As a hiring manager, I’ve often joked that I should call all the candidates whose resumes were not selected for further interviews and tell them that for $30, I would tell them why I had not interviewed them. I know, I know. I am a horrible person for even joking that way. In all seriousness though, early in my career I honestly thought that hiring managers painstakingly poured over resumes in an effort to determine which candidates had the most promise from their past achievements and experiences. Not true. I want to know who can walk in the door and make the biggest impact the soonest – and fit in best with the team – all in less than 2 minutes of skimming a resume. Below are my top recommendations on how to keep your resume out of the discard pile. Spoiler Alert: They all point to the hiring manager being able to picture you in the role they need to fill.
1. I never got to know you. Please do not make the grave mistake of only submitting your resume to an online job posting, along with hundreds of other people. While this may have possibly worked for someone out there, I don’t know anyone who has ever gotten a job using this tactic. If you really want to work at a great company, you need to show them you are resourceful. Recruiters attend hiring fairs because they want to meet great people – show up ready to impress and then continue to foster that relationship. When you see an opening posted, reach back out to that recruiter with whom you’ve built a relationship and ask them to show your resume to the hiring manager. If a face-to-face introduction isn’t an option, introduce yourself on LinkedIn. Remember though, if you want a recruiter to actually read through your entire email, you have to have something engaging to say right off the bat such as, “Last year, I was proud to be among the top 10% of employees in my company to be recognized for stellar performance.”
2. I didn’t have time to hear you out. Wordy much? Not a good tactic for your resume and cover letter. Perhaps you have some really great skills on page 3, but I only had 5 minutes between meetings to read your resume, take a bio break and get coffee. I have no idea what came past the first half of page 2 when I tucked your perfectly formatted 4 page ledger of your life’s work in 10 point font into the discard file, confused about why you thought you’d be a good fit for this role. Seriously, get to the point quickly. Is there a compelling reason you think you are the best person for this job? Tell me quickly and plainly; do not make me search for your relevant skills and experience – getting my attention quickly is key. And here’s the real shocker – you don’t even need to have all the experience I listed as “necessary”. You just need to be able to demonstrate to me how your past experience lines up with the job at hand.
3. You didn’t seem to know me. Please, please, please – only apply to one job at a time. No, I do not mean that you should submit your resume to only one job and wait for the outcome of that application before applying for other roles. I mean, you should make your application for this role specific to what you can bring to the table for this role – please do not spam me with your generic resume. Are there many roles I would be qualified to do well, yes. Should I submit the same resume for all these roles? Only if I want my resume to end up in the discard pile. I really don’t care about what you can do for my competitor – I care about what you can do for me. Read what I’ve posted carefully and then craft your resume and cover letter in response to the specific position you are applying to. Yes, I do know that this takes a lot of time and effort, but, aren’t you asking the recruiter and hiring manager to take time out of their day to read and respond to your resume? If I don’t know what made you think you’d be a good fit for this role . . . next!
4. Your atrocious formatting made you look unprofessional. I need you to produce work that is presentation ready. If the formatting of your resume is sloppy or outdated, I’m not going to trust that I won’t need to reformat all your work. My previous managers who had come out of public accounting taught me that if the presentation of a document is great, the reader will focus less on trying to find errors. Subconsciously, we actually trust better formatted documents, so take care to make a good impression here.
5. I have no idea what you just said. Perhaps in the midst of all this industry jargon, you have really great skills, but I didn’t bring my secret decoder ring with me to work today so I’m going to pass on interviewing you. When you have your resume proofread by several friends (before you ever apply for a position), make sure that at least one of them has absolutely no knowledge of your industry or role. I know many recruiters who are professional recruiters – they have never held a position like the one you are applying for and thus won’t be able to translate your resume to tell the hiring manager about your experience if you make it impossible to decipher.
6. You left me wondering “so what”. The three resumes I’m going to follow up on all told me their experience and how their actions impacted their organizations. You told me you are experienced in forecasting, they told me they automated the forecasting process across 12 subsidiaries, thus improving the efficiency of the process and allowing management to make decisions with better, more timely data. You told me you have experience working with customers – they told me they implemented a customer experience improvement process that allowed their organization to address critical areas that had been bringing down customer satisfaction, thus improving overall satisfaction by 10% over four months and increasing revenue 5% over 8 months. If you can’t substantiate your experience in terms of the impact you’ve had on your organization, it will be hard for great companies to want you to join their ranks. Look for opportunities to go above and beyond in each of your roles, then document the effect your extra efforts. If you don’t have the opportunity to get this kind of experience in your current role, business resource groups within your organization or non-profits outside your organization may be able to benefit from an investment of your time and enemies, translating into a strong ROI for your resume.