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I've been applying for jobs since September and have not been called for a single interview. I've taken my resume to Career Services for a review and some tips, but still nothing. How can I make my resume stand out in a crowd? -- Lauren, Philadelphia
LINDSEY SAYS: Lauren, thanks for the question. You've taken the right first step, which is having an expert -- in your case, career services -- review your resume and make sure it's the best it can be. However, having a good resume is not enough these days. Employers are being bombarded with resumes, so the real way to stand out is to promote yourself beyond sending in a resume. You have to go the extra mile to get noticed.
Depending on your situation and the types of jobs you're applying for, here are some suggestions:
Try to find a personal connection to the companies you want to work for. Talk to everyone you know -- friends, family, former colleagues, former classmates, neighbors, etc. -- to ask whether they know anyone at your target companies and would be willing to make an introduction. This is the absolute, no-doubt-about-it, very best way to catch the eye of a recruiter or hiring manager: to have your resume hand delivered to that person by a fellow employee. Don't be afraid to ask people to help you get a job -- this is the way business is done and you'll make your contact look good for recommending you when you turn out to be a fantastic employee.
Hand-deliver if you can. If you're applying for a position in a retail store, restaurant, local bank, child-care center or other employer with a physical location, try hand-delivering your resume and engaging a staff person in conversation about why you'd be a good employee. Making an in-person impression means a lot, especially when you're applying for a customer-facing job.
Reach out. If you're applying to a higher-level position, try reaching out to a recruiter, HR person or other decision maker via LinkedIn.com. Most employers I speak with are happy to connect with potential candidates on LinkedIn. Make sure your profile is grammatically correct, contains key words that will stand out to the employer, has a few impressive recommendations of your work and shows that you are a member of some industry-related groups. Once you've connected with some recruiters, stay on their radar screens by posting intelligent comments to group discussions, sharing interesting industry articles and/or answering relevant questions in the "Answers" area.
Make sure the job's right for you. If you're still not seeing results after trying the above strategies, consider whether you are applying for positions that are really a good fit for your skills and experience. You may be reaching too high or too low. Or, in this economy, you may be focusing your job search on an industry that is doing poorly, such as financial services. Check back with your career services office or talk with trusted professionals to see if you need to redirect your job search to a different industry, location or experience level.