1. Who do you know?
This advice may be counterintuitive if you found the job posting on a website, but first go through your own contacts and see if you have any connections with the company. Occasionally, you will be able to request that a former colleague, friend or even vendor refer you to the open position before you fill out an online application. This will increase your chances of escaping the “round filing bin” A.K.A. the trash can.
2. Do your homework
It is not enough to be the best qualified candidate; HR Professionals hire people who want to work at their specific company. Go to the company’s career website and read everything they have to say. Then read some more. Look at their main website and any pages that apply to the job posting. As you read take notes on the phrasing they use and any key words that stood out. Some companies have a corporate culture so strong that they also have their own language. You want to be able to speak their language and seem like a natural fit.
Change your resume and cover letter for each position you apply to. Take that list of words and phrases you took from their website and see if there are any places you can use their language within your resume and cover letter. Keep in mind your resume is about what YOU can offer THEM. Often times you have relevant experience that applies specifically to the job posting. Try highlighting your most relevant experience rather than offering a chronological explanation list of past employers.
4. Keep it simple
Take out any elements that effect readability or distract from your accomplishments. Use an easy to read font size 10pt or higher and a simple font such as Arial or Times New Roman. Make sure to include your contact information. Take out design elements such as grids or fancy bullet points. When in doubt, ask yourself if the layout makes it easier to find the information or harder.
5. Add numbers
Can you quantify any of your accomplishments? Even if you do not have an exact number specifically tied to your accomplishments you may be able to use a percentage. Call a previous co-worker or your last supervisor and ask if they can offer you some help in this area. Often times your supervisor will know the exact performance measures of you and your department.
6. Be yourself
If you are recycling canned statements in your resume, it will seem disingenuous. Be honest about why you want to work at that specific company in that specific role. HR Professionals appreciate people who take the time to be careful and honest in their resume.
7. Make good digital first impressions
If you are uploading or attaching your resume title the document with something simple and professional such as JennSmithResume.doc. Ensure that your email address is professional sounding and that your current social media sites are private and professional.
8. Find a friend
I am sure you know someone who is great at writing or at the very least, better than you are. Have them review your resume before submitting it. Make sure they take the time to offer feedback and don’t accept the statement “it looks good to me.” There must be at least one thing that they would change or that you could have done better.
9. Ask for the interview
Submitting the best resume in the world will only get you so far. It is the HR Professional’s job to find the best candidates, and showing confidence in yourself will help them feel confident in you. In the final paragraph of your cover letter or email, ask for a job interview. Use statements such as: “I would welcome an opportunity for a personal interview to discuss your organization’s needs” or “I look forward to learning more about [Position title] and how my qualifications and experience can best be leveraged to meet [Name of Organization]’s needs. Please contact me at your earliest convenience to set up an interview.”
Already have an interview? Read our job interview tips
10. Follow up
If you did not receive the position, thank them for the opportunity to be considered and ask for feedback on what skills or qualifications you were missing. It may feel like a difficult conversation to have, but once you know exactly why you did not receive the position you applied for, you will be able to make yourself a more attractive candidate for future job opportunities.