When I first started applying for internships, it was hard to know where to begin. I’d seen job postings on LinkedIn. I’d heard of Indeed.com. But I’d also heard that those websites attract thousands of applicants, competing for the same jobs.
I’d also heard that many employers use résumé scanners to weed out unqualified applicants. This makes sense on the surface. If you get thousands of applicants, it helps to narrow it down to a few hundred people that may qualify for the interview round. The problem is, résumé scanners don’t see the full picture of the applicant as presented on the résumé. They only look for keywords. Maybe one day résumé scanners will be advanced enough to evaluate candidates on a deeper level. But for now, we all have to try and guess the right keywords.
The Job Market is Unfair… Deal With It
I’d also heard stories about hiring practices even scarier than résumé scanners. No, they weren’t stories about a résumé scanner robot apocalypse, they were stories about nepotism.
I had a colleague who spent her summers working in the Toronto office of a big company. She had gotten the job through a family connection. She felt bad when she saw young candidates interviewing for entry-level jobs. And she said that the company usually only held the interviews because they legally had to. They weren’t interested in hiring any of the candidates. They would just get an executive’s family member to fill the position. After she told me that story, I didn’t sleep that night. I stayed up thinking What? So am I screwed out of any job unless my uncle works for the company? Suddenly a résumé scanner robot apocalypse doesn’t seem that bad.
The best way to land a job in today’s world is to make connections: attend networking events, volunteer, and reach out to people on LinkedIn. But the second-best way to score a job in today’s world is to tailor your résumé for every job you apply to.
So What Do I Do?
It’s tempting just to have one résumé and one cover letter that you use for every job application. Just change a few words here and there, and you’re good to go, right? There’s no point in spending extra time rewriting your résumé, right? Wrong! It’s better to spend three hours tailoring your resume and cover letter for one job application than it is to spend three hours applying to five jobs with a generic résumé. Here’s why…
Different Jobs Have Different Qualifications and Keywords
Remember the totally not-apocalyptic résumé scanners I mentioned earlier? Yeah, those machines are programmed to look for very specific words to fill a very specific position. The best way to find those keywords is to check the job description. Get creative. Find ways to squeeze those words in there.
Here’s an example: a lot of my work and extra-curricular experience involved writing articles. I wrote stories about start-ups during my internship at an incubator. I often had to interview executives to uncover the stories behind their companies, and research data on the tech industry.
Some of the jobs I’ve recently applied to aren’t directly related to writing articles, so when I put this experience on my résumé, I emphasize my research skills. In today’s data-driven world, employers in every industry value researchers. Also, every company wants good communicators. I use my writing portfolio to prove I can communicate a clear, poignant message.
In other words, think about everything you learned in your previous and current jobs. Could you use those skills in the job you’re applying for? If the answer is yes, emphasize that skill on your résumé. If the answer is no, leave it off the résumé and try to find a skill that does fit your prospective job.
It Shows That You Care
Prove to your employer that you’re not just another lazy, avocado eating, chain-restaurant-killing, food-obsessed, diamond-avoiding, golf hating, napkin-eschewing millennial (even though you might not even fit the age range for a millennial). Employers can tell if you’re using a generic résumé. It makes you look lazy. When you tell them specific things you can offer that specific company in that specific role, it shows that you’ve done your research, and it makes the company feel like they’re important to you.
Speaking of Which…
Your résumé, and especially your cover letter, is the perfect way to showcase that you’ve done your research on the company. Check out their website and social media feeds. Better yet, read through their press releases and find out what recent projects they’ve completed. As you write your cover letter, make reference to specific things that the company does and why it inspires you. More importantly, tell the company how you could have contributed to those projects, and how you can build on those projects in the future.
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*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.