Submitting a job application online, from the comfort of your own home, seems almost too good to be true - less time, less hassle, less stress. But how do you stand out from the crowd when hundreds or even thousands of others seeking the same job have the same idea?
"When you upload a résumé, a lot of the time it's not going to go straight in front of someone's eyes," says Martin Yate, author of "Knock 'em Dead 2009: The Ultimate Job Search Guide," (Adams Media, 2008). "It's going into a database that could have 10,000 résumés or 30 million plus résumés. For it to actually see the light of day, someone has to go into that database and look for résumés that match their needs."
As the business world's use of technology continues to grow, the importance of a purposeful résumé grows, too. In order to successfully obtain a job, it's crucial to understand how an application database (such as Monster.com) functions. Even companies that accept paper applications often scan résumés into a database to access them later as needed. As a result, Yate says, job seekers need to clearly identify the specific job they're applying for and use the right keywords to describe their qualifications.
"Today we have two audiences - human eyes and the computer," he says. "Even if you're not searching online, major companies have résumé-tracking software. You need to [include on your résumé] appropriate keywords because it's like a fishing expedition - [employers] search for keywords and rank the résumés that way."
To construct an effective résumé, Yate says, focus on the specific job and clearly identify it under your contact information. "Seven out of ten job résumés don't have the target job title, so you can really make yourself stand out that way," he says.
Next, collect half a dozen online job postings for this specific job and write down common requirements that appear within their descriptions. Go through the postings until you have a list, then go back and write a résumé that reflects those words. Yate says by using a company's keywords to describe your experience, you'll have a large impact on how high up your résumé appears in an employer's search.
"Recruiters today never look at more than the top 20 résumés in a database," he says. "You have to come up in those. Then, once in front of human eyes, because you were working from their job description, your résumé is going to tell them you can do the job."
If you do submit your application online, always work off a perfect résumé. Copy and paste information into the application that you have already edited in order to avoid simple errors that arise when trying to fill in online information too quickly.
Of course, a flawless résumé is essential. Any spelling or grammatical errors send the message that you aren't detail-oriented and don't care enough about the job to put in the effort. According to Mark Smith, the assistant vice chancellor and director of the career center at Washington University in St. Louis, typos can be the deciding factor in whether an employer will even look at a résumé.
"Misspelled names, wrong company, getting their gender wrong - everyone takes that kind of stuff personally and everyone notices that," says Smith. "Employers are looking for a reason to limit the number of people they need to interview because they want to get back to their core business."
Above all, Yate says, make sure to take résumé writing seriously because you might only have one chance to make an impact on an employer.
"A résumé is probably the single most important document that someone will write in their lives because it dictates whether they get interviews or jobs," Yate says. "As an employer, I think, Someone who makes mistakes on the most important document they've ever written - gee, what are they going to do with responsibilities that aren't this critical, like my job and reputation that are on the line if I hire them? Pay attention to the details."
(c) CTW Features
9 Common Bloopers
Misspelled words are more rare with computers' automated spell check functions. However, spell check won't catch correctly spelled words used in the wrong context. According to certified career coach Vivian VanLier, here are some common mistakes to avoid on your résumé and cover letter:
Don't use... Manger ... when you mean Manager
Don't use... Your ... when you mean You're
Don't use... Scene ... when you mean Seen
Don't use... Weather ... when you mean Whether
Don't use... To ... when you mean Too
Don't use... There ... when you mean Their or They're
Don't use... Accept ... when you mean Except
Don't use... Affect ... when you mean Effect