applied for those jobs, fewer than 5% answered the questions. Which ones had their resumes reviewed? Only the ones who answered the question.
We've also asked job seekers to submit their resume in plain ASCII text, not to attach Word documents to e-mail. If the job seeker didn't know what ASCII text was, a quick Google search would have told them. But we got many Word document attachments anyway - and they all went into the "ignore" file.
This doesn't leave a good impression on a potential employer - if the job seeker cannot follow basic instructions, what kind of employee would they be?
Don't apply for a job unless you meet the minimum qualifications.
This seems obvious, but, again, it apparently isn't. I think it's because of the "why not give it a shot" theory. The job seeker thinks, "Maybe they (the employer or recruiter) won't get the person they want, so why not give it a shot and apply anyway." Wrong. You're just wasting their time and looking clueless or dumb - not a good impression
With hundreds of resumes to choose from for every opportunity, employers don't need to risk hiring someone who isn't qualified, so the "why not give it a shot" theory just wastes everyone's time and actually makes it more difficult for everyone.
Don't make them think or guess.
Connect the dots for the employer in your cover lette/rmessage:
- If you are responding to a job posting, put the job posting identifier in the subject of your message, and repeat it again in the text of your message.
- Demonstrate that you have read, understand, and meet the job requirements. Don't make the recruiter/employer work to figure out that you have the qualifications they need. Point it out to them, nicely, but clearly. "You need someone with 2 years of experience doing [whatever], and I have been doing [whatever] for more than 2 years."
Research the company.
Read the "Tips to Ace That Interview" article for tips on doing effective research, and use that research to focus your resume on the experience you have that relates to the job and the employer, and drop names (products, services, competitors, partners, employees) in your cover letter, too. With luck, you'll get a chance to use your research in an interview.
Follow up off line.
Use your research to connect with someone inside the employer's organization, even in HR. It's tough, because job seekers don't want to ruin their job chances by becoming a pest, but just submitting a resume and then passively waiting to hear from an employer is not that effective any more, unless you really are the perfect candidate.
Be politely persistent.
You will get a job. Just don't give up, and don't be careless