Most job seekers spend most of their time perfecting their resume. Then proceed to submit dozens, if not hundreds, of applications online, only to land a few job interviews. You might even refine your resume based on feedback from recruiters like me, prioritising the five items on your resume that recruiters notice first. Still no bites? The submitted resume pile is actually not the first (or second or third) place that recruiters look for candidates. In fact, there are five resources recruiters always tap before reviewing resume applications, and these five competitors are why your perfect resume still isn’t leading to job interviews:
Every recruiter has a vast network of contacts including candidates from previous searches or who have been recommended by trusted sources. Since these are profiles the recruiter already knows, In the interest of time and getting results to the hiring manager quickly, the recruiter will rely on existing candidates wherever possible. If one of these candidates is a match, there would be no need to even review additional resumes.
At the start of a search, the recruiter will always ask the hiring manager and department at large for referrals. If the manager or team already have someone in mind, this makes a smooth search more likely. At the very least, the profile that the hiring group puts forward becomes the prototype for what the recruiter looks for. The recruiter is more likely to search for matches to that profile, rather than all the submitted resumes. Again, the resume pile for that job may not even be reviewed.
Many companies encourage employees to move among departments. It mixes up the talent, benefiting the company, and it gives the employee professional development and new opportunities, benefiting the employee. If internal candidates express interest in a position, they may get first consideration. If a match is made internally, the search may never even be posted, or the posting may be quickly taken down before outside resumes are considered.
If the recruiter doesn’t have a candidate waiting from previous searches, referrals from the hiring group or from current employees wanting to move over, the recruiter will not necessarily look at the applications submitted. Applications are an indication of interest, not necessarily skill. (I used to go over so many resumes that weren’t the least bit qualified for the job I posted. Clearly, a lot of applicants did not read the job posting carefully before applying.) If this position requires a specific skill set or expertise, the recruiter will more likely seek out known experts in that field. Who has spoken at a related conference? Who talks about this issue in the press? Who is recommend by the experts as an up-and-comer? These publicly mention figures are potential candidates or may know candidates, and since they are already screened for skill, they are a better bet than a general resume pile.
Recruiters don’t just go after the speakers, media sources and heads of departments, but also the mid-level or even less experienced employees at competitors. With so much information online, it’s easy to find people doing the same job the recruiter is trying to fill at a similar company. Of course, that person already doing the job in a similar environment is a better bet than an unsolicited resume from the general applicant pool. Now that gainfully employed person at the competitor may not be looking – i.e., they are a passive candidate – but this is especially attractive to recruiters. Someone else already screened and selected them (there is social proof!). They come with competitive knowledge and should be able to be productive from day one. If the recruiter can convince this passive candidate to come over to the recruiter’s company, that’s a feather in the cap of the new company (and a testament to how well the recruiter can sell). Passive candidates are extremely attractive to recruiters and will often be targeted ahead of candidates in the general resume pile.
So if you are only a candidate in the general resume pile, you have five groups of people who are going to be considered ahead of you. This is the reality of the hiring process. So if you can’t beat them, join them. Get yourself into one of the above groups. Network with recruiters, hiring managers and employees at the companies you are interested in so you can get referred. Get yourself a spot on a conference panel, even at your alma mater. One of my clients went back to his graduate school to practice his public speaking chops and meet some new people. He ended up getting noticed by a VC company looking for a profile just like his to helm one of their investments (he didn’t end up accepting, but the process put him in touch with other start-ups, including the one he did end up joining). Make yourself a stronger passive candidate – make sure your LinkedIn profile is as comprehensive as your resume. Be more than just an unsolicited resume in the general pool. Be part of the five reasons why recruiters won’t look at other job seekers and instead target you.
This article previously appeared on Forbes.
Caroline Ceniza-Levine is a career and business coach with SixFigureStart®. She has coached executives from Amazon, American Express, eBay, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, Tesla, and other leading firms. Her latest book is Jump Ship: 10 Steps To Starting A New Career (Forbes Media, 2015). She also writes a weekly advice column on Forbes (where this post originally appeared).