There’s nothing more frustrating than sending out resume after resume without even getting one reply. That’s exactly what happened to me after I first graduated from college. Despite carefully researching the names of dozens of likely companies, every single resume I sent out so hopefully brought back nothing but silence as an answer.
How could this be? I was smart and talented and ready to work hard. But the generic resume and cover letter I used (I just changed the company name), was not anywhere near strong enough to get them to call. Luckily, I later learned that a few simple changes could make all the difference!
Why your resume gets no response and what you can do
Even if an employer could spend extra time trying to read between the lines, there was no reason for them to do that when other resumes made it easier for them. (The average initial screening time is about 6 -10 seconds.)
My first big lesson about resumes:
(1) Your resume should make it easy for them to see the match.
It took me a while to learn that. And it also took a few minimum wage jobs just to pay the rent. But eventually, I learned the way to do that:
(2) Target your resume and cover letter to the job you want.
Once I did that, I started getting interviews. But it took understanding yet another key part of effective job search and resume-building:
(3) Make use of your transferable skills on your resume.
Transferable skills are skills you can take with you anywhere. But they aren’t always obvious, so you have to help the employer see the connection between what you’ve done and what they need you to do.
So I made sure that when I wrote about things I had previously done, my resume and cover letter now emphasized those skills and accomplishments that spoke directly to the new job I was going after.
What a difference a few changes can make!
With some lessons learned, even though I was still in school and not otherwise any different, I was now making really good money as a Citibank consultant, working on a money markets customer database cleanup.
I was the same person I had been the month before – the one whose resume got no response whatsoever. But this time I managed to get myself in the door – and let my new improved resume and cover letter help speak for me.
Don’t Make Your Resume Do the Job On Its Own
I don’t want to give the impression that my resume and cover letter alone did all the heavy lifting. I used the school’s career office to get help and found listings on their job board. And while there, I met a woman from one of my classes who had just placed a listing there for the Citibank job.
(4) You have to be out there to make networking magic happen.
But this time my new improved resume and cover letter helped show that I knew how to present myself in a way that spoke the company’s language – and made a good case for myself that I could do the job.
Again, I was the same person no one would touch before. The only difference was my job search tools, how I presented myself – and getting myself out there to network.
Summary of lessons I learned to get employers to respond
- Make sure your resume and cover letter are as strong as they can be, and that they help the employer see how well you fit the job
- If your resume is too bare to connect to anything no matter how creatively you repackage it, help your resume along by taking a class or volunteering or starting a project or doing something to add to your resume. This way you can show on paper that you have skills and motivation that employers can connect to.
- Get yourself out there to network. Online is good, but don’t stop there. School job boards, former teachers, professional organizations, volunteer work, supermarket lines – it’s all good.
- Put yourself in “new start” mode. I had a different attitude once I was moving in a direction with hope.
“If life doesn’t hand things to you … make them happen for yourself!”
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