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How to escape the job application black hole

Five ways to make sure your resume gets noticed

If you’ve sent several resumes in several works and received exactly zero responses, you may have stumbled into what Paul Wolfe calls the “application black hole.” “It’s a very frustrating experience,” says the senior VP of Global Human Resources at Indeed, “especially if you don’t know what you’re doing wrong.” In today’s competitive job market, you might not be doing anything wrong as much as you’re not going above and beyond to get it right. Here, five ways to buck up, get noticed and escape the black hole for good.

Tell them what they want to hear

Of course you’re personalizing every application, right? Fight the temptation to be lazy and instead double down on your research. “Look at the job description, study up on the company and find out what experience and attributes they’re looking for,” says Wolfe. This isn’t as time-consuming as it seems. “The job description is probably in bullet form, that’s what they want, and likely the first bullet is the most important then it follows a descending order from there.” Mirror their format in your resume and include any and all keywords. “Any word that appears multiple times [in the listing] should appear on your resume too.”

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Try an honest cover letter

In an era where some say the cover letter faces certain death, Wolfe thinks a clever letter can help you beat the system that would otherwise exclude you. “Even though you may not have the exact experience, there may be other relevant experience you have that does translate,” says Wolfe. If you’re moving from Finance to Marketing, for example, here’s the time to explain yourself and make your case. (But whatever you do, proofread that thing. A typo looks just as dumb as it always has.)

Network yourself in—via social media

Twitter and LinkedIn have made connecting with anyone—the boss, the hiring manager, the recruiter—a mere click away. “It’s so easy these days to reach out and make a connection all by yourself,” says Wolfe. You should be following any would-be employer anyhow, he notes, but up your game by finding the HR person proper.  “Nothing’s stopping you from reaching out directly and there’s nothing wrong with that—it shows me you’re interested and tenacious. And if your resume is sitting there in a maybe-pile, I’m going to dig out.”

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Show up in person

Now forget all that modern media stuff from before and network the old-fashioned way: “If a recruiter or someone at the company is speaking at a conference or event, go,” says Wolfe. Listen keenly, think of clever feedback that shows you’re interested, and go introduce yourself properly. “It’s a little bit out of the box, and certainly you don’t want to cross a line from persistent to stalkerish, but introducing yourself in person is a bold move that makes you stand out.”

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Take a rain check

Even if you do all the above and still aren’t a fit, all is not lost. “Recruiters are always keeping lists of talent, so even if there’s not a job for you right now, it can’t hurt to express interest in working for a company in the future,” explains Wolfe. Most companies, in fact, are always keeping a working database of talent—whether they’ve posted job listings or not.” Many if not most jobs are never posted publicly, so you want your CV in the system. “Look for a place on their site to upload your resume, but send it even if they don’t,” explains Wolfe. Be brave, introduce yourself to HR, attach your resume and press send already.