The Job Coaches: Distinguish yourself online

Q: I’ve applied to dozens of jobs online, but can’t even get an interview. What am I doing wrong?

A: Probably nothing! Remember, you’re just one of thousands of people out there searching for a job. Hiring managers who post jobs online probably receive upward of 100 resumes a week and have various ways to winnow their list down to the top candidates to interview, so even if you’re following instructions perfectly, you may not receive a response. However, there are a few things you can do to improve your chances of scoring an interview.

First, don’t be “Ms. Everycandidate.” If a cover letter (via e-mail, of course) is requested, don’t send a form letter. Don’t state the obvious, such as “attached is my resume” (because it is attached) or “I am applying for job XYZ” (because you are). Customize each e-mail to the position and company you’re applying for, and let your personality shine through. Your first two sentences should grab a hiring manager’s attention. For example, if you’re applying for a job in the graphic design field and you have 10 years working experience and a great portfolio, your first sentence could be “I’m perfect for the position you’ve posted because …” (and then state your most valuable attributes).

Also in your cover letter, you should indicate that you know something about the company. Do your research; at the least, visit the company’s Web site, read recent press releases, Google the company and find something positive that you can mention that explains WHY you’re interested in working for this company. A hiring manager will appreciate a candidate who has done her research, and it will improve your chances of getting your foot in the door if it is clear that you’re not just sending the same e-mail you send when applying for any job.

Second, there are a few things you can do to impress prospective employers when applying online. Even if you have a wonderful resume in Word format, consider signing up for www.VisualCV.com. It’s free, it’s easy, and you can set up your own resume Web site with links to former employers, scan letters of reference and upload them, and include samples of work you’ve done in the past (depending on your industry). Once you have your VisualCV set up, you can simply send a link to your resume online when applying for jobs. And because VisualCV is fairly new, most prospective employers will be impressed simply by the fact that you have an online resume.

Additionally, VisualCV is adding new employers to its job search feature every day, so you can actually apply for jobs within VisualCV.com (and prospective employers can search candidates — they might even find you before you find them!).

Additionally, if you’re not already on LinkedIn, you should be. I know, I know — “I’m already on Facebook/MySpace/Twitter … why do I need ANOTHER social media account?”

LinkedIn has some great features for searching for jobs online, joining groups that are specific to your industry, and interacting with people who can connect you to people who work for or make hiring decisions for the companies you want to work for. Monster and CareerBuilder are great tools in an online job search, but having your resume and profile on LinkedIn and reaching out to make connections is a more personal way to find the right job for you.

With our unemployment rate in double-digits, adding some online networking components to your job search can help you stand out as a prospective candidate. Happy hunting!

Kelly Love Johnson is the author of “Skirt Rules for the Workplace: An Irreverent Guide to Advancing Your Career” (Globe Pequot Press, 2008). The Job Coaches are experienced volunteers from the Center for Women’s Job Counseling Program. Ask them a question by calling 843-763-7333 or e-mailing info@c4women.org. If you would like further assistance, make an appointment. A donation of $20 is requested for appointments.

First appeared in the Moxie section of The Post and Courier Friday, September 4, 2009.

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