When you’re on the hunt for a new position, avoid the temptation to “spray and pray,” i.e., shoot dozens (if not hundreds) of résumés to employers of all industries and sizes.
With “spray and pray,” you’re not tailoring your materials to the open position; as a consequence, your résumé may come off as generic, one of hundreds that the recruiter or hiring manager will see that day. (This effect is further multiplied if you’re basing your materials, such as your cover letter, off a widely available template; hiring professionals instantly know all those templates by heart.)
While “spray and pray” seems like a productive course of action—you sure feel like you’ve accomplished a lot when you send off a hundred résumés before lunch—it’s always better to work smarter, not harder. To that end:
Tailor Your Résumé
When it comes to application materials, one size does not fit all. If you’re just starting out your career, make sure that your résumé compensates for any thinness in experience by emphasizing your academic accomplishments and learned skills. As you progress further in your career, change things up by listing the skills and experience relevant to the job on offer. Your cover letter should also read like it’s been written specifically for the job at hand.
Don’t Get Too Cute
For some candidates, it’s tempting to try and stand out from the applicant pack by giving your résumé a special template, even making it look like a Facebook or Amazon page. Unless you’re a graphic designer, though, you probably won’t pull off such a creative effort, at least not in a way that leads to you landing a job. Instead, focus on what the majority of hiring managers really care about: how your experience and skills can translate into success for their company.
Decide What You Want
It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how few professionals sit down on a regular basis to evaluate their career and what they want out of it. These self-evaluations can have a substantial long-term benefit: if you pursue jobs that align with your passions and skills, you’re not only more likely to actually land those positions, but chances are good you’ll be happy enough to stay for awhile. That’s always better than working just for the paycheck.