How to market yourself when applying for jobs
You’re résumé is beautiful! You’ve spent countless hours perfecting both its content and appearance and now you’re ready to send it out to fulfill its primary duty–landing you an interview. Or several. And fast.
What you may not realize, however, is that the first interview is about to begin–the 10-second interview (also referred to as the “10-second glance” or the “email in-box review”). Unlike a traditional interview, the 10-second interview, often conducted by overworked, unimaginative appointees, doesn’t offer you the chance to respond to initial questions, biases, and concerns; it’s just them, your résumé, and that dreaded ‘delete’ key.
Here are some tips to help you make the right first impression:
1. GIVE IT A NAME. Hiring managers receive anywhere from 10 to 1,000 résumés a day by email so it’s understandable why they may get a little agitated after opening a dozen résumé files in a row entitled ‘resume1.doc’. Use a more specific naming convention for your attachments, incorporating your full name and the position to which you’re applying. Uniquely labeled files are easy to remember and (more importantly) easy to retrieve later on amongst a sea of ‘MyEngineeringRez.doc’ files.
2. REMEMBER WHERE YOU’RE FROM. Using your personal email account is fine, as long as your user name and domain are palatable in the professional world. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they’re sending from ‘coolsherry@yahoo’ or ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’. Consider investing in a website, especially if you’re in the IT industry. That way you can use your own name as a domain, create user names specific to your field and position, *and* store your résumé online for easy reference.
3. MORE IS NOT NECESSARILY MERRIER. Keep your correspondence limited to the contact specified in the job description. Human Resources personnel, administrative assistants and other “screeners” may be offended if you try to go over their head. That said, if you’ve identified an employee with decision-making power through your own personal network, you should contact them directly. Just be sure to introduce yourself (in-person, on the phone, or by email) *before* you forward your résumé. Then ask for the proper application procedure (i.e. should anyone be copied on this email?).
4. TO ATTACH OR NOT TO ATTACH. Unless otherwise specified, you should always send an ASCII (text-only) résumé embedded in the body of your email along with an MS Word or Adobe Acrobat attachment. This way, the recipient will have the option to begin scanning your plain text résumé immediately or to open up the “reader-friendly” version. If you’re unclear as to what an ASCII résumé is, find out soon; they’re quickly becoming the standard for online résumé submission.
5. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Computer crashes can ruin anyone’s day, including the hiring manager who’s having trouble opening your gargantuan Photoshop file. Keep the size of your collective attachments down to 50Kb. This means no pictures (of yourself or anyone else), graphics, writing samples, or lengthy résumé addendums. Save these items for the interview or send them upon request only.
6. AN INTRODUCTION IS IN ORDER Always, without exception, include a cover letter embedded in the body of the email. This is your opportunity to introduce your résumé. Don’t pass it up. If you’ve written a cover letter that warrants more than a passing glance, attach it as a Word or Acrobat file alongside your résumé, and make sure it’s clearly labeled as a cover letter.
7. FOLLOW THEIR LEAD. All companies have a preferred way they like to process résumés, just as you have a preferred way you like to receive, open, and organize your mail. Keep their life simple and follow directions even if it means pasting that cumbersome 16-digit job code in the subject line *and* the body of your email. One last note: If their requests contradict any advice you’ve read or heard (including this article), go with what they say. Even if it makes absolutely no sense, you’ll get points for following along.
8. THE FINAL FIVE. Proofread, proofread, proofread. As is true with any marketing document, it’s essential that your email, cover letter, and résumé are flawless. Spend a final five minutes (at least!) reviewing your work, preferably after a short break from your computer to give your eyes a much needed rest.
Remember, you’re being interviewed from the minute you push that ‘send’ button on your email program. Your résumé–a faithful ally in your job search–and your other application materials should be answering the hiring managers’ questions *before* they ask them.
Good luck! May your phone ring and your in-box swell!
*Cliff Flamer, a former Silicon Valley recruiter, is the President of BrightSide Résumés, a certified résumé writing and consulting agency. Visit http://www.brightsideresumes.com for more help with revitalizing your job search, including an article on ASCII résumés and a free 12-point assessment of your existing résumé.
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