One of the biggest hurdles that limit the number of jobs I have been able to apply for in my own search is the tedium of customizing cover letters and resumes for each specific job. I hear so many stories of people saying “I put out 75/108/250 resumes last year before I got a single interview,” and I think to myself
How is that humanly possible, when it took me 17 hours spread over four days, working after the rest of the family went to sleep, just to get a single application package put together?
This has led me to do some deep thinking on the idea of ‘workflow.’ You hear the term thrown around in the lifehack/productivity circles, but I have never once read an article about writing a resume that outlined a process aiming to make the whole thing easier.
I have yet to see an app or program that effectively streamlines the process either, but I think that with trial and error, and the input of HR trainer Adam Czarnecki, I have come up with a relatively straightforward approach that at least lets me systematize the whole process and approach it in a more efficient way.
Before I get to that, though, there a couple prerequisite steps. First, set up a file system that works for you. You want to have a master copy of your resume that is backed up in a few different locations, and make it virtually impossible for you to accidentally overwrite. Since you are likely submitting multiple documents for each position, it makes sense to have a “job apps” folder in your docs files, that is further separated by folders for each organization, and maybe even further by position applied to.
Second, I have yet come up with a way to deal with the tedium of filling out long forms that require cutting and pasting ten years of work history from your resume. USAJobs is notorious for this. It takes hours of typing and copying and pasting to get into an electronic application system that, frankly, is pretty terrible at producing results for job seekers. It helps to keep a plain text file of this type of data to make the copying and pasting easier, or just swear off applying these types of jobs altogether (80/20 principle ya’ll) unless you happen to have a lot of time on your hands.
If you are applying for those types of jobs, then you will probably still be expected to upload a resume, cover letter, and maybe even reference list though, so the following steps might still be useful.
Without further adieu, here is what I’ve come up with:
Job app workflow
As you go through this process a few times (okay, maybe more like a few dozen times), you will start to narrow your focus on certain positions within a narrower and narrower field that have a lot of the same keywords. Make sure you are populating your personal website and social media profiles with these keywords as well, because your prospective employers WILL be googling your name and checking out your various profiles. Do an audit of all of the above and be certain that they present you in a professional, dignified, manner.
Final advice: Trust the process. You will not land the first job you apply for. Accept that as a fact and pour your heart and soul into it anyway. As you go through the whole process multiple times, the process itself will help you to learn which job types are the best fit for you.