As many of us have found out, being a candidate in an economy that’s over 8% unemployment can be very difficult. Some of the hurdles that you may have to overcome on your job search are having a limited number of relevant job postings for you to apply to, trying to navigate a world that now prefers video interviews instead of in person, and creating an online presence that attracts employers to you instead of only relying on your own job hunting skills to locate opportunities.
This article will be a broad overview of some pretty easy steps that you can take to improve your chances of landing that job that you really want by standing out from the crowd.
Start with LinkedIn
Hopefully, you’ve already created a LinkedIn profile and are using it during your job hunt. This may sound surprising to some, but there are many people who don’t think of using LinkedIn to look for work.
I offer consultations as part of my agency’s service offerings and frequently I see candidates that have created a LinkedIn profile, but have not updated it in years. Or, the candidate has updated the profile, but they have just listed where they’ve worked and the title that they held, without adding any content around job responsibilities or skills needed and used in the role. This is a big no-no.
When a recruiter starts working on a requisition (job order), they are not just relying on job boards like Indeed, Glassdoor, etc. to funnel candidates to them. They are also engaged in something called “talent sourcing”. One of the primary tools used to do this is LinkedIn. In fact staffing firms and inhouse talent acquisition teams pay thousands of dollars to LinkedIn, per recruiter, in order to gain access to advanced search and contact features within the LinkedIn platform.
Recruiters go on LinkedIn and type in search terms, Boolean strings, and filter their personal networks, in the hopes of cherry picking individuals that may be open to becoming candidates for the jobs that they are working on. I can tell you that a recruiter that can’t locate you on LinkedIn or sees a profile that doesn’t truly illustrate what your experience is, will most likely skip over you as a potential candidate. I’m not saying that this should be what happens, but it is. This simply means that LinkedIn should be where you start prior to looking for job opportunities.
First and foremost, you should have a clear headshot as your profile photo on LinkedIn. I know that some people don’t like the idea of having their photo available online, or worry that their headshot isn’t done by a professional photographer, but let me tell you, a photo dramatically increases the chance that a recruiter or hiring manager will take the time to review your profile online.
The reason for this preference is due in some part to fake profiles that have been created and posted on the LinkedIn platform. LinkedIn does a pretty good job of quickly removing these profiles, but many do still exist. It just so happens that many fake profiles do not have a photo. Another reason for the preference of seeing a photo on your LinkedIn profile is so that recruiters and managers get the sense that you have kept the profile up to date. A lot of people create their LinkedIn profile and then forget about it, until they’re ready for a new job search. Not having a photo and just filling in bits and pieces of your professional experience decreases the chances that a recruiter or hiring manager will reach out to you.
Your LinkedIn headline should clearly state the position that you want to get and indicate that you’re open to new opportunities. Just having something like “Full Stack Developer” as your headline is limiting. You should be specific and let the world know that you are looking for an opportunity. Something like “Senior Full Stack Developer (MERN) – Open to new opportunities” will get you more attention, allow you to show up in specific searches that recruiters are running, and clearly indicate roles that you believe yourself to be a fit for.
Also, make sure that you include keywords that easily relate to the skills that you have under each section in the experience block of the profile. If you’re a Big Data Engineer, include the business tools that you use to clean data and create visualizations. If you’re a product manager, include software that you utilize in your role and the number of direct reports that you are responsible for. In product and project roles, also include the domain that you are typically tied to.
Don’t be afraid to put your email address in your headline and your “About” section. The easier it is for a recruiter or hiring manager to connect with you, the more likely that you’ll hear about opportunities before other candidates. There are many times where recruiters are aware of jobs that they’ll start working on in a matter of days. Some recruiters start pipelining candidates on LinkedIn prior to the role formally opening so that they can immediately start contacting candidates that they feel may be a good match. If you have contact details in your profile that are easily accessible, you increase the chances that a recruiter can get in touch with you.
There are many times where a recruiter sends a LinkedIn InMail and never hears back from the candidate. Many times it’s because the candidate isn’t always paying attention to their LinkedIn inbox or they’re notifications are being flagged by their email folder. Having a direct email gives the recruiter another, more direct way, of reaching out to see if you’re open to discussing the position that they’re trying to fill.
Move on to your Resume
The next area of focus for you should be your resume. It is very common for recruiters to receive resumes that are poorly formatted, have spelling errors, have more than two pages, or are saved in .doc or .docx file types. Let’s go through why these things shouldn’t happen and what you should strive for prior to sending out your resume to prospective employers and recruiters.
Resume format is important, but you honestly shouldn’t stress out too much about which format is right for you unless you’re a copywriter, in publishing, communications, or if you want to get creative to stand out from other applicants when applying for digital design roles.
