A fine line exists between differentiating yourself through a resume or at a job interview, and from being too outlandish for hiring managers. Here's how to find the balance.
Resumes are an inevitable aspect of the hiring process, typically used to highlight previous experience, skills, and past education. However, with the unemployment rate the lowest it's been in 50 years and increased competition from Gen-Zers, standing out is key.
Simply Hired's Job Application Tactics report, which surveyed more than 500 hiring managers and 500 applicants, found that job application tactics are changing. Hiring managers reported receiving an average of 34 applications per job posting, but only considered an average of 12.6, the report found.
SEE: 20 resume mistakes to watch out for (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
"You have seven seconds to impress me and other recruiters—sending a generic resume won't cut it," said Jagoda Wieczorek, HR specialist for ResumeLab. "A lot of job seekers get overwhelmed at the wealth of options available now that internet job boards are around. So, they make one generic resume, send it out to 50 different companies, and then wonder why they're not getting a call back from anyone."
With such a competitive hiring climate, job applicants said they spend an average of 62.1 minutes preparing their resume for submission. While preparing an impressive resume is crucial, many applicants fear being overlooked, resorting to unusual tactics to get noticed, the report found.
However, some tactics make the candidate stand out a little too much.
Strategies to avoid
"I've stumbled upon resumes that had completely unprofessional photos attached, a person dressed as a chicken or a ninja, said Pete Sosnowski, head of HR and co-founder at online resume builder Zety. "These candidates were probably testing my sense of humor. Well, I didn't laugh."
Candidates should also avoid crazy fonts as a tactic to stand out, said Sosnowski. Most of the time these special fonts just end up being too difficult to read.
Only 16% of job applicants in the report said they think stunts or gimmicks are effective, and only 20% of hiring managers said the same. The majority of applicants (69%) and hiring managers (63%) agreed that outlandish resumes or strategies won't get you the job.
"One of the most outrageous resumes I received was in the form of a PowerPoint. The applicant had a whole presentation of her work accomplishments with tons of images," said Jennifer Roquemore, co-founder of Resume Writing Services. "At some point she even included a video of herself looking into the camera and presenting the top give reasons she should be hired. She was applying for a marketing position, so maybe she thought it was okay to really spice things up and let her imagination go wild, but she really just ended up hurting her chances."
The report found some of the worst resume-delivery tactics applicants could use included printing the resume on a T-shirt and wearing it to the interview, and emailing the resume repeatedly until they receive a response.
A couple examples given by employees in the report included:
- "I saw an applicant rip open his shirt like Superman and show a tee that says he speaks six languages."
- "A guy went into the bathroom and came out in a fake straitjacket and said we'd be crazy not to hire him. I was taken aback and had a good laugh, but ultimately, he wasn't the right person for the job."
What quality resumes have
"When you are thinking of what to put on your resume, the job description is your best friend. It tells you exactly what a hiring manager expects to see on your resume," said Sosnowski.
"Typically, contact information, experience, education, and skills sections are a must. A resume summary or objective is a perfect addition if you want to make a good resume great," added Sosnowski. "And finally, if the company you're applying to has a strong work culture, adding a hobbies section will show that you are a good fit based on your personality."
Discrepancies exist between what job applicants find important and what hiring managers find important on a job application, the report found. Job applicants think having many years of experience is much more important than hiring managers do, with hiring managers prioritizing personality above anything else. Both, however, recognize the importance of skill specializations.
How to stand out, without falling down
Taking risks is necessary in today's hiring market, the report found. However, applicants must strike a balance between standing out and coming on too strong. When taking risks, the report recommended always remembering the audience.
The report found that the following two biggest differences between what job applicants and hiring managers want: Knowing people at the company and providing a unique cover letter. Job applicants think knowing someone at the company is significantly more important than hiring managers believe. Hiring managers also don't prioritize a unique resume format or design as much as job applicants think they might.
Stand out tastefully by using subtle approaches: "Use an eye-catching resume template, rather than a boring template from the 90's. A splash of color won't hurt, but make sure it's not too outrageous to where ATS software won't be able to read it," said Wieczorek.
Avoid cliche buzzwords and embellishing or lying about yourself to seem more impressive on your resume, Sosnowski said. "If you pack yours with a few, smartly selected power words and support it with actual data and achievements—your resume will shine like a bright start among others," he added.
For more check out Job seekers: Post your resume on these 11 sites for free on TechRepublic.
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