Advice for job seekers

Last time, hiring expert Paula Manning graced us with some great advice for recruiting with respect. This week we turn our attention to the other side of the desk - the job candidates.

Manning, co-author of "Recruiting & Retaining Employees for Dummies," offers her insight on how the many unemployed skilled people in our industry can get a leg up in an extremely competitive job market.

* Don't lie on your resume. While it may look like a good idea at the time, she cautions restraint. "We are seeing a lot of people overinflating their experience," says Manning, who co- owns a Texas IT recruiting firm. "When people are really anxious a lot of the time they'll gear their resume more toward the position than it actually is. That's only going to hurt you in the long run." One byproduct of this practice is a longer interview process for all. Managers are receiving so many tweaked resumes, they're exercising extreme caution in hiring people by insisting on several interviews and meeting with many candidates. Managers want to ensure the person can back up the knowledge he or she lists on paper.

* Don't focus on long-shots. If you have only 80% of the qualifications a position requires, don't apply for it. "In the past companies were much more flexible," Manning says. "But with so many people on the market today they want very specific knowledge. They do have to go through a lot of people but nine times out of 10 they can find what they're looking for." Save your time and a tree, and only apply for jobs for which you match every requirement.

* Find a contact on the inside. "Before you respond to a posting with a Fortune 500 company, try to find a connection inside," Manning says. "Otherwise even if you have a phenomenal resume, the volume is going to be so overwhelming there's a good chance it could be lost in a black hole." Volume is a huge issue today. Manning cites one client who in five days received 2,000 resumes for one job. Of that number only 76 were "somewhat OK."

* Call your old recruiter. To find a person on the inside, Manning suggests contacting any recruiters you used in the past to see if they have any contacts in that company. "They'll do it because it will help them," she says. "It's much easier if your resume gets handed to the specific hiring manager from someone in the inside."

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