How to Secure an Interview in a World of Online Recruiting

Old-fashioned networking and résumé-polishing can keep you from getting lost in the electronic shuffle

When it comes to conducting a job search, the Internet has changed the game dramatically. Thanks to the Web, it's easier than ever to identify job opportunities and narrow your search by job title, employer, geographic location, or any number of key words or criteria.

However, you may be among the job seekers who are frustrated by industry employers' reliance on online recruiting. We've heard from many who bemoan the fact that it's harder than ever to reach a "real human being," and they feel their applications get lost in the shuffle.

Pamela Williams

While it's true many employers require candidates to apply via the Web, qualified candidates are actually less likely to fall through the cracks. You see, when you upload an application or résumé, it's automatically entered into a sophisticated, centralized database called an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). The ATS identifies the applicants who meet the basic requirements for the position and then a person or a team reviews those applications the old fashioned way. The ATS improves efficiency and ensures compliance and a fair process for all candidates who indicated an interest in a specific position.

So how can you rise above the sea of online applicants and gain the attention of the hiring manager? First, network every chance you get! A candidate with a strong network can reach a broader range of people, especially during these unprecedented times. Attend events hosted by industry organizations like CTHRA, CTAM, WICT, SCTE, NAMIC and ACC and utilize social media sites such as LinkedIn to strengthen and extend your professional network.

Has an industry nonprofit organization or philanthropic group always interested you? Now that you have some extra time on your hands, consider volunteering your talents. In addition to giving back to the industry, you'll be able to network with other professionals. You can then leverage your connections to help you stand out among the crowd of applicants. In fact, the recruiting and staffing team at Discovery Communications noted that referrals are one of the top sources for identifying candidates.

Rosalind Clay Carter, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at A&E Television Networks, noted another benefit of having a contact on the inside. "Companies often post jobs internally before they put them out to search," she says. "Tell your employed friends about your skills and the type of job you are seeking. They will be positioned to alert you when opportunities arise within their companies."

If you don't know anyone at the company, find out if there are any temp positions that will get you inside to gain a firsthand look at job postings and an opportunity to develop relationships. If nothing else, strategically pursue a contact within the company, but avoid simply culling names from the company's Website and blindly sending them your résumé. Try to create an opportunity to have a meaningful exchange with the key person before you reach out for assistance. Be creative! Is the person speaking at a conference? Attend and introduce yourself, then follow up with a handwritten note about how much you enjoyed the presentation and enclose a related article. Do you have a mutual friend? Call upon that person to make an introduction over coffee.

Sometimes, just being the friend of a friend employed by the company is all you need to get your foot in the door, as noted by Linda Chambers, SPHR, Vice President of Corporate Human Resources for Bright House Networks. "Because they are connected through an employee, I will review the résumés, and when warranted, call the candidates to find out how they may fit the role we are trying to fill," Chambers says. "A direct referral by an employee gets my attention."

When working an inside angle, there are a few tips to note. First, don't send your résumé directly to the CEO unless you personally know the CEO or are applying for a position in which the CEO will personally take an interest. Second, even if you have an insider who is willing to get your résumé into the hands of the right person, it's still critical to upload your application using the company's online recruiting site so you are in the company's ATS.

So aside from working your way into the inside of the organization by actively networking or temping, what else can you do to stand out so you secure an interview? Believe it or not, your résumé is still often a dealmaker or breaker. Here are a few tips to ensure your résumé is compelling enough to secure an interview:

  • Present a résumé that will capture interest in 15 seconds by using concise phrases and buzzwords. Don't be afraid to bold the key words that you want to jump off the page.
  • Tailor your résumé to the particular job. Yes, it is extra work, but your goal is to quickly and clearly show that your skills and experience match their specific needs.
  • Think of your résumé as a storefront: You can't fit everything you have to offer into the window. Instead, you need to selectively highlight the details that will compel them to call you in for an interview at which time you can go into more detail.
  • Avoid cramming too much text on the page or it will be uninviting to the reader. Use a 10, 11 or 12 point font and one inch margins to allow plenty of white space for their eyes to rest. Also, allow ample white space between the different sections of your résumé so each one is distinct.
  • Quantify your accomplishments with numbers, dollar amounts or percentages. It's one thing to say you can increase sales; it's another to actually state proven results.

All in all, there are many ways to set yourself apart in order to secure some valuable face time with the hiring decision maker. Be focused, creative and persistent...and be prepared to wow them in the interview!