Four Job Search Truths: Take Nothing for Granted

“Should I customize my resume for each job?”

“Do I really need a cover letter?”

These are two questions that I heard recently from people concerning their job searches. Let me answer your question with a question. “Do you want the job?”

If the answer is yes, then the answers are yes to both questions. And that’s just the beginning. Here are some harsh realities of the 2013 job search.

Networking is essential. If you see a job that you really want, work to identify someone in your network who can get you in invitation to interview. This might be a second or third level LinkedIn connection. It may be someone you know in the “real” world. It will be worth your time to find the connection, because your competition is working to get the advantage of a warm introduction.

It’s You Versus the Machine. I’m referring to the ATS (applicant tracking system) machine. Employers are flooded with résumés from people with little or no qualifications, so they set their force fields on “high”. You must (must, must, MUST) customize your résumé and cover letter to match the qualifications and requirements of the position. Don’t do it and your résumé will never be seen by a human. You will be filtered out and auto-rejected by ATS.

Sell Yourself with the Cover Letter. The letter explains why you are the best candidate for the job, what special skills you have that make you a cultural fit, and addresses any easily identified obstacles or objections. For example, if you are applying for a position in a different city, explain your relocation plans and that you will NOT be looking for relo assistance. Answer the obvious questions. Each letter should be different.

It’s Hard Work. There it is! Finding work is work. You must take the time and invest the energy into making yourself appear to be the ideal candidate for every position that you want. If you don’t, someone else will. Quality of your marketing documents beats quantity, but you need quantity, too. You are facing intense competition for every position.

If you aren’t making a full-time effort at finding your next full-time gig, you are not working hard enough. Make a plan to conduct meaningful job search activities every day. Then do them. Take nothing for granted and assume that the competition will be willing to do the things that you don’t feel like doing. Work hard. It will be worth it.

Here are some earlier stories to help you jump-start your search and find your next job faster:

8 Résumé Must-HavesStart Your Résumé Strong!Get Busy!Do What You Can

Bill Florin, CPRW & CEIP, is the President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT

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Your Résumé Can Be Too Concise

If you have spent any time working on your résumé and reading articles on how to make it effective, you have probably come across the advice to keep it clear, concise and as short as possible. That is great guidance, especially as recruiters and everyone else are so busy and have little time to spend screening any individual document and candidate. It has to deliver early to get attention. But too much editing and too little detail can hurt.

Last week I worked with a client for whom I was writing two résumés, a short version for a potential career change, and a longer, more detailed document for use in her existing career. The longer résumé was terrific. It had the right amount of information, shared her important accomplishments, and simply told her story well. The other shorter résumé was the problem.

This client was getting some advice from an internal advocate who kept challenging her to make it more and more brief. At one point, though, too many details that added context to this client’s excellent 15 year career history that has been full of achievement were at risk. We had to have a conversation that focused on this question: “If you didn’t know you, would eliminating these details hurt or help the reader understand you, your accomplishments and the unique value you offer?” She got my point and the potential edits were avoided.

This is not just a matter of opinion, though. Applicant tracking software (ATS) needs content to analyze, keywords in context, and if it isn’t there it can hurt a candidate’s chances of being considered by a human. The ATS package simply will not present you as a viable candidate.

Use the space you need to tell your story. Recruiters and the ATS software they use will reward your effort and decision.

Bill Florin is a Certified Professional Resume Writers (PARW/CC) and President of Resu-mazing Services Company in Monroe, CT.