(MoneyWatch) With computerized systems sorting through thousands and thousands of resumes every day or even every hour, listing your CV with some of the larger job search databases can feel like sending it into a black hole. You never hear back, so who the heck knows if it was even read by a real live human being?
The sad truth: It might not be. To figure out how to make sure this never happens to your resume and cover letter, I spoke with executives at three of the largest online career portals -- Simply Hired, CareerBuilder, and Glassdoor -- and asked how they recommend you use their product for maximize effectiveness. Here's the dirt on digital job applications, straight from the source:
Get keyed into keywords. It used to be that your resume had to catch the eye of a recruiter. Now it needs to do that, as well as pique the interest of a software algorithm. The trick is to emphasize keywords, says Rusty Rueff, career & workplace expert at Glassdoor. "First, read the job description at least two to three times," he advises. "Make note of the credentials, skills, and experience required. How does it describe the duties of the job? How does it describe the ideal candidate? Pulling from these descriptions, create a list of keywords to use when customizing your resume." By including this information, your resume will get put on a shortlist to be read by a real live human being.
Be brief. It's easy to wax on at length online, but keep your resume to one page, just as you would when submitting a physical version. Cover letters should also be to the point. Remember -- it takes only an instant to close the window on a bloated, unfocused one. "Candidates should tell a concise story of their journey, calling out and giving special emphasis to those experiences that are the most influential and relevant," says Carolyn Hughes a Vice President at Simply Hired.
Fill in the gaps. Because of the economic crisis and resulting turmoil in the job market, many people have recent gaps on their resume. And many people wait for an interview to explain why -- don't let that be you. "There is a good chance that you won't get that opportunity if there are gaps in the first place," says Michael Erwin, senior career advisor at CareerBuilder. "If, for example, you were laid off at the beginning or height of the recession and are still unemployed, try using a functional resume format. Or explain what you were doing during lapses between jobs."
Personalize, personalize, personalize. The mass application process might seem impersonal, and it can feel that way from the recruiting side, too. So show that you're interested in this particular job (not just any job) by tailoring each resume you send out. "A hiring manager doesn't really need to know everything you did at your last job, just what you did that is relevant to what he or she needs you to do," Rueff says.
Show off your stats. How do you set yourself apart from others? Show what you have done that others haven't, or highlight skills you have that others don't. "Quantify these accomplishments with facts, figures, numbers, and active -- not passive -- language to demonstrate your value. Specifics matter and showing your command and mastery of these will make you stand out," Rueff notes.
Use available tools. Various websites have incorporated social networking or other online tools to help you use their database most efficiently. Use them. For instance, Glassdoor has an "inside connections" tool that allows you to see if you're connected to anyone at the company through Facebook. "By finding an inside contact or even uncovering a friend of a friend, you can politely message them to let them know you've applied online and hope they might be able to help you get your resume noticed," Rueff says.