In U.S. Job Seekers Exceed Openings by Record Ratio in today’s New York Times, they reveal that there are 6 times as many job seekers as there are available job openings. As many of you know, there are some areas where that ratio is even more unbalanced: I’ve talked to people who say they are regularly up against over 100 qualified candidates for the same position. Ouch. Even industries like health care, where constant growth was anticipated (drawing people to training and certification programs) have seen declines.
One of the personal stories covered in the article illuminates a point I’ve made recently: college-educated Vicki Redican lost a lucrative job as a sales and marketing manager, and has since failed to pick up work even as a cashier or selling coffee. Although Ms. Redican’s situation may be different, in my recent article, Lost Job? Don’t Panic, I explain why no one wants to hire a person who is aiming too low.
How do you make yourself stand out against 100 other applicants? How do you make sure you are in the 99th percentile?
How hiring managers look at resumes
When I am sorting through a pile of resumes, I am not looking for the ideal candidate. I am looking for reasons to eliminate candidates. Right off the bat, I reject resumes that have atrocious misspellings. Additionally, I reject anything that appears to be applying for a job rather than the job — you need to tailor your resume and cover letter to suit the position you are vying for. For some positions, the posting called for sending a resume and portfolio — it was simple to reject any applicant who did not supply the latter.
Those steps often eliminate 80-90% of the resumes. Now I’ll start to look for the requisite skills — the same skills I requested in the job posting. As I mentioned in When Resumes are Read by Robots, the person reviewing your resume is not always the same person that posted the job opening, or even a person at all, so make sure your resume uses the same terminology you found in the job posting. Emphasize the requested skills, even if it means you have to downplay other prized skills that may not be relevant to the job. That usually winnows the pool down to the last 4-5%.
I’ll tell you something else: there is never a perfect candidate. No one ever has every single skill and qualification I’m looking for. When comparing last few people who have made it past all the hurdles, I am going to compare accomplishments, so make sure you list only your most impressive. This last item can be tricky, particularly if you are just out of school and don’t have a lot of job experience–this is where some volunteering or freelance work can bolster your resume.
- Don’t make easy mistakes: proofread your resume.
- Make sure your application is tailored to the job opening.
- Put your best foot forward and cross your fingers.
Call to inquire if you don’t hear back within a week or two (and the job is still posted). Your call will underscore your interest, and it’s possible that you can supply a missing piece of information that will make your application look more attractive. Of course, if the job goes to someone else, don’t feel too bad: it’s a tough job hunt out there these days.