Searching for work can be very frustrating indeed, especially when there are often hundreds of applicants for a single position. The odds seem to be stacked against you unless you “know somebody who knows somebody”.
For those who are fortunate enough to already have a job while seeking a new position, there are some advantages. Someone who is already working can afford to be a little more selective about what position they might take, and what organization they might choose to work for, but not everyone has this luxury. For many, locating a source of income is a necessary priority. Families need to eat, and children need to have new shoes for school.
Submitting resume after resume without ever getting a response is not only frustrating, it can make a person feel less worthy or can contribute to low self-esteem. As difficult as it may seem, you must not lose hope, and remember that it isn’t anything personal.
Getting past that first resume screening line can be very difficult when you are one of more than one hundred people competing for a single job. To complicate matters, more and more jobs are becoming specialized which means the screening team will be looking for specific experience within your resume. Human resource teams for large organizations seldom understand the position they are screening for because they are never out there on the factory floor, and many organizations are choosing to outsource this part of their human resource group.
Still, your only good shot at getting noticed will be through your resume and the documents that you submit to support it. This is the first step in getting in the door and your submission package must represent you and leave a good impression.
No matter what you decide to submit or not submit with your submission package, take the time to understand the position that you are applying for and emphasize your experience and talents associated with that position. Using a single generalized resume for every job submission will significantly decrease your odds of getting that first interview.
You will find all kinds of “professional” advice on formatting a resume and whether or not you should have a cover letter or include details of your work history with your resume. Some selecting managers will like to see a great deal of detail on a resume, even if it means writing a four page document, while other managers will prefer a brief single page overview. Unfortunately, unless you know the hiring manager personally, you will probably not know his or her preferences.
Please allow me to offer a few suggestions —
- 1) No matter what type of submission package you are putting together, please make sure it is free of spelling and grammatical errors. You will be selected in part on your ability to be professional in your work, and your submission package provides the first impression of this ability. Check it once, check it twice, and then have someone else check it again!
- 2) Take the time to target everything in your submission package to the specific position or career that you are seeking. If you are interested in, and qualified for more than one position or career, then by all means submit more than one candidate package. If you cannot take the time and consideration to focus on the potential position or career, how can the selecting manager expect you to be able to focus on the job that you may be selected for?
- 3) The submission package should consist of a Cover Letter, Resume, and a Summary of Work.
- 4) DO NOT LIE ON ANY OF YOUR PROVIDED MATERIALS! If you are not honest on your submission package, how can you expect to be trusted in your work? Background checks will often be completed, and your inability to perform in the position will be evident. Submitting false information in your submission package can result in the loss of your job, and an automatic rejection in consideration for future positions. It can also be very costly to the organization that hired you, and to the recruiter that placed you in front of the organization for consideration. DO NOT consider a dishonest submission package as an option to get you in the door. This has the potential for closing many doors to you in the future.
The Cover Letter —
Do not overlook the importance of a good cover letter. Use your cover letter to introduce yourself and to sell yourself to the selecting manager. In a few short paragraphs, explain who you are and what you can do for the organization you are applying too. Don’t forget to suggest that they contact you for further details. Yes, they know to do this, but it helps to plant the idea just like a product commercial that says “buy now”. Keep your cover letter to a single page, and target the position you are seeking.
The Resume —
Keep your resume to no more than two pages. Additional and detailed information can be provided on your cover letter and your Summary of Work. The information you provide on your resume will of course vary, depending on your education, experience level, and the position you are applying for, but you do need to include the following —
- Summary of Qualifications
- Brief Work History
- Awards & Achievements
The order in which you place the information is not significant and selecting manager’s preferences will vary. With today’s emphasis on training, certifications and education, I personally like to see this directly following the objective, and then the summary of qualifications to follow next.
It may be difficult for some of you to resist the urge to place every detail of your past accomplishments onto your resume, but resist you must! Select the accomplishments that you feel are the most significant, and that apply to the position you are seeking, and save the others for you summary of work. Your selecting manager does not need to see on your resume that you know how to use an open end wrench if you already told him you are certified in building car engines, and he or she will understand that you know how to turn on a computer if your degree is in computer technologies.
