By Amy Michalenko, Career Expert @ Fresh Start Women's Resource Center
As of late, my job of helping other people find work has not been the easiest task. Certainly in a tougher economy, there tends to be less hiring and more competition for positions. I regularly hear job seekers lament about how they’ve submitted resume after resume to no avail.
To get the skinny on the current hiring processes and what makes candidates stand out, I’ve reached out to several Human Resource professionals that do the hiring for companies. What they shared was surprising: even today, standing out among the competition isn’t that tough—if you know what to do.
Hundreds of Applicants, Not Hundreds of Candidates
A 30-day job posting, on average, can attract 150 to 200 applicants, and that can sky rocket upwards of 700. However, these numbers should not discourage you: most recruiters indicate that, from 200 résumés, they’re lucky to find 15-20 really good candidates that fit the requirements.
Judy Weiler, a contract HR professional for various technology companies throughout the U.S., shared how she posted a Technical Project Manager position, and received multiple résumés from cashiers at fast food restaurants. So don’t let the numbers fool you: there are not 200 Technical Project Managers out there—just a lot of people who will apply for anything and everything. In most, cases your competition ends up being only that 15-20 people.
The Top Résumé Deal-Breakers Are Easy To Avoid
The most glaring error that will quickly eliminate you from the running is having spelling and grammar mistakes on your résumé or cover letter, as well as typos! These are so easily avoidable—yet they’re the number one reason candidates are passed by.
Other red flags that recruiters use to narrow down the competition include lack of stability or a history of several short-term positions, too much personal information on the résumé, or a résumé that is not targeted to the job posting or lacks a consistent and professional format.
Yes, Format Matters
It is important to keep your résumé concise and of an appropriate length (1 page for most). Recruiters consistently said that format stands out first, and you as a job seeker will typically get past a first scan if your résumé is formatted professionally and seems well organized.
Further, by only including those details of your experience that specifically pertain to the position you’re applying to, your résumé will be tailored to the recruiter and show why you’re best suited to the job—a key to landing you an interview.
Practical Advice from Recruiters to Job Seekers
With all that in mind, here are a few tips, straight from the HR experts, to help get your résumé into that “must interview” pile:
1. Use the job description from the job posting to target your résumé. Be sure to include the specific skills that were in the job description, and eliminate information that does not pertain to the position you’re applying for.
2. Make it interesting to read: use accomplishment statements as opposed to listing your duties. For example, “Reduced turnover by 10% which saved the company $100,000 per year.”
3. Make yourself stand out! Use the top of the résumé to provide a summary of what makes you unique and why you love what you do.
4. Always have at least one other person, if not more, review your résumé. This will help you catch silly typos and formatting inconsistencies.
5. Follow up! Don’t just submit your résumé and sit back and wait. Nothing will make you stand out more than taking the time and initiative to follow-up with the hiring manager.
Every single recruiter I spoke with indicated the importance of this step, and most pointed out that it rarely happens. Even if the contact information is not included in the posting, take the extra time to do research and seek out the correct individual. The only time you should avoid following up is if the posting specifically states "no phone calls please".
There is not some big secret you need to know in order to get your résumé noticed. You simply must provide employers with a good, clean, concise and well-organized document that highlights what you bring to the table. Take this invaluable feedback from today’s hiring professionals, and get the interviews you’re looking for!
Do you want more helpful advice on job searching or career advancement? Become a member of the Fresh Start Community of women today: www.wehelpwomen.com. Membership gives you exclusive access to all of the exciting & interactive workshops, webinars and special offers.
Amy Michalenko is a Career Expert who works as the National Strategy Officer at Fresh Start Women’s Foundation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in human resource management and a master’s in instructional leadership and corporate training from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, PA. She has more than 10 years of experience in the areas of human resources, career services, corporate training and development.