Kevin Donlin owns and runs Guaranteed Resumes, a resume and cover letter writing service that also provides job search assistance. He fields questions from TechRepublic members and offers advice based on his experience and expertise.

With the recession, I’m having a hard time getting interviews. I’ve uploaded my resume to numerous high-tech job sites and answered more than 50 online job postings—but nothing. What should I be doing better?


Despite the tight labor market, you can make your information stand out and get the job you want. Whether you’re a top-level strategic consultant whose engagement is about to run out or a support desk worker who wants to find a new job, you can always find ways to improve your job search. I’ll share two brief case studies from my client files, with takeaway tips for you to apply today.

Talk to the hiring manager
Eugene, a developer, saw a posting online for a job he really wanted. He first thought he would e-mail his resume and wait. But that approach hadn’t produced any callbacks for three months, so he decided to try something different. Eugene picked up the phone, got the phone number of the contact person listed in the job posting from the company switchboard, and called her.

He asked if he could hand-deliver his resume. She told him no, but he struck up a conversation and learned enough about the position to write a targeted cover letter, which he e-mailed with his resume. After that, Eugene made three follow-up calls, one week apart, to politely ask if a decision had been made. Since he had already built a rapport with the hiring manager during his first call, she didn’t see this as an intrusion.

Between his second and third follow-up calls, Eugene employed a tactic that set him apart from every other candidate: He offered to deliver a portfolio of additional material. The hiring manager agreed.

So Eugene put together a collection of awards and descriptions of projects he had worked on. As he was dropping off this “brag book” with the receptionist, he met several employees in the lobby. He asked about the four biggest problems they were facing on the job, took notes, and then went home to think up solutions.

Finally, after four weeks, three follow-up phone calls, and one hand-delivered portfolio, Eugene was called for an interview. He aced it, as well as the interview that followed, and got the job.

After talking to employees and researching the company’s products and customers on its Web site, he was able to talk intelligently and make helpful suggestions, and he impressed the interviewers.

Takeaway: Persistence and creativity will set you apart from the hordes of passive job seekers. Find out who the decision maker is, then e-mail or call that person every 7 to 10 days to follow up. Politely ask if a hiring decision has been made, and seek additional information or insights about the job you seek. In Eugene’s case, he offered to hand-deliver a portfolio of material to further prove he was the right person for the job. You can provide other materials, such as competitive research or work samples. No matter how you cut it, if a job is worth having, it’s worth a follow-up.

Focus on results
Frank, a network administrator, had an interview on Oct. 7, 2002, and was offered a position advertised on—if you can believe that. Employers get hundreds, if not thousands, of responses to those ads. Frank’s resume stuck out, and he was one of only two applicants who were given an interview.

He had no experience on any of the systems the prospective employer was running, but his resume showed a willingness to learn and past success at learning unfamiliar technologies quickly. The company offered him $53,000 the next day, a $15,000 increase over his current salary.

These are sample bullet points from Frank’s resume:

  • More than 10 years of hardware/software experience includes programming, configuration, troubleshooting, and support. Strong in Oracle, Access, SQL Server, and wireless networks.
  • Helped retain $20 million contract with top client after working 16-hour days for four months to clean up Access database and repair reporting problem using Excel and Crystal Reports.
  • Retained during a 75 percent reduction in headcount.

Takeaway: Write a resume that focuses on specific results rather than dry lists of duties and responsibilities. To force yourself to focus on results, tack this phrase onto the end of the duties in your resume: “as a result.”

When you do that, you can transform a section like this:

  • Maintained data backup and restoration. Interfaced with programmers to test and build monitoring applications. Wrote documentation and training guidelines.
  • Into one like this, which will stand out:

  • Streamlined data backup and restoration procedures. Worked with programmers to test and build monitoring application. Wrote documentation and training guidelines. As a result, cut monitoring times by 25 percent, while reducing average support calls from more than 10 per month to one (90 percent drop).
  • Final thought
    Does all this research, networking, and telephone follow-up sound like a lot of work to you? Not if you consider your job search a full-time job in itself. And in a challenging job market, you can’t afford anything less.

    What has worked for you this year?

    Which approach has worked best for you when trying to find your next job? Tell us your strategies—especially if they’re out of the ordinary—and we might feature them in upcoming articles.