Remember back when you actually used a pen and paper to fill out a job application? Or when it was suggested that job seekers actually submit their applications to employers in-person? However, with the emergence of the Internet, applying for jobs has become an entirely different process with almost no human interaction. Additionally, with a struggling job market, the competition is at an all-time high. Today it has become even more crucial to submit an impressive resume that stands out amongst the others.
Applying online is meant to be a streamlined and easy process, and as a result, everyone does it. Therefore, because everyone has the ability to apply, hundreds and thousands of applications get sent down the Internet rabbit hole into a dark abyss that either lands you a call back or an automated rejection email. But what about if you applied less than 24 hours ago and still received the generated "Unfortunately, your application was not selected for further review" message? How could it be possible that a decision was made so quickly? Well, the reality is that people are no longer looking over our resumes and cover letters -- machines are.
Sure, it might sound like a scene from a sci-fi flick about robots conquering the human race. But the very real fact is that we are living in a technological world. Additionally, since many people have access to the Internet, jobs that are posted online become fair game for everyone. Therefore, with thousands of applications coming in, the task of reviewing each candidate individually is a daunting job for any hiring manager.
However, even though thousands of candidates are applying, this does not mean that everyone is qualified. In fact, Wall Street Journal's Lauren Weber states, "Most recruiters report that at least 50 percent of job hunters don't possess the basic qualifications for the jobs they are pursuing." Which is why it is up to the machine to filter and dismiss those candidates who are submitting unpolished and sometimes even unrelated resumes and cover letters.
But what if you are qualified, and you still aren't having any luck? Well, then it might be time to reevaluate how you're crafting your resume, and how you can modify it so that a machine can recognize that you are a solid candidate.
Although it may seem like an obvious suggestion, it is probably one of the most important: Read the job description carefully. Pay close attention to the specific skills that this employer is requiring or recommending that you have. The job description is significant because your goal should be to reflect the employer's wants/needs by addressing them with keywords in your resume. Most of these keywords are listed in the skills and/or qualifications section of the job announcement.
Using the same type of language from the job description in your resume will ensure that you are truly "fitting" the wants and needs of the employer, and the machine will be more likely to keep you around during the filtration process. In fact, Monster.com offers hundreds of free sample job descriptions that can help you even before you begin your job search. Browsing the job descriptions will guide you in crafting a resume that will already be tailored to many of the jobs that you might see on the actual market.
For example, an accountant position might describe the ideal candidate as someone who can: "Maintain professional and technical knowledge by attending educational workshops; reviewing professional publications; establishing personal networks; participating in professional societies."
Remember in high school when the teacher explained that the best way to answer the prompt question was to restate it in your response? Crafting your resume with keywords follows a similar format. In this case, explaining that you have maintained professional and technological knowledge by attending educational workshops such as Lynda.com or online courses with the local community college (my examples) will not only incorporate the keywords stated, but incorporate your actual experiences as well. This way, you've struck the balance between embodying the employer's ideal candidate and honestly representing your own unique background.
Apart from your own editing and research, having your resume reviewed by someone who can provide sound professional advice is great as well. Although there are useful systems such as spellcheck and other software out there, having another pair of eyes is probably your best bet for catching small mistakes or awkward sentences.
Finally, remember to never give up. Yes, looking for a job can be time-consuming and stressful. Yes, oftentimes you will face rejection. However, persistence is the key to success. Here's hoping, with some of these tips, you will be able to beat the machine and get closer to the job of your dreams!