Imagine you’re an HR officer, going through hundreds upon hundreds of resumes in your inbox. After sending the 50th resume straight into your “Trash” folder, you stop, sigh loudly, and say: “Goodness gracious, when will that candidate ever show up?”
Now you know how hiring officers feel on a good day — yes, that’s on a good day. That’s the first step to getting an employer’s attention: Empathizing with their recruiters. The next steps all involve tweaking your resume, and becoming that candidate who’ll make a recruiter jump on their swivel chair a la Tom Cruise, and shout “Finally!”
Here are some tips to help you do that.
Go Over a Job Posting at Least Twice
Want to know what an employer is looking for, exactly? Here’s a hint: 90 percent of the answer is in the job ad.
Take a closer look at the job description, duties, responsibilities, skills and experience required. Given that, try to imagine what kind of person fits those requirements perfectly, and ask yourself: “Am I this person?” If not, look for another job, and do this step again. Trust me: You’ll find it much easier to sell yourself as a “fit” if you actually are a fit.
Include Only Your Relevant Skills, Experience and Achievements
Your credentials might span five pages of A4 paper, but if none of them have anything to do with the job you want, they won’t get you past an exhausted, over-caffeinated recruiter.
Go over your skills, experience and achievements one more time. Then narrow them down to the ones that are relevant to, and can lend you an advantage for, the job. For example, if you’re a psychology major who wants to become a copywriter, emphasize how your understanding of the human psyche translates to an ability to write compelling, hits-all-the-right-buttons copy.
Also, remember to incorporate keywords in your resume, especially if the employer uses software like Taleo to recruit employees. No matter how well-crafted your job application is, it’ll get axed faster than the speed of light if it has none, or too few, of the right keywords.
Mimic Your Employer’s Language
If a job ad is written in a friendly, upbeat tone, use a similar tone in your resume and cover letter. If an ad is written in a way that reminds you of a dead leaf suspended over an active volcano, write in the same way.
In case an ad doesn’t give you much to go by, check out your prospective employer’s website to get a feel for their tone and culture. You can also check out their official LinkedIn profiles, visit local and national conferences where they’re likely to gather, or chat with industry experts. People gravitate to those who are like them — and employers, as human beings, are no different.
If you know who your interviewer is ahead of time, check them out on social media to see what they’re like, what their interests are and what drives them crazy – and put it to use, subtly, in your interview. Be sure to check out the website to see if they share information about the team and their interests, too. Some companies, like Empire CAT, share information about the journey of employees in the form of videos or “Meet the Team” pages.
Also take note of how important the company culture is to them – if they have a lot of information about it on the website, it’s a safe bet that they’re going to be looking for a good cultural fit. Be sure to bring this up when speaking to the recruiters.
Avoid Done-to-Death Jargon
Whatever tone you use, however, avoid words like “hard worker,” “go-getter,” “results-oriented” and other phrases that only vaguely hint at what you’re capable of. Writing a resume is a lot like writing a story: Show, rather than tell, your employers what you can bring to the table. For example, instead of writing “Increased funds raised for our organization”, say “Multiplied funds raised by 200 percent.” Use strong yet precise verbs in your resume that’ll make a recruiter sit up and take notice.
Proofread Your Resume
This might seem like an obvious, or even unnecessary, tip, but you’d be surprised at how many resumes get passed over because the candidate, say, wrote “Ms.” instead of “Mr.” to address a male recruiter. Check your resume for things that shouldn’t be there, and try to avoid the other stuff that drives recruiters crazy.
Remember, the resume is your first step to making an impression on your employer. If extra effort is apparent in your application, an employer will think: “Hey, maybe this person will exert the same amount of effort with us, too.” So send that kick-ass resume out, hope for the best, and keep pushing your luck in your job search.
About Sarah: Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she’s a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. She’s also the newest addition to the Campus to Career family, serving as a featured contributor on a regular basis. You can find her tweeting during boring speeches @SarahLandrum