The Internet has taken over the recruiting landscape and everyone is required to submit a resume online. While that brings greater efficiency to the process for employers, it can be awfully maddening for job seekers. But it doesn't have to be that way if you know how to navigate the system.
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Consider these 10 tips before pressing "submit":
1) Search job boards and the Web sites of employers that appeal to you. Print out the job postings that you're interested in pursuing before you apply.
2) Use a highlighter to mark the keywords and industry language used to describe the requirements and responsibilities.
3) Compare those words and phrases to the language that appears now in your resume.
4) Figure out how and where to add the most important keywords to your resume, assuming you have that 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.
5) Once you're confident that your resume reflects a strong match, go ahead and submit that targeted resume online. Don't be a serial applicant -- someone who applies for every job (or too many of them) at the same company because you'll be flagged as unfocused and disqualified. If there's more than one opening that matches your skills, limit yourself to applying for just a couple of closely related positions.
6) If the system requests a cover letter, write a short one that expresses why you're a strong match and why you'd like to join the organization. This is a chance to tout your research on the role.
7) Never submit a generic, one-size-fits-all resume or cover letter. If you really want the position, you'll customize all documents for each job.
8) Once you apply, get to work to find an internal referral to make a personal introduction.
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a) Make a list of 50 people you know and ask each one if they know someone who works (or has worked) at that employer.
b) Attend job fairs to meet face-to-face with employers and other professionals.
c) Create a free profile and become active on LinkedIn.com or Facebook.com, which boast a combined 60 million users. Surely you can find someone who knows someone to make that connection.
d) Create a free Twitter.com account and "follow" friends and post requests for help. (You can follow me at Twitter.com/ToryJohnson where I post job leads and where fellow followers can help with contacts.
e) Join an association in your field and network with like-minded peers.
f) Connect with your high school and college alumni groups. Old pals could be new connectors.
g) Talk to your unlikely network. For example, look at the class list of the parents of your kids' friends. Anytime my kids hear about a friend's mom or dad who's lost a job, they tell them to call me. Even though we don't know each other, we have a common connection that can sometimes lead to a contact.