Dear Matt: I've sent in numerous résumés through companies' online systems, but haven't heard from anyone. What are employers really looking for when I submit my résumé? Are they still reading cover letters? What can I do to stand out? Because the methods I am using are just not working.
Matt says: According to Susan Thomas, regional vice president of Office Team (officeteam.com), a staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled office and administrative support professionals, the best way to impress a hiring manager is to be an impressive candidate, and the best way to do that is to show that you've done your homework. By demonstrating your knowledge of the company and its industry, you can speak directly to the employer's needs and set yourself apart from other candidates.
• Does your résumé cite quantifiable examples of contributions to previous employers' bottom line?
• Does it show how you're going to offer value to the company?
• Does the information match the requirements listed in the job description?
• Does it convey a sense of strong teamwork/collaboration skills?
• Does it show your ability to succeed in various environments both as a contributor and a leader?
A common résumé trap is including a "laundry list" of skills rather than demonstrating actual achievements, said Thomas. No matter how relevant or impressive your skill set, employers want to see how your expertise and efforts will affect the company's bottom line. Highlight recent, relevant achievements. Your accomplishments in your first job out of college may not be pertinent, for example, if your career spans 20 years.
As for the cover letter, it's still important. According to an Office Team survey, 86 percent of executives consider cover letters valuable when evaluating job candidates.
Job seekers who don't include a cover letter are "missing an opportunity to introduce themselves," said Thomas. "The cover letter and résumé are typically what prompt a hiring manager to extend an interview invitation. Applicants who fail to present a compelling case in writing may not get an opportunity to shine in a face-to-face meeting."
The reality is, it's not always the candidate with the perfect résumé, the best education or the most experience who gets the job. It's the person who grabs the employer's attention by focusing everything on how they can help that company succeed by hiring you.
So do your homework. That's what employers really want.