3 Ways to Make Your Job Application Stand Out
Get through the initial screening by submitting a resume that shows employers you’re worth a closer look.
You’ve probably heard about companies that received thousands of applications for a single position. While the numbers may seem daunting, you might be surprised how easy it is for hiring teams to whittle down a pile of applications. By making a few tweaks to your resume and cover letter, you can help ensure you’ll stay in consideration when employers weed out the people who appear to be playing a numbers game. Here’s my advice:
Tip #1: Focus on quality over quantity.
Why it works: Rather than trying to see how many positions you can apply for, apply better to fewer positions. Spend your time and energy researching those companies and tailoring your resume and cover letter to the specific requirements of the job. Any experienced hiring manager will quickly sift through applications that appear to be generic and could be used for any position, to get to the ones from people who actually demonstrate they understand and want that particular job. It takes some work on your part to create the latter kind of application, but you will experience more interest from employers as a result.
Tip #2: Customize the “objective” at the top of your resume.
Why it works: Instead of a generic goal that reads as fluff to an employer — “I’m looking to join an organization where I can have a significant impact and help others” — create an objective that’s specific to the job and company you’re applying to. That shows the reader that you are targeting them as an employer of choice. Your objective should be written in a way that it could only be referencing the specific position for which you are applying. It’s also a good idea to incorporate your key qualifications in the objective, which means that it could only be written about you.
Tip #3: Create a master document you call the “everything resume,” one that includes all your jobs, training, skills and volunteer work. Then, for each job you apply to, whittle the “everything resume” down to the relevant parts.
Why it works: It’s a time- and energy-saving mechanism that will help you customize your application without reinventing the wheel each time you apply for a new position. And customization might involve organizing your resume in ways beyond reverse chronological order. For example, if your most relevant work experience isn’t your most recent, break your experience into two sections — “related work experience” and “other experience” — and put the related experience at the top. This helps ensure the employer is hit with your most relevant work experience first, encouraging him or her to read further. Having an “everything resume” makes this process easier. An employer doesn’t want to read through everything you’ve done; they want to see if you have the minimum qualifications they’ve stated in the job description and how relevant your experience, skills and education are to the job they are seeking to fill. That’s how you get through that first screening.
Ray Rogers is the director of Career and Professional Development at St. Edward’s University.