I hate looking at resumes, but I’d be happy to tell you what sets applicants apart when I’m interviewing and reviewing resumes. Now, not everyone will agree with my advice, and it definitely can be industry and company-size specific, but these are things that make people successful at my company. And I’ll also recommend the book 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller. Kind of Jesusy (if you aren’t into that kind of thing), but I was able to totally overlook it. And I was very skeptical when I read it, but dang – it worked. I went from a job that I hated to a career & company that I’ve been with for 6.5 years and have nearly tripled my income with.
Here’s what sets people apart when I’m hiring – I’m in marketing for a business-to-business sales team. We’re a publicly traded company with about 600 employees.
– Someone who goes above and beyond. Just submitting a resume online is *yawn*. Some organizations may hate it, but any candidate who sends an “application packet” with their resume, a TAILORED cover letter, work samples, nice packaging, etc – automatically is getting an interview. One of my more recent hires had submitted an application online but never heard back from HR so found my name by searching online and emailed me to very nicely ask if there was anyone she could talk to to find out more. I liked the initiative. Being resourceful and taking initiative will serve you well.
– Cover letters are way more interesting than resumes. Make the cover letter about the COMPANY you are applying to, not about yourself. Read news articles about things the company is dealing with and mention them in your letter. Even if you’re totally off on the division you are applying to (like you talk about a regulation challenge they are facing but it ends up you were actually applying for a HR position), it doesn’t really matter. It shows you care about the company and aren’t just sending out mass letters. It also shows you can write.
– Include measureable numbers in your resume and highlights of your accomplishments. Don’t just state your duties in past roles, state what you actually accomplished. Bullet point it and keep it brief. One page. Resumes are the worst.
– I’d suggest including one reference LETTER in your resume packet with a listing of one or two other people they can contact by email/phone. A letter of the reference is much more compelling because people are unlikey to call references until they get through the interview. But if there’s a letter, I’ll read it and it will likely set you apart in my mind.
– Send a thank you note if you get an interview. Email is okay but hand-written is best. If you’re worried about it not getting there in time, send one via email and a follow up one hand-written. It doesn’t have to be long-winded but it does make people stand out.
– This is SO duh, but be on time but NOT MORE THAN 10 MINUTES EARLY for interviews. I have had people show up up to 50 minutes early. That is a huge imposition on someone’s day and schedule. Get to the location early but don’t go in until 10 minutes before (unless they have told you there is a security process – this is a question to ask when setting the interview time).
– At every step in the process, drive home your desire to listen, learn more about what the company needs from this role, and how you can accomplish that job and then figure out how to do even more than they knew they needed. Don’t talk about why you want the job and what it would do for you and what’s so cool to you about the job. Talk about what THEY need and their “job to be done.”
Hope all of that triggers some ideas.