Before you send it, stop and consider the hundreds, maybe thousands, of job seekers you're competing with who are about to do the same thing. Are you still confident your résumé is ready to shoot through cyberspace?
The Internet has drastically changed the job search and how to write an effective résumé. Years ago, the classifieds section of a newspaper could only reach job seekers in a limited area. Today, the Internet allows job seekers from all over the country to find and apply for jobs thousands of miles away. A study of more than 1,500 job seekers discovered that 34 percent found their last job on an Internet job board, according to Peter Weddle, an expert in recruiting and Internet job search. The competition that this has created among job seekers requires résumés to be more precise and outstanding than ever.
With so many employers relying on computers to screen résumés through keywords, job seekers must know how to make their résumé stand out from the thousands of others it competes with.
"It is believed that more than 80 percent of all résumés processed by employers are now electronically searched for specific keywords before a human ever sees them," says Richard Beatty, author of "The Ultimate Job Search" (Jist).
Keywords are typically nouns and noun phrases that represent specific areas of skill or experience that the employer identifies as important. Computers sort through résumés and distinguish which ones feature more of these keywords than others.
Beatty suggests job seekers scan job ads, job descriptions and company Web sites to create a list of which skills employers need most often. Placing these skills on your résumé will demonstrate that you have something employers want. Because computers also count the number of times keywords are used, Beatty recommends repeating the words moderately throughout the résumé to ensure the computer pulls it from the masses.
Beatty also believes it is important for people to create a plain-text version of their résumé to quickly copy and paste into the body of an e-mail, rather than send as an attachment.
Although it would seem easier to send an MS Word document, employers have shifted away from accepting résumés this way due to computer viruses that are often embedded in e-mail attachments.
The subject of your e-mail should catch the reader's attention by featuring words more enticing than "résumé" or "profile." Beatty suggests job seekers try using subjects like "Talented Human Resources Professional" or "Award-Winning Sales Professional" to stand out to employers.
As job seekers prepare to apply for jobs, Beatty encourages them to use these techniques to get ahead of their competition.
But job seekers beware. Just because you've loaded your résumé with keywords, converted it into a plain-text format and e-mailed it to an employer under an enticing subject, that doesn't mean it won't be discarded later.
Job seekers would be wise to avoid the mistakes most often committed on résumés. The following are the most common résumé mistakes:
- Typos or grammatical errors
- Including too much information
- Not listing achievements in former roles
- Poor layout and/or design
- Including too little information
"Considering the extent of today's competition and the huge numbers involved, résumé writing is not a process you can afford to leave to chance," Beatty advises. "Designing the right résumé can make all the difference in the world. It will determine whether your candidacy rises to the top or sinks to the bottom of the stack."