Public Relations Tactics

Career Corner: Recycling your résumé? Don’t waste your most valued resource — yourself

Publication Date: 4/2009

Source: SO01 Public Relations Tactics
Product Code: 6C-040950
Organization/Author/Firm: Mara Woloshin, M.A., APR, Fellow PRSA
Specialization(s): Career Development
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Flooding the marketplace with your résumé doesn’t mean that you will be offered interviews. In fact, rehashing old material for job applications is a prescription for tired copy to turn you into an indistinguishable candidate. Follow these guidelines for submitting interview materials and you are bound to start receiving calls from human resources.

Most organizations want to see your application, résumé and cover letter via their Web site. However, be careful to avoid preliminary mistakes that will prevent you from being considered. Yes, you can apply for a job in minutes, but it will take human resources even less time to reject your application if you don’t follow their rules. Read the online job description and requirements for application carefully.

Before sending anything, type an outline of the application instructions. Look for key words that will indicate to human resources that you are a possible match. Rarely will your initial application be read by a PR or marketing communication professional without first being screened.

Remember that HR staffers sift through hundreds of applications daily for a range of openings. They are not familiar with your jargon. They may have read hundreds of on-screen applications for a warehouse manager that morning, and then the applications for the internal communications manager position that you applied for after lunch. Therefore, to increase your chances of success, take great care in assembling your electronic application.

If you are not utilizing the key words used to describe the position on each individual employer’s Web site, stop dreaming about an interview. You may be ideal for the job, but you are asking too much of the HR department to read between the lines of your materials to see if you are a viable candidate. With hundreds of résumés for each open position, you’re responsible for making it easy for the screener to pass on your materials to the next level.

It’s wonderful if you are so excited about a position that you want to apply immediately. Now take that energy and download the application. Open up a blank file on your computer and practice applying for the job. Like a good grant application or client presentation, it is essential to offer proof of relevant experience. Create a résumé and cover letter that use near-identical language to what is on the employer’s site. Know its mission, values and programs. Read the annual report. Check out the current staff (including photos and job titles). This will provide you with a sense of the corporate culture and the correct writing style and tone for your submission.

If you send in your application 24 hours after conducting this research, your “hit rate” for interviews will increase. If not, it’s a signal that you may have a fundamental problem with the structure of your résumé, how you positioned your experience or — worse — you have applied for a position out of desperation, not because you were a match.

There are hundreds of résumé “how-to” books available. I recommend a small investment of $9.95 (if you buy it new) for “The Résumé Handbook” by Arthur D. Rosenberg and David Hitzer. This 145-page handbook offers the best samples of résumés and cover letters from The Wall Street Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly.

And don’t forget to pass the book on to a colleague when you get your next job.

Mara Woloshin, M.A., APR, Fellow PRSA, has managed Woloshin Communications, Inc. in Portland, Ore. since 1991. She is also on the faculty of the University of Portland. E-mail: