The other day I read this pretty old post on Skyler Reep's Blog - whose punch line was that your resume was the most important thing that was going to get you noticed by employers. I think that this is a misguided notion that is mostly believed by folks in HR or those candidates that still think that responding to a job posting on Monster is a serious way to look for a job.
Do you want to get noticed by employers? Well, let me share with you an executive perspective on recruiting. I DON'T care what paper your resume is written on. I couldn't care LESS about whether you put education first or last on your resume. Whether or not you have an "objective" listed at the top of your resume means diddly squat to me. What do I care about? I care that you are the person that my organization must hire to succeed. In fact, that is pretty much the only thing I care about.
If you are out looking for a job, you need to understand one very important thing. HR is your enemy not your friend. If you are responding to a job posting on a company website or on a jobs website, in all likelihood your resume will first go to a gatekeeper. That person is probably inundated by resumes - much as Skyler describes. If you need to try to impress the gatekeeper, or someone that fits the description that Skyler paints, then you will most likely have to resort to the tricks and tips that Skyler talks about. However, let me share a little secret with you. Gatekeepers are simply swimming in resumes, especially in tough economic times. I still remember an episode during the dot com bust when I advertised 6 open positions and our HR team was flooded by 1200 resumes. How useful do you think Skyler's tips will be in getting your resume noticed among 1200 others? Probably not that useful.
This is where I finally get to my point. If you want to get a job you need to outflank the enemy. You need to get directly to the hiring manager, and here is the absolutely best way to do it: get a personal reference. The best way to get an interview for a position you are interested in, is to get your resume personally handed to the hiring manager by someone they trust. If a trusted friend or colleague tells me I should interview someone for a job opening, the risk that I will decline is very small.
How do you get to the hiring manager? Networking. Yes, I know, folks hate to hear that word, but if you want to get hired (not to mention advance your career in the long run), networking is something that you have to master. Using sites such as LinkedIn is a simple method of finding people you know in organizations you are targeting.
I left a comment with the general message of this post on Skyler's blog, to which he responded by saying that he is a hiring manager and that every applicant, even his brother, must follow the rules in applying to a position. Well, more power to him. Personally, if I run across a good candidate (even if I bump into one on the street), I bring them in to interview. I am not looking for folks that are good at following rules or filling out web forms. I am looking for folks I can trust and that will make a difference to my organization. I don't know what to tell you except for: try what Skyler and I each suggests and let me know which strategy is more successful.