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Your job search requires investment, commitment, and dedication

Recruiters sift through hundreds of resumes. (And that’s often just for one open position.) If you’re applying for an open position you generally have no more than 10 seconds to make your resume stand out. This may sound discouraging, but with some thought and care, you can make your application stand out from the rest.

During my presentation to the Association for Women In Science (AWIS) earlier this month, I reassured the 50 people in the room that all is not lost. There’s no special secret—finding and applying for jobs requires a huge effort. When one of the AWIS members remarked, “Job hunting is like a job,” I saw a lot of nodding heads in the audience. That’s because searching for a new position requires the same investment, commitment and dedication as a job.

But based on 17 years of experience as a recruiter, I do have some suggestions for how candidates can get recruiters to look at their resumes and hopefully find the position that takes their career to the next level.

Get your resume ready—for each job.

A recruiter wants to immediately know that you’re qualified for a job. That means having one resume that you send in for every job doesn’t work. You need to update your resume for each application you submit:

  • If there are educational requirements, provide proof that you meet those requirements. (e.g., a Ph.D. in life sciences) at the top of your resume.
  • Add key terms from the job description to your resume. Thanks to applicant tracking systems, recruiters can rank and order applications based on the percentage match of keywords. You want to be at 80% match, not 20% match.
  • Apply if, and only if, you meet the requirements. Recruiters—including me—get irritated if we suspect an applicant is throwing their resume at every open position to see what sticks.

Build a connection with the recruiter.

If you find a position that interests you, take the time to get to know the recruiter. If you found a job via LinkedIn, the name of the posting recruiter might be included. If not, search for recruiters at that organization. Do some research about the company; then, call that recruiter to ask a question. Here’s how I’d go about that call:

“Hi, my name is Kris Williams. I recently applied for the [position title] at [organization name]. I have a question regarding [company relevant information] that I’m hoping you can answer for me…”

Beware: don’t ask questions about the position. Or about the hiring process. Or about your application. Ask the recruiter something related to the business the organization is doing.

When you take this extra step to ask a thoughtful question, you:

  • Demonstrate your sincere interest in the organization.
  • Establish a positive connection with your name.
  • Increase the chances that the recruiter will recognize your name because you made a personal connection.

When you do land the initial interview with the recruiter, the point of that conversation is to share your story – what motivates you, why do you want this job with this company at this point in your career? This initial conversation is the opportunity to tell the recruiter something you bring that no other candidate will have.

Showcase your personal brand in the interview.

The most important thing to remember in an interview is that you’re not there by accident. You earned an interview. You and your qualifications offer the organization something they want. Keep this in mind to help reduce your nerves and readjust the power balance in an interview.

When you enter a job interview, you want to demonstrate that you add value. That means you must understand and be able to communicate your unique value proposition. As you apply for each job, be prepared to tell your story.

For example, if you’re a scientist who wants to move out of one sector into another it’s important to have an answer as to why you’re making that move. When someone asks during an interview, “Why are you moving out of academia into industry?” You don’t want to answer, “Because there’s no money in academia.” You want to share your experience and passion in a way that resonates with the interviewer and helps you stand out as a candidate. To identify your personal brand, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your rules of engagement?
  • What types of praise do you receive for the work you do?
  • What brings value to you as a professional?
  • What are you seeking in an organization?

Most importantly, as Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself because everyone else is already taken.”
When you craft resumes to meet job requirements, take time to build a connection with the recruiter, and showcase your personal brand in the job interview, it’s more likely you’ll find yourself moving to the next stage of the application process. What do you do when you move to the next step? Check out my next post for suggestions about choosing references, negotiating salaries, and getting fewer rejections.