When you’re searching for a job, you probably wonder about what employers look for? Of course, they look for someone who is qualified to do the job, but what makes qualified applicants stand out?
A recent survey by Careerbuilder.com somehow answers this question — at least based on the sample of US employers who were surveyed. The survey found that most employers (63 per cent) look for resumes that have been customised for the job opening. Forty-one per cent of the employers said they looked for skills sets being listed first on the resume, and 40 per cent highlighted the importance of having a cover letter sent along with the resume.
Having the application addressed to the specific hiring manager came at 22 per cent, and including links to the candidate’s blog, portfolio or website was just at 16 per cent.
These results provide a good insight into what can help your application stand out. If you’d like to draw broader conclusions from this survey, you probably will need to focus on customisation, relevance and complete picture. Here is how:
When employers say that they look for a resume that has been customised for the job or for a cover letter that is addressed to a specific hiring manager, they are reading into your interest in the job. The fact that you took the time to look into the job post carefully and prepare a customised application rather than sending a stock cover letter and resume shows your interest.
In addition, customisation helps the hiring manager see why you think you’re a good fit for this position. Remember, hiring managers receive dozens of resumes, and you make it easier for them to connect the dots when you become more forthcoming in explaining why your experience makes a good match for the job opening.
The emphasis on having skills listed first in a resume shows that hiring managers are trying to find quickly what they are looking for. Instead of going through lengthy job descriptions and trying to decipher which skills you have developed and acquired in each position, they want you to list these skills for them.
In many cases, hiring managers scan the resumes for particular keywords that are relevant to the opening. If you make sure that your skills include these keywords combined with a brief introduction of each, you probably can distinguish yourself.
Once again, by reading the job post closely and knowing what the employer is looking for, your emphasis should be on the skills that make you the right fit. Be sure that you don’t just list the same list of skills the employer has in the job post, however.
In the Careerbuilder.com survey, employers somehow valued the links that candidates include to their websites, blogs, portfolios, etc. The reason could be that these additional resources provide the employer with a bigger picture of who the candidate is, if needed, without cluttering a resume.
For example, if you add a link to your LinkedIn profile, hiring managers can easily read your extensive job descriptions, recommendations and endorsements, which gives you more credibility. Linking to a portfolio of your work also helps employers see the quality of your work ahead of interviewing you.
If you decide to go down this road, make sure that you always keep these pages updated. Having a link to a Twitter account where the last post was months ago reflects poorly on your social media skills. Similarly, broken links or expired sites could hurt your image. So before you send a resume that include any links to online materials, check and double-check to make sure your links are actually adding value to your application.
Linking to something that is bound to change without your control is risky. For example, if you’re linking to a page that contains customer or client reviews, make sure that it doesn’t reflect poorly on your services. A better choice will be to link only to those web pages, profiles or sites that are fully managed by you and display your best work and recommendations.
— The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor.
How to make your resume stand out
— Customise your cover letter and resume
— Clarify why you’re a good fit for the job