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If you've watched the news lately, you've seen a reporter standing at a job fair and a line of job seekers winding out the door. Inevitably the reporter interviews an employer who says that for a few open positions, hundreds of applicants have submitted résumés.
You immediately wonder: How many of those applications actually get read?
In a perfect world, hiring managers would have plenty of time to thoroughly read every single résumé that comes across their desks and contact each person to explain why the company is choosing someone else. In reality, the job seekers outnumber available positions in today's job market, and hiring managers are too busy to hold your hand through every step of the process.
In fact, you're lucky if you hear back at all. Many companies contact you only if they want more information or to schedule an interview. You never know if you didn't qualify for the job or if your résumé was ever even looked at.
"I'm pretty sure that résumé neverland exists -- especially in a completely flooded job-hunting climate due to the poor economy," says Kristen Fischer, the author of "Ramen Noodles, Rent and Résumés: An After-College Guide to Life." "With so many people applying for jobs, it's easy to discard a résumé based simply on a typo or unpleasant formatting."
Of course, job seekers can (and should) avoid typos with proofreading. But the bigger fear is that powers out of their control could sabotage their job prospects.
"Résumés submitted online can also disappear into the cyber black hole," Fischer says. She says these online abysses are often the result of generic e-mail addresses, which can mean all applications funnel into one account even if they're for separate positions. Or worse, applications and general business questions go to the same destination.
Even if you can't prevent the black hole from existing, you can do your best to get your application out of there.
Rather than take your chances with the proverbial résumé black hole, you should be proactive when you apply for work, says Justin Honaman, author of "Make It Happen! Live Out Your Personal Brand."
"There is no doubt that hitting the 'submit' button and hoping [or] praying is probably not the only way to approach an opportunity," he says. "When positions are posted on a company's Web site, my experience has been that I receive a huge number of submissions, and at times, more than 80 percent of the applicants are not even qualified for the position. Most recruiters follow a multistep evaluation approach."
According to Honaman, recruiters and hiring managers ask three questions when they receive applications from job seekers:
· Does candidate meet the minimum criteria for the position?
The minimum criteria might include a certain level of education, years of experience or certification.
· Is the candidate still in the running even after she has stated her requirements or wishes for the position?
If an applicant's salary requirements or unwillingness to relocate conflicts with the needs of the job, then the employer might remove him or her from consideration.
· Does the candidate bring more to the table than the defined position requirements?
Employers are happy to have someone who fulfills the requirements of the position, but they're even happier to hire someone who brings additional assets.
Why do you care about this? Because once you submit your application and it passes these hurdles, it doesn't mean you're out of résumé neverland. You're still just one of many applicants who can get lost in the shuffle, even in the most efficient hiring department.
According to Honaman, a multiprong method of attack is the best way to guarantee you're not overlooked:
1. Online résumé submission
"Most companies require this to ensure internal company recruiting processes are followed," Honaman says. Plus, it's the easiest way to get your name in the hands of someone at the company.
2. Make a personal connection
Honaman suggests networking with someone in the company to get an edge over other applicants. If you can speak with a knowledgeable source who can offer information about the hiring manager, the team or the position, you'll have more insight on what the employer's looking for.
3. Appropriate follow-up
Once you've submitted your application, Honaman recommends contacting the company again, as long as you're respectful and professional. Don't hound anyone about the job, just check in to see where the process stands.
Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.
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