1. Focus on Keywords
When creating your resume, think about how recruiters will discover it. Which keywords would you use to search for someone with your background?
Many recruiters use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to gather and evaluate resumes. They also use social media, LinkedIn, job boards, and Google to search for candidates. In all of these cases, keywords are extremely important. The more keywords you match, the higher up on the results page you appear, and the more likely that a recruiter will click to learn more about you.
For example, a tactful approach with the keyword “Microsoft Excel” would be to sprinkle it around your resume in different sections such as:
- “Superuser of Microsoft Excel” in the skills section
- “Used Microsoft Excel to create charts and graphs” listed as a responsibility for one job
- “Developed a database using Microsoft Excel” as a responsibility for a second job
To determine the right keywords to use, try pasting job descriptions into a word cloud site (e.g., wordle.net). Then, if you have those skills and qualifications, thoughtfully add them to your resume and your LinkedIn profile in your summary, skills, and job descriptions.
2. Be Consistent
Practically every company will do a background check before hiring, so be honest about salary, titles, degree completion, dates of employment, and reasons for leaving. Also, make sure the titles and dates on all versions of your resume are consistent with each other and your LinkedIn profile.
I once met a candidate whose LinkedIn profile said that she was Director of Finance and Technology, while her resume listed her as Director of Finance. When questioned, she explained she was handling both roles, though she didn’t have the official title. After much deliberation about her integrity, we ultimately hired her, but we easily could have made a different decision.
If your title doesn’t fit your actual role, you can add more details in parentheses, e.g., “Director of Finance (also handling Technology).” In addition to being truthful, you’ll be including both the Finance and the Technology keywords in your title.
Differentiate Yourself in Your Cover Letter
Contrary to popular belief, most recruiters actually read cover letters – and they can really help or hurt your chances.
The typical cover letter has a generic salutation, followed by your life story. While I may be able to evaluate your writing skills, what I really want to know is: Why do you want to work for my company? Why did you choose us over all the other companies in our industry? A cover letter is the perfect place to explain why you truly want the job.
The most memorable cover letter I received was from a Purchasing Agent who started off with “Money, money, money. All I think about is how to save money”, and then went on to describe how saving money is part of her personality both at work and at home. We ended up hiring her because we believed she would not only thrive in the job, but actually enjoy it.
Network Your Way Into a New Job
Every time you apply for a job, check LinkedIn to find the hiring manager and see whether you share any connections. If so, ask your connection to pass on your resume with a brief recommendation, either by email or in person.
The larger your network, the more chance you’ll have a second-degree connection to the hiring manager. To grow your network quickly, first invite the people you already know to connect. Also, try attending job search networking events, and then invite the people you met to connect on LinkedIn.
A side benefit of going to these events is that you can meet recruiters searching for talent. Once, I scheduled an IT technician for an interview at a networking event (and later hired him), because he mentioned customer service was his top priority, and that was a quality our company was looking for in an IT professional.
Call to Follow Up
Once you know a hiring manager has your resume, follow up. First, do some research on the company and its challenges, and then illustrate how you can help solve them.
Before you call, send an InMail to tell the hiring manager exactly when you’ll be calling. Also mention who referred you and why you believe you can solve the company’s challenge.
When the Hiring Manager picks up the phone, begin with something like, "John forwarded you a copy of my resume and I’m following up as I promised. I have ABC experience and am interested in discussing how I can solve your XYZ challenge. Do you have a few minutes to explore this now?" If they agree, consider yourself on a phone interview. Role-play this conversation with a friend until you can say it with confidence.
Demonstrate Your Passion
Regardless of qualifications, hiring managers and recruiters want to hire someone who shows interest and excitement for the position and company.
Before your interview (even a phone screen), list out why you’re excited about this particular job, this specific company and industry. This will guide you through the interview and make you stand out, even if other candidates are more qualified.
The only caveat when demonstrating passion is to avoid sending the message that this is your only opportunity, which can imply desperation. Subtly reinforce that you’re considering different opportunities by saying things like, "I've explored a variety of options with other employers, but sofar, this one seems to have all the components of what I’m looking for.”
Write Effective Thank You Notes
Don’t forget to write a thank you note to stay top of mind with the hiring manager. This is your chance to remind them about how your background fits the open position and provide more examples of your qualifications and experience.
Keep your thank you note short and sweet. It’s okay to use the same opening and closing for each person who interviewed you, but make sure you personalize the body with details from your conversations with the specific interviewers.
You can send your thank you note by email, InMail, snail mail, or the Pony Express--just make sure you send one. It may just be the final thing that will convince your interviewer you’re the best fit.
Be Patient Yet Persistent
Once you’ve interviewed and sent a thank you note, rest assured you’ve done your best and move on to uncovering other terrific opportunities. Set a goal for how many jobs you want to apply for each week, but be sure that you’re only applying for roles that you’re at least 75% qualified for and 100% passionate about.
Meanwhile, a little bit of cheerful persistence can go a long way. Feel free to use InMail, email, or a phone call to contact recruiters directly and ask if you’re still being considered.
Calling or emailing once every few weeks is acceptable, but calling five times a day is not. Recruiters are unlikely to call back unless they have something specific to tell you, so don’t be concerned if you don’t hear back.
Prepare Your References
Right before a company decides to hire you, a recruiter will typically request to check your references. Typically, we’re interested in speaking with two of your recent managers.
Reach out to each reference to explain the details of the position and ask them to return our calls promptly. Also, make sure you’ve given us the right phone number!
Some companies have a policy of not divulging reference information, but in most cases any type of reference will provide us with some brief but valuable information. If your relationship with your former manager wasn’t positive, find someone else at the company at or above their level who will provide you with a positive reference.
Manage Your LinkedIn Network
Don’t be shy about asking people to join your LinkedIn network, but do be specific. Mention how you know each other, how you can help them by being a part of their network, and/or how you hope to work with them in the future.
Also, don’t be afraid to accept invitations from recruiters. Sometimes we send connection requests to candidates we hope to place in the future. Recruiters tend to have large networks, so an added benefit of connecting with them is that you’ll acquire a tremendous amount of new second- and third-degree connections.
Searching for a job may seem intimidating at first, but using a few proven tips and techniques can help you get your foot in the door – and put you on your way to finding your ideal career.