I remember a time when I had to fill out a frustratingly inflexible online job application and, after more than a few fevered aarghs, I found myself talking back to the automated program: “If I answer the questions the way YOU want me to, you won’t get the whole picture…and you certainly won’t know what makes me special!” Now this was a clunky old online application system and, while some of those limited application systems still exist, nowadays most will at least allow you to attach your resume.
But for the majority of us – even those with good writing skills - I would venture to say resumes feel limiting in their own way. How do I squeeze a warm-blooded, full-bodied, three-dimensional person into a one-dimensional piece of paper or electronic document? How do I include in a palpable way the things I add to any workplace that go beyond quantifiable accomplishments and skills? And for job seekers who can’t even figure out how to get a clear picture of the basics on the page in a way that does them justice, it often feels like the whole system is set up to work against them.
Well…in a way it is.
One would like to think that after all these years the hiring process would be polished to a fine finish. But were one to think so, one would be sorely disappointed.
It’s About the Fit
In a perfect world, companies would send representatives all over the country – maybe even the world – and spend time searching through a limitless pool of job applicants, narrowing down the field but giving everyone a fair chance. Kind of like when Prince Charming went looking for Cinderella. Whether it’s a shoe or a job, it’s all about the right fit.
But, of course, companies can’t really do that and so they choose to make it easier for themselves – as well as cost effective. And while they would like to find the very best candidate possible, again and again I’ve seen them settle for the best one that somehow gets to them. And so, although employers do hire “head hunters” at times to help narrow down the search (head hunters/recruiters accept resumes but also seek out candidates), ultimately the responsibility is yours to find a way to get seen – and to make sure you’re seen in the very best light possible, all the while playing by their rules. After all, they have the job…you don’t.
So What’s Cinderella To Do?
The basics of course include the best resume possible that paints as full a picture of yourself as possible. If you need help writing it, get it. Don’t let this ever-so-important job search tool be only “good enough.” And make sure to the best of your ability that your resume answers the question: “Why are you a great fit for this particular job.” That means don’t just send out the same resume everywhere without at least giving it a few customized tweaks to increase your chances of being seen as a good fit for EACH job.
The “it’s up to you” reality of the hiring process also makes a good cover letter all the more important. It’s a great place to try to turn one dimension into three – and to clearly show a few ways you are a terrific fit.
And most of all, it means networking – both in the moment and to set up future possibilities – becomes one of your strongest job search tools for getting into the smaller group that actually gets seen. Think of it as your fairy godmother!
And yes…as annoying as online applications and even resumes can be, the extra time you take to make sure each word helps paints the very best picture of you is time well spent. Until they meet you, it’s all they have to go by.