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10 Ways to Stand Out From Your Competition

Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder.com Editor

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Job hunting on the Internet is fast, easy and economical. According to a survey of outplaced managers by international outplacement consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison, more than 40 percent of those who posted their resume or retrieved job listings online got interviews as a result.

Only problem is, with the sheer volume of job seekers on the prowl, it can be hard to get an employer's attention. Most companies today use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to scan resumes and weed out irrelevant candidates. The systems use keywords and phrases that describe the required skills, education and experience to place the most qualified resumes at the top of the list. So, how do you make it past the gatekeeping technology? Here are 10 things you should keep in mind:

  • Pay close attention to the employer's or recruiter's instructions for submitting your resume on each posting. What format should the resume be in and should it be embedded in an e-mail, e-mailed as an attachment, faxed or mailed? Do they want you to include a position code to help them identify the job you're applying for?


  • Don't get labeled a resume spammer by applying for jobs you are not qualified for or by applying for the same job several different times.


  • Do post one or more versions of your resume on national online recruitment sites. It gives employers' 24/7 access to your credentials and targets your resume to more jobs.


  • Think twice about using a resume distribution service that "blasts" your resume to thousands of recruiters, headhunters and potential employers. The resumes are generic and may not address the actual job qualifications. Corporate recruiters are largely unimpressed as one described these mass mailings as "a lazy person's way of looking for a job."


  • All resumes should be accompanied by a brief cover letter or note (it should take no more than two screens to read) that specifies the job you are applying for and sells your credentials. Make sure you use keywords so that search engines will pick up on them. Since most e-mail programs don't have spell-check, you may want to compose it in a word-processing program and copy and paste it into the e-mail message.


  • If you've sent your resume to a corporate Web site, follow up once to see if the job is still available and remind the employer that you are interested and highlighting one or two qualifications.


  • While fancy resume designs may look attractive on a hard copy, they could pose formatting problems online. Remember to keep it simple. Choose a standard typeface and avoid using any graphics or shading or indents. To enhance readability of your text resume, make sure you left justify all text. Most online sites give you the ability to preview your resume before it is submitted. Make sure you do so thoroughly.


  • Never send an unsolicited resume as an e-mail attachment. Fearful of viruses, many companies warn employees not to open attachments from unknown senders.


  • Make sure your resume is noun-intensive. Scanning technology used by most companies tends to search by nouns, not verbs. For example, instead of writing "managed projects" on your resume, write "project manager."


  • You may also want to include a Career Summary section at the top of your resume to allow you to use more of the keywords and jargon that describe your skills and accomplishments. This will increase your chances of your resume making the first cut by the ATS as well as the recruiting staff.


  • Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for CareerBuilder.com.

    Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM


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