When crafting job application materials, many job seekers fall into one of two traps. Some people are overthinkers -- they worry too much about whether they have included the right small details on their resumes, whether the hiring team will be “wowed” by their amazing personality, or whether their resume will be so beautiful that the hiring manager will just have to hire them. Others are underthinkers who will jot down a few past jobs, add some sparse bullet points, and assume that the hiring manager can figure out that in their last three roles as an AP they did what an AP does, and that’s it’s all just common sense. They take the view that the hiring manager is intelligent enough to figure out how right you are for the job on her own. Why would you spend hours on an application for a company that you may never hear back from?
Both of these approaches will hurt your job search. These mistakes happen because a candidate is too focused on their perspective of the application process, as opposed to the hiring manager’s point of view. But considering the hiring manager’s experience is critical to submitting a good application.
Hiring managers are busy. Either they’re in HR, where they are vetting openings for multiple positions, or they’re filling a role on their own teams and have other work to focus on (this is especially true if the role they’re filling is newly vacant and they have to cover that work). They want to find the right candidate, and quickly. This is why many hiring teams try to source candidates from their networks first. Instead of being inundated by resumes from hundreds of unvetted job seekers, they can make a short list of candidates referred by people they trust.
But let’s think about those hundreds of unvetted job seekers for a second. Entertainment is a “dream career” for many people. It’s not uncommon for hiring managers to get flooded with resumes from people all over the country who think this could be their big break. Many of these people aren’t even interested in the position at hand – it’s not uncommon to get a cover letter that indicates that the person just wants the company to have their information on file if a position that aligns with their skills and location opens up. This is a very real situation...and a colossal waste of time for a busy hiring manager.
But of course, there are plenty of viable candidates who don’t have an “in” for a specific role. Hiring managers want to find these people (especially if they hope to bring in more diverse candidates but don’t have a very diverse network of contacts). How can hiring managers find these people amid the flood of resumes?
First, they may use ATS (applicant tracking systems). These systems aren’t perfect, but they can help narrow the field down to people whose resumes have the appropriate keywords listed that they pulled from the job posting. When you’re writing your resume, you’ll want to make sure you include these. A human will read your resume, though, so you also want to make sure it makes sense to a person and that you’re not focusing too much on an ATS you can’t control.
Busy human hiring managers like documents that are familiar – they want to open your resume and know exactly where to look to find the relevant information, meaning they’ll be annoyed, rather than impressed, with your brand new format or heavy-handed graphic design. Shorter resumes with a lot of white space are better than crowded or multi-page CVs (unless you’re in education or applying for a senior-level role). The hiring manager is skimming to find a reason to say “no” and move on to the next potentially qualified candidate. Common reasons hiring managers say “no” include a professional summary or objective that doesn’t relate to the role, a lack of relevant skills, descriptions of previous roles that are clearly copied from job postings and don’t show how you achieved or excelled at a given task, and poor grammar and typos. The hiring manager needs to quickly understand that you intentionally applied for the role and have the skills that align with their needs. Basically, can you clearly communicate that interviewing you wouldn’t be a waste of time?
Keeping this perspective in mind will help you cultivate a more effective job search. You’ll focus more on applying for roles that are a true fit, leaning into your network for referrals, and tweaking your resume to a specific posting, rather than endlessly designing and editing your resume to fully encapsulate your entire personality or lazily applying to hundreds of jobs that may or may not be a fit. What’s the #1 rule of creating great content? Know your audience. The same applies to your job search.
-- Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan