In 2020 the unemployment rate reached an all-time high of 14.7%. Luckily we’ve rebounded from that somewhat, but there’s no denying that there are still a lot of folks looking for jobs right now. So how do you make sure your resume stands out from the crowd? How do you make sure you land that interview so you at least have a chance at the job?
In a past work-life I was an account manager at a staffing firm so I spent my days reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates on a client’s behalf. As a result, it feels like I’ve seen and heard it all from both sides of the hiring game, and I gleaned a thing or two about what catches a hiring manager’s eye. Keep these tips in your back pocket in case you find yourself looking for a new opportunity now or in the future.
An interview should be a conversation, not an interrogation. As much as a company is looking for the right person to join their team, you want the right opportunity for your career and future goals. The first and most important thing you can do for your job search is to set an intention. That could be to have a steady paycheck, a growth opportunity, a flexible schedule, or any number of other requirements — but you need to know what you’re looking for before you can find it.
Whether you’re including an objective statement or a cover letter with your resume (and yes, you should include a cover letter), use it as a way to stand out. The same old buzzwords aren’t going to cut it. Add value by clearly explaining who you are and what you’re looking for. In other words, why be a “motivated individual looking for an opportunity” when you could be a “seasoned content editor seeking full-time employment with a renowned publication.”
A shorter resume is a better resume. It’s not practical to include every detail about your work history and big blocks of text that likely won’t be read anyway. Assume that the recruiter or hiring manager has a very short attention span; — it’s not personal and there’s a good chance they have a folder in their inbox that is full of resumes to review. (You can trust me on this, because I have one.) Keep only the most relevant information and plug in key words from the job description that align with your experience. If you want to elaborate on specific skills or show off your personality, the cover letter is the perfect place.
It’s true that some job descriptions have seemingly impossible or even contradictory requirements. (How does an entry-level job require four years of experience?) However, if you're a recent grad applying for a senior role, it’s going to look like you didn’t take the time to read the job description. This is not the first impression you want to make. If you know you aren’t qualified, but still interested in a particular company, I encourage you to seek alternate ways to connect with them about future opportunities that match your skill level. LinkedIn, Twitter, or even the standard website contact form are all avenues to start a conversation.
Depending on your career it may make sense for you to have a portfolio website. This is a great piece to include in any application and you don’t have to start from scratch. More than once I’ve clicked on a link to a candidate’s portfolio site and immediately gotten a 404 or ended up at a site that says “Under Construction.” Take advantage of portfolio template sites out there like Behance or Adobe Portfolio that do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. It’s okay if you’re still working on it, just remove the link from your resume until it’s ready to rock.
When you’re in the thick of your job search it’s understandable that you’ll want to submit your applications as quickly and easily as possible. It’s easy to shift from quality to quantity, especially if you’re currently unemployed and your search is urgent. When you get an interview request, it’s time to pump the breaks and do the prep work. I typically ask candidates if they reviewed our website or why they want to work for our company. The real answer may just be that you need a job, but if you want to get that job you’ll have to do the research on why you’re a great fit for the company.
Everyone faces challenges in their career. Let’s say you have a gap on your resume or a few short stints at different companies. I encourage you to be open about these experiences — and this is the really important part — while remaining positive. Speaking negatively about a former boss or employer may feel warranted, but it’s not appropriate for an interview. It can actually backfire and make the interviewer see you in a negative light. For example, you might say that your last corporate job wasn’t the right fit, and you learned that you’re better suited to a small, collaborative team. You get the idea.
I’m going to end with the easiest one: You need to follow up after the interview. Now, I can see you shaking your fist and saying “But companies don’t follow up with me!” and that may be the case. But if you’re trying to get the job, it’s an easy way to impress the interviewer. Don’t overthink this one. It can be as simple as an email that says “Thank you so much for your time today. I enjoyed hearing about NASA and the open astronaut position. I’m very interested in continuing in the process and hope to hear from you soon.”
I guess with that in mind I’d like to thank you for your time if you’ve made it this far. I know that looking for a job and facing possible rejection can be draining and updating your resume is almost inexplicably painful. But hopefully you can take one or more of these tips and apply it to your job search. Maybe you’ll even find a career opening with Ample. You got this.
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