Have you ever applied for a job that fit you like a soul mate, but never even got a response after submitting your resume? You have the right degree, you have experience and have proven yourself in the industry, so how is it possible your phone didn’t ring immediately after you hit the send button?
According to Monster.com, 29 resumes are uploaded every minute to Monster’s worldwide network. CareerBuilder.com says each month millions of job seekers browse job postings on the site. With those statistics, it’s no wonder people are struggling to get eyes on their resumes and calls for interviews.
How can you possibly stand out as exceptional among millions (more likely hundreds or thousands, but still significant) of other applicants? While the data seems daunting, the formula for making an impression is actually simpler than it seems.
Elizabeth Malatestinic, senior lecturer in Human Resources Management at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, says hiring managers have very specific ideas of what skills and experiences candidates need to fit into open positions.
“Don't think of your resume as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ exercise. Companies want to know how you can meet their needs, so be sure to review the job description/advertisement thoroughly and make sure you address how your skills match their needs,” Malatestinic said. “It's easy to tailor resumes—there’s no excuse for sending one which doesn’t showcase how you’re a good fit for the job.”
The way a resume is presented also depends on the job and organization you are applying to.
“Keep in mind the industry you’re applying to before getting too creative,” Malatestinic said. “What impresses at an advertising agency might bewilder the recruiter at an accounting firm.”
Another mistake applicants make is introducing themselves in an unmemorable way.
“Many people send a perfunctory email directing the recruiter to ‘see the attached resume.’ A job seeker should think of that email as a chance to make the recruiter look forward to reading his or her resume,” Malatestinic said. “Recruiters are often overwhelmed with resumes and tend to scan them quickly—use your email to grab the recruiter's attention and give that person a reason to spend extra time on yours.”
In a post on its site, experts at CareerBuilder advise applicants to keep resumes simple and easy to read.
“Keep in mind, employers tend to have quite a few resumes they need to look over, and thus don't tend to spend much time on any individual resume—at least in the early stages of the application process. The easier your resume is to read, the more likely it is to actually be read. Use short bullets that someone can easily scan.”
CareerBuilder experts also recommend using specific past experiences to demonstrate you are the best fit for the job.
Daphne Wotherspoon, managing director of the IT practice HireStrategy, weighed in on the topic in a CareerBuilder post.
“In order to stand out, it's not enough to simply list the skills you have that match up with the employer’s needs. Frame your work experience with quantifiable or specific business outcomes you’ve helped achieve. For example, rather than ‘opened new accounts and sold into existing customers,’ consider noting you developed a new business pipeline of $3 million and secured 18 new clients,’” Wotherspoon said. “It makes your professional accomplishments more tangible for hiring managers.”
In a post on its site, experts at Monster said knowing what to leave off your resume can be as important as knowing what to put on it.
“You might think it’s a good idea to include as much information as possible to pad a weaker resume, but this approach can backfire. Including irrelevant jobs or extraneous accomplishments from relevant jobs tells your potential employer that you don’t understand what they’re looking for. Don’t make your target reader fish through a bunch of noise in order to find what’s really important to her, because she won’t. She’ll assume that you don’t get it, and move on.”