Summary of Work —
The summary of work can provide an area to show your significant growth and accomplishments in your previous positions. Use this area to show how you advanced in your previous positions and to summarize your significant accomplishments. If you do not have a significant work history you can also use this area to emphasize your educational accomplishments. Have you excelled in any groups or clubs at your school? Have you been awarded any special recognition by your instructors or did you manage to maintain a 4.0 GPA?
The Summary of Work should be kept on a separate file from your resume because not all selecting managers will initially be interested in this information. By sending it as a separate file it will be available if the selecting manager chooses to review it.
In the past, I have been directly advised by a hiring manager to include a Summary of Work showing the progression of my career when at the time I did not have a Summary of Work available. With that advice I added the information to my resume and was then advised to cut my resume down to the basics by a different hiring manager. As you can see, the information a selecting manager wants to see is going to be based on the individual preferences of that manager.
A sample of a paragraph from a Summary of Work could be;
07/1982 ‘” 08/1987 ‘” Production Manager
Responsibilities & Growth — When I started with this company they handled both ice and poultry, and I was the lucky one who cut the poultry before it was packaged for the customer. I learned to become a route truck driver when one of our drivers became injured, and with no experience I ran the truck route. I quickly became a fill-in driver for every truck route and knew every customer by name. I also learned every aspect of manufacturing and in a short time became the production manager. The company moved away from poultry to focus on ice and I helped to grow the customer base and improve efficiency in the manufacturing area considerably.
The Interview —
I have been on both sides of the interview desk. I have been the selecting manager, and I have been the candidate being selected. Neither side of the desk is without at least some level of anxiety.
Prior to attending an interview, be sure to do a little research on the organization that you are interviewing with, and if available, it is a good idea to know who will be conducting the interview and the position this person holds within the organization.
Doing a little research will help you to understand a little more about what the company does, its history, and what it may be planning for in the future. It may be helpful in your decision making to know if the organization is world-wide or local, and knowing if the organization is financially sound can help determine your future. It is also helpful during the interview if you can show some understanding of what the organization’s goals are, and how you might fit in with helping to attain those goals.
Knowing who you are interviewing with can be helpful too. If you are interviewing with the selecting manager you may need to prepare yourself for more technical questions, while a preliminary interview with human resources may mean a list of questions pertaining to your personality, level of education, and you’re your compensation needs.
Bring a few copies of your resume and background information with you to the interview if you are interviewing in person. Having a small handout packet shows that you took the time to prepare, and are ready to provide the information that is needed. If you have any letters of reference or recommendation, include them with this handout.
The person doing the interviewing and candidate selection must be careful to find someone who will be a good match for the position, and more than education and experience must be weighed. The selecting manager must consider —
- Does this person have the required education?
- Does this person have the required experience?
- Will this person be satisfied with this position?
- Will this person require financial assistance for relocation?
- Will this person fit in with the culture of our organization?
- Does this person have a history of jumping jobs?
- What level of communication skills does this person have?
- Is this person self-motivated?
- Can this person work independently?
- Will this person require continuous guidance to keep them working?
As the one being interviewed, you too need to be asking questions and learning about the person and organization that you may be working for. Remember, this is not a one-sided decision making process. You need to be learning, and asking yourself if this organization is one that you truly believe you could have a future with, and this includes deciding if you would be a good match for the available position. You need to consider things like —
- Will my personality clash with that of the department manager?
- Will I be able to meet the expected level of output for this job?
- Does this position offer sufficient growth opportunities?
- Will I feel challenged or bored in this position?
- Will the work shift present any problems that cannot be overcome?
- Is the compensation/benefits package acceptable?
- Is the job location acceptable?
Ask for a business card from the interviewer, and be sure to thank him or her for the time they took out of their busy schedule to meet with you, and follow up with a short email the next day, showing you appreciate being considered for the position, and that you are available to answer any further questions that might be needed.