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Get Your IT Resume to the Top of the Pile

Tough economic times call for a fresh approach when writing a cover letter and resume

I was unhappy at my job and wanted to make a change. Even in these tough economic times, I knew that some businesses were still hiring. There were plenty of positions advertised on such websites as Monster and Dice, so I started submitting resumes for jobs that I thought were a good fit for my level of IT experience. However, I wasn't getting any responses.

I had a feeling deep down that my resumes were being overlooked, so I started looking for new ways to attract attention to them. I read many articles that gave tips on how to get a resume noticed, but they seemed to be just common procedural practices (e.g., compose a cover letter highlighting your experience in the field, use quality resume paper, emphasize certifications) that other candidates were probably also following, thereby making them the norm. I needed something to entice HR to want to read my resume and discover my skill set and abilities. With so many unemployed IT professionals submitting resumes, I knew that this was going to be a challenge.

I thought back to what I had accomplished in the past year at my place of employment, which was a manufacturing company in the automotive industry. For the past few years, the company was experiencing tumultuous economic times. As a result, I often had to complete IT projects and solve system problems that would normally involve buying solutions. However, there was little money in the IT budget, so I was forced to think of creative, inexpensive ways to satisfy project requirements and solve system problems. I tallied all the money I had saved the company while still reaching department goals, without sacrificing quality of service. It was a considerable amount—much more than my salary in fact.

That's when it hit me. In these slow economic times, HR managers are intimately familiar with their companies' need to reduce expenditures. And in these times, HR managers perusing large piles of resumes expect to read about candidates' great expectations and great skill sets. However, HR managers usually don't expect to read about a candidate successfully completing multiple projects on a shoestring in addition to having a great skill set. So, I revised my cover letter to reflect this way of thinking. First and foremost, I emphasized the amount of money I had saved the company by coming up with creative solutions. I cited several examples of the most beneficial projects that had the largest savings. Then, I revised my resume so it included information about these projects. I also tailored each resume to reflect the details of the position I was applying for.

Not wanting to have to compete with thousands of applicants like you do when you apply for jobs advertised on large websites such as Monster and Dice, I decided to find a better place to search for open positions to increase my odds. I also wanted a website that included local businesses, so I opted to look on Craigslist. The number of positions was significantly lower, but so were the number of applicants. I was now the big fish in a small pond.

After I changed my cover letter and resume, I started getting calls. I had sent out only five resumes with this new style and within two weeks I had received several calls and two interviews. One of those interviews led to a job offer, which I accepted.

—Matthew Kocot, IT manager, Waltonen Engineering

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