How to Get Employers to Read Your Résumé

The secret to making a C.V. stand out in a crowd? Hook the reader early, and trumpet results.

“I don’t understand it. I must have responded to over 50 Internet postings in the last month, and I haven’t gotten a single interview.”

“I’ve answered over a dozen ads in major newspapers, and I haven’t heard from one company.”

I often hear these complaints from job hunters who sometimes become so frustrated by a lack of responses that they give up. Adding to their difficulty is the fact that the job market is tougher than it’s been in recent years, making interviews harder to come by.

It likely comes as no surprise to anyone laid off in the past year that the U.S. economy has been in a recession since March 2001, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass. The tight market puts employers and recruiters in the driver’s seat once again. Fewer jobs are available, and there’s a larger talent pool to choose from.

Companies that just two years ago had to make offers on the spot to snare candidates now have the luxury of time. They can postpone making hiring decisions until they find someone who meets all their criteria. Except in the case of very high-profile executives, employers won’t have to lure candidates with hefty sign-on bonuses and stock options, either.

Lengthen the First Look

How can you compete in this type of market? Your first objective is to make sure your résumé gets read. One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is assuming that just because they send a résumé to a prospective employer or recruiter, it will be read.

No one will lean back in a swivel chair, cross their legs and then slowly give your résumé undivided attention. Instead, reviewers will pore through dozens — possibly hundreds — of résumé piled in front of them, yours included. Each résumé will be scanned quickly as the reader searches for reasons to reject its owner or to schedule an interview — usually the former.

When your résumé moves to the top, the scanner will give it a brief look — perhaps for 10 to 15 seconds — for anything that piques his or her interest. This is your one chance to make an impression. Does your résumé include a statement about your background that’s so powerful that it transforms your initial scan into a lengthy look?

A Résumé Makeover

When Walt Disney Imagineering, an entertainment-construction company in Glendale, Calif., completed building two new theme parks last year, it announced that all future construction projects would be outsourced. That left David Bill, a 45-year-old manufacturing manager from Oak Park, Calif., without a job.

Mr. Bill began his job search right away. For the next six months, he networked, answered Internet and newspaper ads and contacted recruiters and prospective employers. He mailed more than 350 résumé and had 10 interviews. None led to a job offer.

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