En español | Searching for a job can be full of irritations for older applicants. Among the most common is the “résumé black hole” — when you don't hear a response after applying for a job.
In recent years, low unemployment rates made finding qualified candidates challenging, so employers had to work harder to attract the best and brightest talent. But, even then, they were not always able to connect directly with everyone who applied. Before the massive job losses and recession that began in spring 2020, the job information site Glassdoor reported that each corporate job received an average of 250 résumés. Of those, four to six candidates landed interviews.
Now that many more people are looking for jobs, it may be more difficult to ensure that your résumé gets seen. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your follow-up approach in order to set yourself apart as a candidate. If you think your résumé is being ignored, try these tips.
1. Offer helpful new insights
The most obvious way to follow up your application is to wait a few days or so and then send an email or place a phone call to the human resources department (or whomever you sent your résumé) to check whether it was received, says Montreal-based talent strategist Stefano Faustini. This outreach works best if you can identify the recruiter in charge of filling the position. That may be done through a phone call or by asking someone you possibly know at the company.
But Amanda Augustine, a career expert with TopResume, a New York City-based résumé-writing service, says there are other ways to use follow-ups in order to build relationships that help you stand out as an eager and enthusiastic candidate.
Stay on top of news from the company you're targeting. You can do so by reading the press release section or company blog on its website. In addition, set up a Google alert with the company's name and, depending on the size of the company, the division or department to which you're applying. If there is relevant breaking news on which you can provide helpful comments or congratulations, send an email to the appropriate contact.
Using “that note as more of a tool to communicate additional information — or at least to show that you are up and looking at the news and seeing what's going on in their industry — helps you to stand apart from some of the other applications,” she says.
2. Give your résumé a makeover
If you're regularly not getting a response to your résumé, the problem may be the document itself, Augustine says. After checking your résumé for common mistakes, such as typos and incomplete contact information, be sure that it's customized and matches the most prominent skills and priorities reflected in the job description. That includes using many of the same words that are in the posting.
"You need to make sure that your résumé is reflecting the terms and requirements that you're seeing in the job description,” she says.
Go back over your résumé and rework it to incorporate the skills in the job description. In addition, try to add fresh information that's relevant to the job description. This will give you a good reason to forward an updated version of your résumé.
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3. Outsmart the ATS
The next step is to make sure that the applicant tracking systems (ATS) that the recruiters use can read all of the information on your résumé, says Los Angeles-based résumé writer Robyn L. Coburn. Many companies use these digital tools to scan and store applicants’ résumés. Their HR professionals and hiring managers can then simply do keyword searches for skills or positions and find prospective hires in the company's database.
However, if you've formatted your résumé using online templates, tables or fancy fonts, or have information displayed in the header or footer, or as a graphic instead of text, the ATS may not be able to read and capture the information. This can put you at a disadvantage, Coburn says. Make sure your document is text-based and uses a simple font with all relevant information in the body of the document instead of a designated a header or footer, she says.
4. Play “six degrees of separation"
If you have a strong network, get to work looking for contacts who have connections at the firms you are applying to. “The whole point is to do whatever you can to leverage the network you've built in good faith,” Faustini says.
LinkedIn is one way to do so. You can search for contacts who are connected to the companies you're targeting and request introductions, he says. According to LinkedIn data, the most common way that employees find new jobs is through referrals.
5. Showcase your knowledge and skills
"When you're ignored, the only solution is to double down on ‘being seen': Engage with your community and post your own unique pieces of content in whatever form suits you best,” Faustini says. So create your own content marketing plan. You may share experiences and tell stories on social media such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Write a bylined piece for a trade publication or website. Create an article that demonstrates your knowledge of and leadership on an issue in your field of work, and publish it on a site like Medium or on your LinkedIn profile.
"Aside from driving engagement and attention to your profile, it will position you as someone ‘plugged in’ to their industry,” Faustini says. Be sure to share the content with the appropriate contacts at the company to which you're applying.