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How to Get Your Resume in the "Yes" Pile

Q. I have been trying to find a job. It seems that I am overqualified for every position. I couldn't even get an interview at Lowe's! Do I need to dumb down my resume?

A. When people search for jobs they normally concentrate on three things: position, industry and geography. For example, they may be looking for a marketing position in the banking industry in Richmond. When jobs get scarce, they might have to sacrifice one or even two of the three. They may need to look for a marketing job in the banking industry outside of the Richmond area, or a marketing job in the retail industry in Richmond. You get the idea.

Let's say you have found a job opening for which you want to apply. How do you get your resume put into the "Yes" pile? We suggest the following:

1. Read the job posting carefully. Exactly what does this business owner or hiring manger want in a successful candidate? What skills, experience, degrees, etc. do they list as mandatory? What do they list as preferred? If you can't check off the mandatory requirements, or at least most of them, it is doubtful that you will get an interview. While you may have a PhD or MBA, if you don't have a background in construction or retail, you might not have the right skill set to work the floor at Lowe's. Lowe's customers want to speak to someone who knows about plumbing or painting, etc.

2. Customize your resume. If you are seriously interested in this job, isn't it worth taking the time to rewrite your resume to highlight the experience, etc. that you have that matches the job posting? In our consulting practice, we do recruitment for our small business clients. What we are looking for is a good match to the skills required. If your resume reads as if it belongs to a different job opening, it is going in the "No" pile. We often receive resumes that state an objective of obtaining a marketing position, when what we have open is an office manager position, or the person has no supervisory experience and the job posting lists this as mandatory. Remember the Sesame Street song, “One of these things is not like the other?"

3. Customize your cover letter. Believe it or not, recruiters and hiring managers do read cover letters. This is especially true if the resume has caught our attention. The cover letter is your chance to tell the prospective employer exactly why you would be great in this job. Don't miss out on the opportunity. Customize your letter to the job posting and anything else you know, or can learn, about the company. Don’t make the classic mistake of sending a cover letter addressed to the wrong person, company or referencing the wrong job title, etc. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this many times.

4. Step away from the computer. So many job candidates spend hours each day searching the internet and posting their resumes online when most jobs are found through networking. Have coffee with your friends and business contacts and tell them what you are looking for. Join job groups like to increase your reach. A resume that is hand delivered to a hiring manager by someone he/she trusts can overcome a myriad of issues. It can get your resume put in the "yes" pile despite deficiencies in mandatory requirements.

In certain sectors the job market can still be tight, despite the upturn in the economy. However, your best option is not to dumb-down your resume, but rather to customize your resume for each position or type of position sought. Use your network to increase your reach and get your resume put on the top of the pile. If you follow these steps, you’ll see positive results. Best wishes for your success!

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