Getting the attention of recruiters can be tough. Sometimes it seems like every resume you send out goes into a black hole of nothingness and despair, never to be seen by a human again. Or worse yet, you see the dreaded email auto-response telling you that "after careful consideration, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected for this position." Sure, very regretful...
After hours of customizing your resume, you got rejected before you even had a chance to have a 5 minute conversation with a real human. This can be frustrating and you deserve better.
If you feel this way, it's not your fault. It's difficult to get noticed and recruiters are overwhelmed by huge stacks of resumes and countless applications. I know, as a hiring manager I often read through dozens, or even hundreds, of resumes at a time to find candidates that are a fit.
Most resumes only get a 6 second glance before being tossed aside. This is usually enough to determine if a candidate is unqualified, but sometimes good resumes get tossed in the bin with the bad ones. It happens and it has probably happened to you. But what if you're different? What if you are qualified? How do you make sure that your resume doesn't get tossed aside?
Before I get to the one thing that will get you noticed, it's worth mentioning that there is a lot of useful, conventional advice out there that will help you make sure your resume doesn't suck (check out the list below for a few ideas).
The problem is that even if you follow all the advice below, you still won't get an interview 99% of the time. Think of the advice below as a pre-req, but not a game-changer. It's important to get these right, but it's not enough.
1. Tailor to the company, industry, and position - This is great advice. Of course you should include language and experience that your target company can relate you. Relatability good. Let's move on.
2. Only include relevant information - Again, this is a no-brainer, although most people seem to screw this up. Just because you're proud of your work doesn't mean that anybody else will care. Just keep the info that paints a picture of you being a qualified candidate. Leave out the irrelevant details that will distract the reader.
3. Make the information easily digestible - Use whitespace, simple fonts, and bullet points to help improve readability. This is important since your resume will only receive a quick scan during the initial pass. Make it easy for the recruiter to find key information.
4. Identify and quantify your accomplishments - You want to show that you can can deliver results. By focusing on what you completed at past jobs and the business impact (in $$$), you will show that you are a valuable employee worth spending money on. It also shows that you are focused on the business's success and not your own accolades.
5. Ensure there are no typos or errors - This one is obvious, but you wouldn't believe how many resumes I've seen with glaring spelling and grammatical errors (hint: "Minnsota" is not a state). Click the "spell check" button before you submit that resume. And have a friend at it too.
These tips are great, but I guarantee that you still won't stand out in the sea of applicants even if you get all five right.
I suggest paying a professional designer to help you create something that really stands out visually, but that's not what this article is about. (But seriously, get out your wallet and hire a designer. Don't try to do it yourself. It will be ugly. You know who you are.)
Before we get to the one thing, let's start with some motivation. Recruiters want to interview people that are perfect candidates because those people are more likely to be hired. Following so far? Good.
So what does this mean for you?
It means you must appear to be the perfect candidate to get an interview.
Now, you're probably thinking: "Sounds great, but how the hell do I do that?"
If you're trying to change fields or take on more responsibility, it is impossible to look like the perfect candidate. After all, you have no experience doing the new job, so how can you be the perfect candidate with no experience? You can't.
Should you lie and pretend that you're perfectly qualified? No, of course not.
So what do you do when you're not the perfect candidate for the job you want? You use the 1 secret to getting recruiters to interview you:
Don't apply for the job that you want -- apply for the job the recruiter wants you to have. <--
Look through the job openings and find the one that you appear most qualified for and apply for that.
Yes, I know. This isn't the job that you want. But that's okay.
Your only goal at this point is to get to get a phone screen with HR.
If you've been working on crafting your personal narrative and honing your communication skills (you are doing that, right?) you will find that every recruiter you speak to will suggest that you interview for the job you actually want instead of the job you applied for.
Trust me, it works. If you do it right, 100% of recruiters will ask you if you are interested in the job that you were dreaming about all along. Apply for the job that you are qualified for today but sell them on why you would be great at the job you want (more on this in another article) and they will suggest it for you.
When I was a software engineer and wanted to become a data scientist, I applied for software engineering roles. When I was a data scientist and wanted to become a manager, I applied for individual contributor roles. Despite me not being a perfect fit on paper, I always ended up interviewing for the positions I really wanted.
And no, it's not unethical. You're using your knowledge of the system to get a fair shot instead of being passed over. And you deserve it.
When you speak to the recruiter, you're not going to mislead them about a job that you don't want -- tell your story and let them decide how to move forward. If they suggest a position that you aren't interested in, or if your dream job isn't available, thank them for their time and move on. It's that simple.
Go out there and give it a try. Craft the perfect resume for the job that you are perfectly qualified for. I bet that you will get a lot more recruiters asking if you have a few minutes to chat. And that's all you need. Just one opportunity to shine. This is where it all starts: the road to your dream job.