Looking for ways to impress a potential employer? Want to make your resume or job application stand out from the pack? During one two week time period, I reviewed 485 resumes and applications for 18 different positions. I interviewed 23 candidates and brought six back for a second, more intense round of interviews.
Believe me, I can tell you what rang my chimes. Some of this advice may surprise you. Some may even make you angry because it doesn't seem fair or right to you. I can't guarantee that all employers will agree with me, but why take a chance in this employers' market?
Apply for jobs for which you qualify. My "no" pile of applications is increasingly made up of people who don't even remotely qualify for the advertised position. These job applications frequently consist of a resume in an envelope. Why waste the paper, the stamp and the time? If you find yourself applying because it's an area of work you might want to get into, or think you'd like, don't bother.
Unless you can make the stretch and fit between your qualifications and background and the described opening, you are wasting your time. Each application or resume gets less than five minutes of my time. You need to quickly qualify yourself as a potential candidate because the employer doesn't have or take the time to do it for you.
Write a targeted cover letter that introduces your key qualifications and highlights your "fit" with the position for which you are applying. Address the letter to the person conducting the candidate search, when known. And, no, don't presume familiarity and write, "Dear Susan."
Until I know you, my name is "Ms. Heathfield." Additionally, the cover letter needs to specifically address the available position. Spelling and correct grammar do count. So does the spacing of words on the page, an attractive overall appearance, and the "feel" of the paper. Online applications, which are the norm these days, must be targeted and formatted appropriately. Pay just as much attention to spelling, grammar, and appearance.
Target the resume to the job. Would you like to know how many people are looking for a "challenging opportunity to utilize my skills with a progressive employer who will provide opportunities for growth?" Don't even ask; the answer will break your heart if this is how you routinely describe the position you seek in your resume.
Even more importantly, in this day of instantaneous electronic publishing, no one needs to photocopy 100 resumes at an instant print store. Customization counts. Customization is everything when you are looking at substantially different opportunities, too. Say, you are looking for a training position or a marketing position. The identical resume won't sell your skills for either field.
Lead with your strengths. What makes you different from 40 other applicants? On your customized resume, start out with the background and experience most important for the position you seek. The stage of your career is also highly relevant to the placement of information on your resume. If you are just graduating from college, lead off the first portion of the resume with your education and degree.
A seasoned veteran will start with an accomplishment summary and then list jobs, titles, companies and responsibilities chronologically. A network administration applicant should lead with his or her certifications (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and list software and hardware experience (Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server) before listing jobs and education. The key is to make it easy for the resume reviewer to see that you are qualified for the position. You want your resume in the coveted "yes" pile awaiting an interview or phone screening.