Keep it simple. Don’t overthink what you’re trying to say. Recruiters and hiring managers want to quickly see what you have done during your career. In fact two articles reported that recruiters only look at your resume between 6-7 seconds. I can say that this is true, to an extent. When a recruiter first starts going through the applicants for a job posting that has 80+ resumes, they need to move quickly in order to meet the demand of the hiring team. What they are typically looking for is format, keywords, and bullet points that very clearly say that you are able to do the job that you applied to.
If you have a resume that is written in blocks of text, in paragraph format, you’ll probably be skipped over. If your experience is not shown with your most recent experience first, then a recruiter may skip over your resume. If you double space your resume, needless to say that a recruiter may skip over it.
You should remember that a recruiter’s time is very limited throughout each and every single day. They are screening candidates via video or phone, they are having team meetings, they are meeting with hiring managers to update them on the status of their openings or to plan the recruiting process of new jobs, they are responding to InMails and emails by other candidates, and sometimes they’re conducting background checks. The list of things that takes up time in a recruiter’s day goes on and on. So to have the best opportunity to be spotted in the crowd, make it easy to understand quickly what you do, how you align to the role, and how to contact you. This is why a recruiter only spends 6 to 7 seconds looking at your resume initially.
Once a recruiter has added your resume to the group of candidates that seem to match with the job spec, they go back to that group and start to deep dive into the details of what you’ve written. This is your goal as a candidate. To get your resume to the point where someone will do a deep dive into all of the great things that you’ve accomplished in your career.
Let’s say that your resume is now in the hands of the hiring manager or recruiter and they’re paying attention to all of the details that you’ve included about yourself. Here is where the next batch of candidates gets screened out of the recruitment process.
I’m going to probably get pushback on this one, but I’m going to stand by my words. Do not exceed two pages in resume length unless you are an executive leader. Different recruiters have different opinions, but as someone who’s worked in agency, RPO, tech startups, and Inhouse, I can honestly say that for the most part, the two page rule is golden.
If you are a new graduate, or have only worked for 5 or 6 years, you may not be able to make your resume two pages, which is fine! If you do have more experience though, please try to fit everything into just two pages. Again, recruiters are moving very quickly in the beginning of the recruitment process, and having more than two pages limits the chances that they will see all of the experience that they need to see in order to add you to the shortlist of candidates that they are going to contact. This could be different if a recruiter found you on LinkedIn and then you sent them your resume upon request. You should still try to shorten it however, as the hiring manager will then skim over everything instead of really digging in if it’s too long.
I’ve heard the argument from candidates that they feel like all of their experience and bullet points are relevant and needed in order to paint a full picture for the person that is reviewing their resume or interviewing them. This is not true. I’m sorry, but think of every great novel that you’ve read. Chances are that the authors that wrote those amazing books had an editor go through and cut large chunks of the original manuscript and ask for rewrites in order to get to the pristine story that you enjoy so much. This is what needs to happen with your resume. The other details you can speak to during your interview, they don’t need to be on the resume itself.
Also, you don’t need to keep every job that you’ve ever held on your resume. Only include the job experience that currently relates to what you are trying to do in your career. A job from fifteen years ago that you had at a call center does not translate to a Director of Product role that you want at an Adtech company. Be cognizant of what picture your resume is painting for anyone who reviews it. It should draw as many parallels to the job that you’re applying for as possible.
If all of the above seems like too much to tackle on your own, you can always hire a professional to assist you with revamping your cv. There are many resume writing services out there that can help you get your resume in the right shape to draw in the attention of recruiters and managers that can open the door to a new career opportunity. We also help candidates with either rewriting their existing resume or creating a well formatted one from scratch.
The last bit of advice regarding resumes that I’ll give is to ALWAYS save your resume as a .pdf document, not a .doc, .docx, .odt, or .txt.
When you spell something incorrectly or use an acronym or industry term that Word is not familiar with, it underlines the term or word in red. This is great for when you’re editing the document, but if you send a Word document to a hiring manager or recruiter and there’s red underlined words everywhere, it looks unprofessional. When saving your resume, make sure to save two versions. One in .doc or .docx for editing, and one in .pdf for applying to jobs with or sending to recruiters and hiring managers.
PDF documents lock in your formatting and create a consistent experience of reviewing your resume for anyone that receives the file. Also, there will be no underlined terms or words to distract from what your resume is saying.
Here is an example of a straightforward resume format that works for most recruiters and hiring teams in case you need a place to start when crafting your own.
*Pro tip – Make sure that your LinkedIn page aligns with your resume. The experience should mirror itself so that your personal brand is consistent. More on personal brand to come!
As always, reach out to SilverStone Talent LLC if you’d like us to conduct a personalized consultation with you to assist with your job search.