Since I graduated with a B.A. this past May, I’ve developed what my parents have decided to term a “somewhat unhealthy obsession” with job hunting. Oh well, what do they know? I enjoy discovering new opportunities and advertising myself in a way that might spark some useful interest. Here are a few things I’ve learned from the past 3 months of “obsessive” job hunting.
1. Write a unique and specially designed resume for every new job application.
According to an in depth eye-tracking study taken in 2012, it takes the average recruiter or hiring manager approximately 6 seconds to determine if you are the right fit for his or her company. This may seem like discouragingly flippant behavior on the part of your potential boss; however, when you take into consideration the amount of resumes these people are faced with on a daily basis, its hard to blame them for moving quickly.
In order to make the most of this incredibly brief timeframe, it’s important to make a strong impression right off the bat. Here are a few tips to help make your resume stand out among the rest.
Establish a direct link between you and your employer as soon as possible.
To do this, be sure to list your skills, interests and accomplishments that are particularly relevant and compatible with the responsibilities and expectations of the position on offer. Although the standard of an initial “objective statement” seems to have faded into obscurity over the past few years, a short and specially crafted summary of your relevant qualifications can go a long way in terms of establishing you as a credible candidate. Review the job listing that you are responding to (yes, again) and pull out the most important and unique keywords that are essential to the position at hand. Integrate them into a cohesive description of yourself and use that as the opening statement on your resume.
Prioritize the sections of your resume.
Keep your most potent descriptions as close to the top of your document as possible. Since the time you are afforded is so brief, an employer is not going to want to read through 5 lines of text before he or she understands why they should hire you. Get to the point.
Proofread your resume.
I cannot overstate the importance of this action enough. Typos, grammatical errors and other inconsistencies of the like stand out in the worst possible fashion. How can your employer take you seriously if it is clear that you haven’t even taken the time to ensure that your resume is written properly? These kinds of mistakes are clear indicators that you are not prepared to dedicate yourself to the job. (ex: “alot” vs. “a lot”; “their” vs. they’re”; “it’s” vs “its”; etc.)
Also, as with all professional and academic writing, avoid the passive voice when possible. (ex: Passive – “He was hired by her.” vs. Active – “She hired him.”)
2. Be concise.
This next point is very much related to the timeframe I’ve just discussed. Avoid superfluous information and flowery language. Your resume is a professional document, not a poem to be workshopped in your MFA program. No one cares if you know a lot of big words, it’s more impressive if you can accurately represent yourself in a way that is immediately understandable.
On a similar note, provide “hard skills” not “soft skills.” If you claim that you are “goal-oriented” or a “team-player,” that doesn’t really tell your employer much about you aside from the fact that you can regurgitate the same hollow drivel that everyone and their mother has come to see as desirable qualities. If you are a team-player, show how. Describe tangible accomplishments and skills that can attest to that quality of mentality. (ex: “Improved gross profits by 17% by working with a team of 8 organizational members over a span of 1 year to develop useful strategies.”)
3. Learn about your employer. Be an investigator.
This is perhaps the creepiest of all my pieces of advice, but it’s an important one. Know your employer. In the age of high-speed technology we currently live in, it has become increasingly easier to gain information about the people around us. Find out the name of the company’s hiring manager and Google it. If he or she has a blog, read it. If you find that you share similar hobbies or interests, keep them in mind. This doesn’t mean that you should be searching for irrelevant personal information about people, but you should at least know a little bit about who you are speaking to.
Also, enough with this “To Whom It May Concern” nonsense. If you are writing an email or cover letter to a company, at least take the time to figure out who is in charge of the department or sector you are interested in. If you can’t find out, give the company a call and ask. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of inquiry, and to name your employer specifically shows that you are invested in researching and attaining the position.
4. Treat every application with the same level of seriousness.
Practice makes perfect. I know that it might seem like sending out 30 resumes a day is a sign of worthwhile productivity, but it’s not. Every resume and cover letter should be shaped to match the position you are applying for. Each document should treated with close attention to detail. Instead of disseminating the same cover-all resume and cover letter to a variety of different jobs, take the time to craft the proper documents for 3 or 4 applications a day. Learning to submit well written job applications is a skill that is developed like every other skill. It should be a continual process. Precision is key.
5. Networking is your friend.
Get out there and talk to people! This doesn’t mean that you have to be roaming the streets with a stuffed manilla envelope in hand, but it does mean that your information should be available to a wide host of people. Make a LinkedIn, join groups that share your aspirations and interests, upload your resume to Indeed.com and Monster.com. Talk to your friends who may be involved in the field of your interest. A job isn’t going to fall into your hands, you have to grab it by the tail.
Talk to your family, your former classmates and your former professors. All of these people have the potential to help you in your job hunt, you shouldn’t be in this alone. Seek out recruiters and reach out to them online or via telephone if appropriate. This does not mean that you should start emailing corporate CEOs in search for an entry level position, but it does mean that there is no shame in connecting with people at a lower level who might be able to help.
6. Get feedback.
Show your materials to everyone who is willing to read them. Don’t hide your resume like its some sacred personal document, more important people are going to read it anyway, give it to your friends for review. Good writing never occurs in isolation. Maybe that really smart kid in your 300 level philosophy class will have some tips about why its not a good idea to talk about your religious beliefs in your job application.
Your resume and cover letter should be very easy to read. I don’t just mean that in terms of diction, I mean it in terms of aesthetics. If you present an employer with a wall of text, he or she is much less likely to take the time to read it. Each section of your resume should be clearly delineated with accompanying headers, and you should include as much white space as possible without selling yourself short.
8. Revise, revise, revise!
Although each resume should be geared toward making a specific impression upon a specific recruiter, that does not mean that it is a bad idea to have a general template to work from. Use a document of this sort to get used to describing your valuable qualities and advertising yourself as a desirable employee. Review this document every day and edit it to ensure consistency.
Getting your dream job takes time. Sometimes you will get a response in a few days, sometimes in a few months. Don’t let this interval of time discourage you. As long as you’ve put in the commensurate amount of effort to craft a persuasive reason to hire you, you should be optimistic. This doesn’t mean you are always going to get the job, but there’s no use in worrying what’s going to happen once you have all of your materials submitted.
A great tip that I recently received is to add professional testimonies to a resume. If you served in an internship and your employer wrote you a letter of recommendation, use parts of it in your resume to reinforce your capabilities. What better form of personal advertising is there than actual recommendations from former employers and mentors? That being said, don’t include these supplemental pieces if you don’t have room for them. Your accomplishments should speak for themselves, a testimony is just the icing on the cake.