Job hunting sucks. There, I said it. It’s a process that requires you to try to put your best stuff on display, with a high probability of rejection.
If you’ve reached the point where you are just blindly firing off applications to anything that looks promising, I get it, but in the long run, the best way to find the right fit is to spend a little more time, send out fewer resumes and tailor your pitch. (Unless you’re a freelancer, and you may want to think about ditching your resume altogether.)
It’s a candidate’s market. We’ve been hearing for months that the job market is great, that recruiters are desperate for candidates, and that, if you’ve ever considered changing jobs, now is the time.
Of course, what we hear in the news, and the actual experience of people out job hunting is quite different. Jobs rarely fall out of the sky like rain, even in a “good” job market. Whether the market is hot or cold, you still need to make sure you do the fundamentals right.
Let’s think about it from the recruiter’s perspective.
In a tight job market, when you post a job you get a giant pile of resumes, and 90 percent of them are super-qualified for the role.
In a candidate’s market, when there are more jobs than applicants, you still get a giant pile of resumes, but now only 10 percent are super-qualified for the role.
In theory, that should make the job easier, but in practice, talent acquisition experts will tell you that they still spend the same amount of time looking at each resume. The process doesn’t really change.
Here are four tips to make sure your resume lands in the yes pile.
Read the Job Description
I know, I know, I’m a skimmer, too. I look at job postings, skim down to the bottom to see if they posted a salary, slap together a generic cover letter, and click send. But, I know I shouldn’t. Rather than blasting your resume out in a generic way to every posting you see, take a few minutes and really read the posting. Notice whether the description focuses on any key areas or elements of experience. Look for ways that your background perfectly matches their needs. Highlight those so you can address them in your application.
When you read a job description, you’re also looking for red flags. Job postings that talk about “fanatic dedication” or “comfortable with rapidly changing priorities” should come right off the list. No matter how much you would like to get out of the frying pan, hopping into the fire is always a bad idea.
Customize Your Cover Letter and Your Resume
We all know we’re supposed to write a custom cover letter, and there are plenty of great online resources for how to do that. But, you may never have thought about customizing your resume. You don’t need to write a custom resume for every posting, but you may want to change the bullets under your current job to highlight the most relevant experience you have.
While entry-level jobs are often general, the further you go in your career, the more specialized you typically become. This can cross a variety of ways of working, from industry experience to specific software packages you know well, and beyond. In an ideal world, recruiters want to hire someone who can walk in the door and be productive right away.
When you take the time to scrutinize the posting, you’ll find names of processes, tools and other tidbits of experience. Don’t make recruiters search for that information, do the work for them and make it easy to find. Since these things may vary from posting to posting, you’ll need to take the time to make those changes specific to each role you apply to.
Be Unique … But, Not Too Unique
If you’ve ever watched audition episodes of shows like American Idol, you know that they are either really good or really bad. It’s great to be yourself, and to highlight the ways that you are a great fit for the job. It’s also appropriate to mention some things that make you different. But beware of going too far. Google “weird things on resumes,” and you’ll find lots of examples ranging from inappropriate to flat out bizarre. Don’t be that girl.