Sending Your Resume Into the Black Hole

by Anya Jennings on November 9, 2009

If you’re like most job seekers, you’ve already blanketed half the country with paper. Not just any paper, but paper you carefully crafted, pouring your history and your heart into concise, professional prose designed to show prospective employers how valuable you are; paper that’s been agonized over, updated, rewritten and formatted more carefully than a congressional bill. So why aren’t you getting more of a response?


Is anybody out there?

Be patient. For every advertised job opening, companies are being deluged with hundreds, in some cases thousands, of applicants. Sheer volume makes it time consuming to process so many and still fill the opening within a reasonable time frame. HR recruiters are savvy and work quickly to separate the wheat from the chaff, but given the time constraints, it only makes sense that many viable candidates must fall through the cracks. It’s impossible to determine the variables that may influence whether or not you get a callback, but the simplest answer is that they found someone before they got to your resume.

Don’t give up.

Staying positive in the face of little response might be the most difficult part of an extended job search. It’s important to keep perspective. You are not being rejected, it’s not personal. In fact, unless you are applying for jobs you’re not qualified for, it’s not about you at all. In this economy, you may have to take some extra steps to get noticed. Here are a few tips:

Refresh your resume. If your resume is posted on any job boards, make changes to it every couple of days. Recruiters, HR professionals, and headhunters search constantly for candidates, but don’t have time to go beyond the first few pages. Keep yours on top of the search by making changes, and you’ll have a better chance of getting noticed.

Focus on core competency. It may seem counterintuitive to put a resume out that focuses on one skill set and ignores all the other cool things you want the employer to know, but tight focus makes a resume stand out from the rest and allows you to include more targeted keywords.

Make contact. Many resume submissions specify “no calls.” Generally, this is to stop hundreds of people calling to verify that their resume was received. Use your wiles to find out who the hiring manager is for the position you want, and address your cover letter directly to him. Make your cover letter personal, personable, and specific to the position you’re applying for – not generic. If you can find an email address for the hiring manager, try contacting him directly. Sure, it could backfire. It could also get you noticed.

Network. Research the company to determine whether you know anyone there. Ask your network if they know anyone there. If not, use the company website or LinkedIn to make a list of employees, and start searching social networking sites. Make a connection in a casual setting and express interest in a job.

Know the process. Most companies have a process to filter the pile of resumes down to a manageable number. The first layer is following directions. They set hoops for you to jump through in terms of time constraints, formatting and method of submission. If they want a resume in Word document format, attached to an email, and submitted before 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, do it – even if it sounds unreasonable. A friend of mine recently complained that she didn’t want to send her resume in Word. She insisted that her resume is in PDF for a reason and it will stay that way. I replied that they most likely use software that reads the documents and loads them into a database for scanning, so if she’s not going to follow directions, don’t bother to send it. Level 1 rejection. A real person is never going to see it.

Level 2 is document scanning, and as I mentioned before, the reason you need to send your resume in proper format. Documents are scanned into a database and then searched by keywords. Resumes that best match the keyword criteria are the only ones that land on the desk of a human being to actually be evaluated.

Level 3 is the human factor, and this is where your personality has to shine. A well-crafted cover letter with specific references to the position and the company that expresses sincere interest in the job will land you in the short stack of applicants.

Jobs are out there. It takes persistence, patience, good attitude, good humor and good job hunting skills, but if you keep at it, you’ll find something. The very best weapon in your arsenal is a positive attitude. If you feel yourself burning out, take a couple of days to de-stress. Visit a national park, hike in the mountains, go to the beach, stay at Mom’s and eat comfort food…whatever restores your sanity.

Photo credit: Marcin Wichary via Creative Commons.

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Anya Jennings

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Sam Perry

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