According to a Glassdoor survey every corporate job receives about 250 resumes. Out of those resumes they interview about 5 people and on average 1 of them gets the job. That means out of every 250 times you send your application online you have a 0.4% chance of getting a job.

These numbers are going to vary widely across industry. If you’re an engineer or IT professional with in-demand skills it’s probably more like a 5–10% chance of getting hired, which is of course a massive increase from 0.4%.

But for the other thousands of professions that don’t fall into that category, your chances of getting a job through submitting a resume online are still quite slim.

If your resume has such poor chances of getting noticed, why even bother? Let’s take a step back. The reason you are not getting an interview or a job is not because companies aren’t looking at your resume. In fact, many of them are skimming over them for a few seconds and making a snap judgement, and then moving on. In reality, the reason your resume doesn’t get noticed is because job seekers don’t really know what companies want to see in a resume. There’s a disconnect between what you think they want and what they really want.

A company can be looking for a lot of requirements, but when perusing your resume it boils down to two things:

  1. Specific key words that fit their preconceived ideas for the “ideal fit” for the position.
  2. A sense of familiarity and “culture fit” with their company.

How on earth can you find out this information?

It’s not going to come from sending the same resume over and over and expecting the same result. While I agree drive and persistence are important, at some point we need to admit that when things don’t work one way, we might need to change strategies. As the famous saying goes,

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

It’s time to change our approach.

Here are a two different approaches you can take to make your resume stand out. 

#1 Leverage a Recruiter for Feedback

Using a recruiter can definitely get your foot in the door and increase your chances of getting the job — if only slightly. Good recruiters realize that there’s going to be more to you then your resume and should be willing to talk to you over the phone/face to face. That’s where you can take the opportunity to sell yourself and explain and clarify what you want to do.

If you are contacting an external recruiter (agency recruiter representing a company) then your goal should be to find the most relevant recruiter for your industry. Then just talk with them and meet them. This is where you can ask for feedback on your resume. You can send the recruiter an email like this:

Hey John, I’m very interested in applying for a role at X Company. I’ve attached my resume here and would really appreciate some constructive feedback on how to make it better. What is the hiring manager from company X looking for? How can I make it stand out more? Are there specific keywords they are looking for in the resume? I’d appreciate your feedback and will be more than happy to make revisions or completely redo my resume if necessary! Best regards, -M

A recruiter that has a strong relationship with the company and hiring manager will know the answers to all of these questions. They will be able to really tell you what kind of keywords a company is looking for. A not-so-good recruiter will give you less helpful feedback. I wrote an article here about weeding out bad recruiters.

Then after you get their feedback you can revise your resume based on their suggestions. It’s possible that you might have to completely rewrite your resume, so don’t shy away from that. Feedback can be painful but it’s necessary for us to grow.

#2 Get Inside the Company’s Head

If you are reaching out to an internal recruiter to apply for a job in a company, one simple thing you can do is take a look at other employees in the company with a similar job title. Then you can get ideas from their profiles. Watch out for keywords they use in their resumes and then sprinkle them in your own resume. Adding in keywords will establish a sense of familiarity (Oh, John uses words in his resume like “mission-driven” just like we do in our company!)

For example, I analyzed over 200 resumes that are publicly available on LinkedIn to find keywords that repeated in profiles of Amazon employees. If you look at a lot of Amazon employee resumes, in their jobs pre-Amazon you’ll notice they tend to have words like “strategy,” “go-to-market,” “launch,” and “ROI” quite frequently in their resumes.

Think about this for a second. What keywords can you include in your resume that an employer would like to see?

Here are three ways that you can find those keywords.

  1. The easiest way to do this is pick out key words in the job description and pepper them into your resume. If they are looking for a “self starter” then make sure to include that in your summary/bio in your resume. 
  2. Look at the company values and include some of them as key words. For example, if you are applying to Amazon their list of values include “ownership” and “thinking big.” These words should be relatively easy to sprinkle in your resume (“Took ownership of X project etc. etc).
  3. Analyze keywords in the resumes and profiles of current or ex-employees at the company you are applying for. Many people don’t have detailed examples so you’ll have to search around a bit on LinkedIn. This person has a good profile. Take those keywords and put them in your resume.

For approach #3, alternatively you can type in their names in google and “resume” or “CV.” Sometimes you’ll be surprised as you can often times find resumes online. There’s something like 40 million resumes floating around online. You could even sign up as a recruiter (for free) and view tons of resumes to get ideas of what people are writing.

This does not mean you should frantically try and stuff in all of these words into your resume. Of course you should always be realistic and truthful.

This should be a good starting point for you to make your resume more familiar, relevant, and on-point for the position as well as the company culture. But again I wouldn’t focus too much on just the resumes considering their success rate. Mix it up. Think about how you can maximize your time at networking events — that’s how 80% of people still get their jobs.

Happy Hunting.

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