Having just relocated for my wife to attend graduate school, I’m now one of the 7.8 million Americans looking for a job.
And let me tell you, it’s not fun spending an hour on an application that gets ignored. However, as someone who enjoys finding best practices and efficiency hacks, I see this as an opportunity to explore what it takes to stand out among 250 other applicants and land a job interview.
Between my own search, a lot of reading, and past experiences both sending and receiving resumes, I’ve discovered a few things that play a critical role in getting the attention of hiring managers.
If you submit dozens of applications without hearing from anyone, take a step back and re-evaluate. The following five tips will help you go about your job search the right way.
1. Apply to fewer positions
Too many job hunters cast a net when they should be spearfishing. This is why only 2% of applicants actually get their resume in front of the hiring manager. Most applicants simply aren’t relevant for the job opening.
How do you remedy this? Apply to fewer jobs – but invest the time necessary to make your application shine. Remember, you don’t get a job because you need it. You get a job because the employer needs you.
Seek out jobs where you will be able to provide value, and then use your application to prove it. When you stop fishing with a net, and start using a spear, you’ll land far more interviews.
2. Avoid common (and uncommon) resume blunders
The average recruiter spends just 6 seconds looking at each of the 200+ resumes submitted for a job opening. Make a tiny mistake, and yours is quickly sent to the discard pile.
To keep your resume in the game, make sure you do the following:
- Double check for formatting and grammar issues: Consistency across your resume is crucial. A change in font halfway through, missing periods, or improper spacing shows an immediate lack of organization. You’re essentially saying “I’m incompetent” from the very beginning. If grammar isn’t a strength of yours, find a friend to proofread for you.
- Only show relevant details that tell your story: Although you need to include your entire work history on the application – you don’t need to do this on your resume. Use your resume to paint a very clear picture of who you are and why you are qualified to excel in this position. Sometimes, leaving out unrelated positions and degrees can actually improve your response rate.
- Submit your resume as a Word document, not a PDF: Some of the “smart” solutions that recruiters use to scan resumes can’t read PDFs. This means that submitting a PDF may prevent your resume from ever being seen by a real person! Play it safe and submit a Word document.
3. Don’t neglect your LinkedIn profile
If you submit an amazing application, but your LinkedIn profile looks like a teenage boy’s Facebook or Twitter account, you can kiss that job goodbye. Although you want to professionalize all of your social media accounts when applying for a new job – LinkedIn is the most important.
LinkedIn is your business card, resume, and professional network all rolled together. In fact, a well-crafted profile can actually result in employers reaching out to you.
The three areas that are essential for a great LinkedIn profile include your profile picture, professional headline, and summary – but don’t stop there. Spend the time necessary to revamp your LinkedIn profile to make sure that employers take you seriously.
4. Spend as much time networking as you do filling out applications
Maybe even more. A survey done earlier this year discovered that as many as 85% of all jobs are filled by networking.
A surefire way to bump your application to the top of the list is to have someone mention you to the hiring manager. Does this guarantee that you’ll receive the position? No. But it means that your application will be one of the 2% that gets reviewed.
The best way to network is to reach out to your connections directly. Tell your friends, mentors, and distant acquaintances that you are actively looking for a job doing X in industry X. LinkedIn is a great way to find and contact the appropriate connections – but Facebook, email, or a phone call can also work.
How do you network if you don’t have connections working for your dream company? Get creative! Join online LinkedIn and Facebook groups, find networking opportunities on MeetUp, attend any relevant conferences or events that can help you make a connection. In short, apply the great advice from the book Never Eat Alone and start meeting people.
Then, make the most of social media. Comment on the company’s blog and respond to tweets (appropriately), mention the brand periodically on your own website, and find other ways to make it obvious that you’re passionate about the brand. The more positive interactions you have with the company, the more likely you are to get an interview.
5. Establish yourself as an industry expert
If you want to stand out from the competition and create job security for life, become an industry thought leader. Becoming a known expert can make you a high-demand commodity within your market – opening a plethora of doors.
How do you do this when you’re unknown and unemployed? It’s not as difficult as you might think. In fact, as an online blogger and freelancer, I help people do this all the time!
Here are three simple steps to kickstart your thought leadership status within a couple of days:
- Follow industry thought leaders on Twitter and LinkedIn – and share their content regularly.
- Create a blog (it only takes 20 minutes) and write three posts related to your industry. If you aren’t a great writer, consider sharing infographics or even starting a YouTube channel. The key is to have some venue to share your knowledge of the industry.
- Find a way to do a project related to your dream job – and do it. If you can do it for the company that you want to work with (even without them being aware of it) then all the better.
The above three steps will get you started, but don’t stop there. Establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry and you’ll never have trouble finding another job again.
Don’t give up, get creative
Job hunting is stressful when you’re unemployed with bills to pay. But don’t give up. Step back, take a breath, and implement the suggestions above. If cash is tight, find a way to make extra money in your spare time as you continue your search.
By building relationships, continuing to learn, and finding other ways to contribute to society, you’ll eventually come across a position that’s the perfect fit for you. Good luck!