We’ve all been there before. You encounter a job posting that seems like your dream job, so you apply, only to get nothing back, not even an acknowledgement that your resume was received. By understanding a few details about the process from an insider’s point of view, you will know how to navigate the process and hopefully have it hurt a little less.
While most assume that the purpose of a resume is to “sell yourself,” or secure a job, the sole purpose of your resume when conducting a job search is to get your name to the top of somebody’s pile. For candidates looking to change careers, your primary goal after achieving this is to “fit in” before you stand out. You want to first look the part and highlight your relevant skills and experiences, while describing yourself with the same words that the company uses to support the “fit” evaluation. In the age of digital applications, hiring managers spend 8 to 30 seconds on a resume, so the quicker you can grab their attention and assure them that you have the skills required, the better!
Here are a few tips that will increase your chances of being discovered:
1) Do your homework. It is important to review the language used in articles about industry trends, annual reports of your target organizations/companies, and the LinkedIn profiles of those in this field, so that you know what keywords to include on your resume. If you can schedule a virtual coffee chat with someone at a particular company or in a certain field to get a better sense for the language and culture, even better!
2) Highlight the overlap. When you are looking to move into a different field, it is critical that you help the hiring manager see the connection between your skills and interests, and the qualities that they are looking for. I recommend placing a list of your previous professional achievements beside the job description so that you can effectively synthesize them to identify the parallels. It is best to highlight your strongest selling points at the top of your resume in a “Summary” section to provide the reviewer with a favorable lens to view your subsequent experiences through. Consider categorizing these relevant skills into two-three different buckets and use a title headline for each to demonstrate alignment between your skills and the job description requirements (i.e. experienced project manager, team-oriented leader). Candidates should outline supporting evidence for each, focusing less on soft skills and more on the tangible skills and experiences that will prove that you have what it takes to do the job.
3) Beat the system. Many candidates get rejected right from the start because they don’t understand the rules of the game. Most mid- to large-sized companies scan resumes into an HR or “talent management” database; the hiring manager often doesn’t get eyes on it until after it passes through the “resume black hole” or the applicant tracking system (ATS). Your resume will only be “discovered” in a keyword search of the database, and the keywords used most often come from the job description. To increase your chances of being picked up in the ATS, it is important to use the same words that are used in the job description. If your skills don’t perfectly align, list very specific skills that are similar and find ways to describe those skills in a way that might come up in a keyword search based on the description.
Remember, the candidate who gets hired is not necessarily the person who can do the job best, but the one who knows the most about how to get hired.
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