By Alyse Kalish
I’ve never been prouder of my cover letter that started with a witty opening line about almost getting run over in London, or the interview that went so well the hiring manager and I went on a tangent about our college years, or when a recruiter basically told me I had the job over email.
Yet, in all three of these cases I went on to not get the job. So, needless to say, there have been what I can only call confusing moments in my job search.
These moments have been learning experiences for me (of course, after I cried over them and crafted angry emails that I was smart enough to not actually send). Not so much because they made me think I had to change everything I was doing, but more a reminder that the job search is, at the end of the day, a numbers game. You might not get it on the first try, and you might not even get it on the 30th try, but if you know what you’re up against, you will increase your odds.
With that in mind, it might be helpful to remind yourself of all the obstacles you need to overcome. I repeated these four facts like a mantra during my job hunt, and surprisingly, they only encouraged me to try harder. Yes, they might make you want to throw in the towel when you first see them, but bear with me, and I’ll tell you how to easily work around them.
1. Most Hiring Managers Won’t Read Your Whole Application
It’s true—along with your resume, cover letter, references, and whatever else you included, the hiring manager probably has to read hundreds more. There will be times when your materials will simply get lost in a digital pile because they all start to blur together after a point. It stinks, but out of millions of people in this world, you have to assume you’re not the only person applying.
How to Beat the Odds
55% of hiring managers don’t even read cover letters, so knowing this, Muse Editor-in-Chief Adrian Granzella Larssen suggests that you try a different approach to grabbing the hirnig manager’s attention. Consider crafting a summary section or links to your work in your resume, or take advantage of the “additional information” section of your application. If you’re only being given a few seconds to make an impression, make sure they count.
“You should still write that cover letter—wouldn’t it be a shame to not include one for those employers who do still consider it worthwhile? But you should also do all of the following, which’ll make sure you stand out even if it never gets read,” she says.
4. Your Materials Probably Never Made it Into Human Hands
Companies get tons of applications. And if you think the powers that be have time to read through all of them, then you have a lot of faith in the human species.
No, your application most likely goes through an applicant tracking system (otherwise known as ATS) first. This is basically a robot that scans thousands of documents for keywords and requirements, saving hiring managers a ton of time, but also cheating lots of desperate job seekers like yourself out of the chance to show how awesome you are.
How to Beat the Odds
Muse writer James Hu did some research on ATS and found that wording is king: “For your application to rank highly for the position you want, your resume needs to contain the right keywords. So, your best bet is to tailor the content to the exact way the job description is written—including plural words, abbreviations, and numbers (e.g., note whether the company spells it nonprofit or non-profit; three years of experience or 3 years of experience). Yes, adjusting your wording for every application takes more time and effort than sending a generic resume, but as you can see, it’s well worth it.”
In addition, he notes that ATS looks for hard, tangible skills over soft skills such as “leadership” or “team player,” which are vetted during later stages in the process.
The truth hurts, especially when it’s out of your control. But take these as motivators to break the mold—and remember that you’re not alone in the frustration. After my 30th try, I finally beat the system, which means you can, too. And honestly, probably sooner, because by simply reading this article you already know a lot more than I did when I started out.
See all 4 reasons, How to Beat the Odds, and the complete TheMuse article