Do you feel like you’re sending your resume into a black hole? It’s not necessarily because your experience is lacking. You could be the most qualified candidate in the world, but unless you hone your job search strategy during the pre-interview phase, you’re never going to get a chance to talk to a hiring manager.
If you’ve been job searching for a while, and your inbox is full of dust bunnies, here are five things you might be doing wrong:
1. You’re concentrating on applying online.
Up to 80% of job openings aren’t advertised, according to Steven Rothberg, founder of job-search website CollegeRecruiter.com. Instead, they’re filled internally or through employee recommendations. If you’re focusing your search on job boards and corporate job listings, you may only be seeing as little as 20% of the potential market.
The better bet is to concentrate on building your network. The more people you have in your corner, the more likely it is that you’ll hear about one of these unadvertised opportunities. Better yet, you’ll have someone to vouch for you to the hiring manager.
2. You’re not creating targeted resumes for each position.
Hopefully you’re customizing your cover letters instead of sending everyone the same generic letter, but your resume should get some tweaking, too. Of course, it’s easier to write your resume once and send it out for multiple job openings, but that sort of blanket-application process isn’t very effective.
Put yourself in the shoes of the decision-maker in this scenario: Do you want to hire the person who’ll take any job, or the one who appears genuinely excited about the particular job you’re hoping to fill? The enthusiastic candidate is more likely to appear like a good fit — and thus more loyal. It’s expensive to hire and train employees. Companies hope to make a good choice from the start and keep their workers on board and productive for as long as they need them.
3. You’re not using resume keywords.
When you apply online, your resume most likely enters an applicant tracking system, a software program that stores and sorts resumes, and allows recruiters and hiring managers to search them by keyword. Fail to include the right resume keywords, and you’ll never come up in their search.
How can you find the best resume keywords? Start with the job description.
“The buzzwords they’re looking for will usually be apparent in the job posting, so be sure to review them to make sure you have touched on most, if not all, of the keywords that are most relevant to each position,” writes Alison Doyle at About.com.
You should also include any keywords related to your skills, education, and job history. Don’t leave out terms just because you think they’re obvious. You might assume that everyone knows that a landscape architect probably knows AutoCAD, for example — but if you leave out that information, your resume might not make the cut when a recruiter searches her database.
According to a CareerBuilder survey, 60% of employers used social media to screen candidates, and 21% said they were specifically looking for reasons not to hire a candidate. Don’t give them that reason.
If your online presence looks more like a Bud Light commercial, you might want to think about updating your privacy settings. (Although even that won’t necessarily save you: 36% of employers said they’d asked to be friends with candidates on social media. Cleaning up your profiles entirely might be best.)
On the other hand, not using social media at all can also work against you: 41% of employers said they’d be less likely to interview someone if they couldn’t find information about them online.
5. You’ve let the hiring manager know how old you are.
It’s illegal to discriminate against a worker based on their age – at least, after the age of 40 – but that doesn’t stop some companies from doing it anyway. At the hiring stage, it’s often easy enough for people to figure out how old you are, based on graduation years or outdated terminology in your resume (e.g., “webmaster”).
Remember that your resume is the highlight reel of your career, not a blow-by-blow account of everything you’ve done since graduation. If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, it’s perfectly all right to drop a few barely related early jobs from your CV. And definitely take off that graduation year if you think it might be holding you back.