As a hiring manager, I have seen my fair share of substandard job applications, many of which are immediately placed in file 13, the bottomless pit of paperwork that never gets looked at again. The most frustrating part is that I really want to receive as many qualified applicants as possible but a shabby resume and generic, or in some cases, no cover letter ensures that you forgo the chance to make it into the interview round.
The following points are tried, and true, methods that if you are not already doing, you ought to be.
Update Your Resume: Your resume is a way to highlight your experience and give potential employers an opportunity to determine if your education and work experience meet the job qualifications. But lets face it, writing and updating a resume is time consuming and often and anxiety inducing task requiring deep breathing techniques and sometimes, in extreme cases, sedatives or recurring pep talks from loved ones. The questions seem never-ending. What do I include? What kind of format do I use? Should I include objectives and qualifications?
Procuring the help of a professional writer who has experience in resume writing, or soliciting the advice of a hiring manager/human resource specialist will help to alleviate some of the stress associated with producing a stellar resume. Resume experts will also help you to alter the language of your resume to sound more convincing and professional.
Don’t be afraid to use a bit of creativity in resume writing. The point of this whole exercise is to make yourself stand out. Just make sure the creative method you are using fits the culture of the company. And never, never, ever…..ever, lie on a resume. It does not leave a good impression and likely, your lie will be revealed.
Write a Convincing Cover Letter: Cover letters have become just as important, if not more important, as a resume. In a resume, you give a timeline of your experience, education, and a synopsis of your qualifications. In a cover letter, you sell yourself.
A cover letter should not exceed one typed page (10-12 point font, single spaced) and include a brief introduction, summary of your qualifications, a summary of why you are the best individual for the position, a closing statement, and a thank you. Writing in a concise yet coherent and selling your self in one page is tough, but not an impossible task. Again, if writing is not your strong point, enlist the help of a friend or professional who can help you (not do it for you) with the format and language.
If you do not include a cover letter, you will most certainly NOT get an interview. Employers, myself included, routinely rely on a cover letter to determine whether or not you make it to the next level.
One additional note on cover letters, you should write a new letter for every position you apply for. Job qualifications differ depending on the position, so writing a cover letter that touts your abilities specific to the job description and requirements will be more beneficial than using a generic template. And there is nothing worse than using a cut and past cover letter template and forgetting to change the information from your previous application. Embarrassing, and a sure fire way to eliminate yourself from the candidacy.
Follow Up: In the last decade, many companies and organizations have moved to an online format for collecting information from potential job candidates. This presents a challenge in that you likely will not be able to get direct access to the hiring manager via phone. If this is the case, attempt to contact the individual or department by email. Be sure to write a proper, formal email inquiring about the status of your application or resume and checking on the timeline for the hiring process.
Employers are infiltrated with resumes, so give them some time before you follow up. Of course this is contingent upon the size of the company or organization, but 4-7 days is an appropriate timeline for follow up.
Be Tenacious but Not Annoying: There is a fine line between tenacity and annoyance, walk that line very carefully. Following up two or three times is appropriate. Calling every day and emailing incessantly, however, is highly inappropriate. Asking the right questions during the follow up will help to eliminate some of the ambiguity, so be sure to ask about the hiring process and if, and when, you will be contacted about the position.
Following these steps will not guarantee that you make it through to the interview, but will dramatically increase your chances of making the cut. Establishing a routine, or process, for applying for jobs will also help you to feel more organized and at ease with the high anxiety ridder task that is job hunting.