How Do I Get Noticed By Employers In A Crowded Field?

It's the million dollar question for job seekers: how do you stand out in a flood of qualified resumes? Leadership coach Lolly Daskal advises.

When you are looking for your dream job there is only one question that really matters: How do you get your foot in the door?

So it's no surprise that we've received several reader questions about honing your skills, dealing with long-term job searches, and making your resume stand out from the pack.

This week's question comes in response to our recent column about learning new skills without going back to college, and is answered by Leadership coach Lolly Daskal.

I have applied for at least 100 jobs if not more in the last 7 months. Because of the Automated Resume Screeners I cannot get past the online application submission. I have a lot of the prerequisite skills, but I have not completed a degree. So my application is never even considered. What are people like me supposed to do?

Respectfully,
Susie


Dear Susie,

I am so sorry that you are having such a difficult time. You probably already know this, but you’re in great company—Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and Steve Jobs are all proof that you can do well without a degree.

The job search is forever changing and we have to learn to be creative with our limitations, handicaps, and circumstances.

Automated resume screening by keywords is a reality for many employers now. Continuing to do what you’ve been doing will probably produce the same results.

Whether you have any college-level study or not, you can try a more creative approach:

1. List Any Education You Have.
If you have some college study, there are a couple of things you can do to help your resume get past an automated screen. You can list the school you attended and your major without stating anything about a degree. Or, if the job description says “bachelor's degree required,” your resume can say “bachelor's degree not completed” so the system can pick up the keywords “bachelor's degree.” You don't want to say anything that is not true, but you want your resume to get in front of people. Make sure your resume includes the same keywords as the job description, then arrange them to fit your background.

2. Find The Hiring Manager On LinkedIn.
If you have a job in mind, look up the appropriate hiring manager, director, or vice president on LinkedIn and send them your resume in the mail. Make it personal, state your skills, let them get to know some of your passion and who you are, so when they are reading a thousand other resumes, yours will stand out.

3. Use Snail Mail.
Everybody emails today, so try posting a letter. Mark it confidential and personal and tell them why you are the perfect person for the job.

4. Emphasize Your Experience and Credentials.
Stress not only your experience but also the skills you have and the results you have achieved. Describe any training, certifications, or licenses you have to show that you have invested in your development. If you have done some college classes or training, you have something to talk about.

5. Network more.
Most jobs come though connections, and if you don't have connections, make them. Networking is one of the most important things you can do when pursuing a new job, but it's even more critical if you don't have a degree.

6. Make Sure You Have Strong Recommendations.
Strong recommendations from clients, former employers, co-workers, and leadership of professional associations can go a long way toward making up for other ways your resume may fall short of requirements.

Your situation is difficult, I understand—but to solve it means bringing more effort, creativity, innovation, and ingenuity to the table. If you find a way to demonstrate to those who are hiring that you are the person who can get it done for them, and that you have skills and a proven track record, I believe you can be successful.

Let us know how it goes.


If you have a dilemma you’d like our panel of experts to answer, send your questions to AskFC@fastcompany.com or tweet us a question using #AskFC.

[Image: Flickr user Mathias]

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1 Comments

  • Lisa Stewart

    I think it's an unfair assumption that Susie position reflects anything similar to that of Gates, Dell, & Jobs. These guys were innovators and entrepreneurs. If Susie wants to become or is in the position of being an entrepreneur, then bringing up like-minded names is essential to her aspirations -if she's in the tech industry.

    Additionally, I believe on 'the creative approach,' it would be nice to see specific examples of each bullet item. These high-level suggestions only lead to frustration in the World of unemployment.

    In today's World, getting seen by the right people can be easily remedied by volunteering in a cause that's near/dear to your heart. Note, that while you're showing compassion on your sleeve in these arenas, you are also making a personal statement, showing your work ethic, and sparkling personality. Getting in the trenches by volunteering can get you in front of people who observe you and ultimately, recommend you for a job.

    @eclisastewart