Many job seekers spend countless hours writing, polishing and blasting their résumés to dozens of companies. Then they wait, and wait, and never hear a thing.
That’s because human resources people and hiring managers receive heaps of résumés for any given job opening, and they end up missing, skipping or tossing a lot of them. However, it turns out there are things you can do to help ensure your résumé is seen.
Career experts and a spokesperson for Glassdoor.com, a jobs and career community where people share information and opinions about their workplaces, weigh in.
“I think résumés end up in the résumé black hole if the person just responds to a posting or ad and does nothing else,” says Anita Attridge, a Five O’Clock Club career and executive coach. “Today companies are receiving hundreds of résumés for each position and, due to the volume, are not acknowledging receipt of them. Most large and medium-size companies are using applicant tracking systems to screen résumés before a person looks at them. Smaller organizations many just review the ones they receive until they find enough qualified candidates and then set the other résumés aside.”
Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at the jobs site CareerBuilder.com, says she suggests that candidates use the job posting to their advantage. “Use some of the same words and phrases that appear in the job posting in your résumé,” she says. “The computer will then recognize them and move your résumé toward the top of the pile because you will be a match. But don’t just cut and paste the job posting into your résumé or cover letter. If the computer doesn’t catch it, the hiring manager definitely will, and it could hurt your chances of moving forward with an interview.”
Ruth Robbins, a certified career counselor with the Five O’Clock Club, agrees that using buzz words and key phrases that demonstrate you are a perfect fit for the job will help you get on the employer’s radar—but even with a perfectly tailored résumé, there is no way to know if or when it will be reviewed by the hiring manager.
“The best way to make sure your résumé is seen is by networking into the company,” Attridge says. “Let your networking contact know that you have applied for a position, and ask that person if he or she would send your résumé to the H.R. department with an endorsement of you as a candidate. Another way is to try to determine who the hiring manager is and send a résumé directly to that person, with a letter asking for an informational interview.”
Robbins agrees. “H.R. managers are often avalanched with résumés, so if you can find someone who works at the company who would be willing to hand in your résumé directly to a hiring manager or interested influencer in the selection process, your chances of landing in the black hole [will shrink significantly],” she says.
Mary Elizabeth Bradford, an executive résumé writer and author of the bestselling eBook series The Career Artisan, offers some alternative advice. “From what I have seen, what works best in any market is for the job seeker to take a pure, entrepreneurial approach to their job search process,” she says. “I think it would be futile to call H.R. and leave repeated voice messages. A better way is to contact a key decision maker through hard mail and follow up with a phone call. Go around H.R. That’s provocative, right? Well, it works.”
Samantha Zupan, a spokesperson for Glassdoor, agrees that it’s smart to look for more than one way to apply. “In addition to sending your résumé through a company’s online job portal, also take the time to do some research and try to identify who the hiring manager may be. If you send a personalized note to the likely hiring manager, a good e-mail may get your resume pulled out of the stack.”
Zupan offers some additional advice:
Have someone proofread your résumé. Sometimes it can be something as small as a typo that may turn off an employer and land you in the black hole, she says. “Before sending your résumé, have at least one person you trust review it so that it can have a better chance of catching the eyes of the employer.”
Keep it simple. Avoid graphics and logos and other things that may “clog” how an applicant tracking system reads your résumé, Zupan suggests.
Research the company’s hiring process. “Companies like Google and Facebook include specific insights into their interview process,” Zupan says. “For example, on the Google careers page, they let you know that one of their recruiters is the first to review your résumé and that they look first at your qualifications and experience.” Thorough research can help you properly prepare to avoid the résumé black hole.