Before submitting your resume for a specific opening, print out the job postings that you're interested in pursuing. Use a highlighter to mark the keywords and industry language used to describe the requirements and responsibilities of each position. Compare those words and phrases to the language that appears in your current resume. Figure out how and where to add the most relevant keywords to your resume, assuming you have the specific knowledge, skills and experience. Applicant tracking systems will search for keyword matches -- the more matches, the better, which often determines if a recruiter opts to view your resume. Once you're confident that your resume reflects a strong match, submit that targeted resume online.
Don't rely on spell check.
We all know that spell check won't catch "of" instead of "off," which means you can't rely on it for spelling, grammar or punctuation on your resume. Read each line from bottom to top. Step away from it for a day and review again.
Don't go too far back
In rare instances will your work history from the '80s be relevant, so leave it off. Devote the most space to highlighting the positions you've held for the last 10 to 15 years. Similarly unless you finished in the last five years, don't include dates of graduation.
Submit on company websites over big job boards.
Take a minute to see if postings found on big job boards also appear directly on a company's website. If so, submit your resume to the company site instead of submitting on a big job board. Why? It shows you're interested in that organization, not just any job in your field.
Find people in addition to positions.
Once you apply, get to work to find internal referrals to make a personal introduction. There are many ways to do this: network among people you know, search on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, search contacts through alumni associations, and attend job fairs.
The worst thing you can do is submit your resume online -- and wait ... and wait and wait for the phone to ring. Follow up with a call or email to the recruiter responsible for filling the position. Never say, "Did you get my resume?" Instead be ready to reiterate your strong qualifications and interest in the role. You'll have just a brief moment to sell yourself, so rehearse before making the call or sending the email.
Don't know the name of the right person? Cold-call the company and ask an operator to put you through. If that doesn't work, Google the term "recruiter" or "human resource director" along with the name of your employer of choice. The results may reveal the name you're trying to find.
LinkedIn is another resource to find the correct name. Every recruiter is different, which makes this a challenge. Some say you're welcome to follow up weekly. Others say every other week is enough. And then there are some who'll tell you to never call. Find the right balance so you're politely persistent without crossing over to a pest.
Ask directly for advice on how and when to follow up. A simple question, "What's the best way to keep in touch?" will give you the details you need to stay ahead of the competition.