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Today’s post is written by Scott Trossen of the Trossen HR Group.

This is an easy question to answer: You can’t. But these ideas can help you improve your chances.

Principle #1. Apply and Ask. Look for what is advertised plus work your network.

In 2001, with an MBA from a top-40 program and some name-brand employment experience, someone applied online for a Pfizer job through a very obscure job posting website. He also called a classmate whose sister worked there. And, yes, he got the job. Would the same have happened without the sister? No way to know but that he was me and, despite Pfizer Ann Arbor’s closing, it was a great move. Without it, as one small example, I would not have watched my eldest daughter go from 2nd grade to being part of Skyline High School’s first graduating class this coming June. This personal commentary is not a digression. This is part of the why we work, and the what happens when we do. We support a family. We create history. We join a community – whether for a short time or long. And almost always, somewhere on the journey, someone must read your resume.

Principle #2. Principle #1 is a principle not a promise.

I have applied and received offers by only having started the chain with a resume submitted online, several times. But the last time I applied to a position, I found the HR person’s email address and sent a very short note, I followed the formal process and applied online, plus I asked a well-respected area leader to call one of the owners. Result? I received a, thanks-we-received-your-resume email but no interview. For me and for you: the only guarantee is that these principles will not always work.

Principle #3. Work and whine not. Put your shoulder behind the heavy load of the job search, and shake off any “chips” you might have on that shoulder.

Select 10 to 20 websites and 5 to 20 companies on which to focus your efforts. Thinks sales. You are selling yourself and most people are not buying. Put in 30 or more hours a week on your job search: read what at least 5 authors/web sites say about resume writing and 3 books about career search; make plans and research; network, ask, apply and write thank you notes; and repeat. has 100 articles on resume writing. If you haven’t read 20 of them, you don’t badly want a job. If you are unemployed, have a two-sentence explanation for why. If someone is asking you why you left that job, it means they already like you enough to call you. Never lie, but focus on the positive. And yes, a computer will likely “read” your resume before a person. Get over it, and make sure a computer can read yours. Remember – if anyone in the hiring company senses you are mad at their application process, upset with your current/past employer or carrying some other load of negativity around your neck, forget about moving forward in their selection process. Employers are neither social service agencies, nor surrogates for therapists or pastors.

Principle #4. Clarity trumps creativity. Errors (might) equal elimination.

Unless graphic design or such is your profession and you try something interesting like these “resumes,” stick to tried and true formats. You must include a chronology of work history. If you don’t include the date you graduated, I will assume you are at least 50. If you think that is age discrimination, you already forgot Principle #3. While the responses by different readers may vary, you can be sure that if I can’t figure out where you were when, or what you did and/or accomplished, I am not interested. Furthermore, grammar matters – I find grammatical, punctuation and/or consistency errors in almost every resume I am asked to review, and most of those sent in by job applicants. This is not good. You can stand out by carefully reviewing your resume.

While not secrets to success, these ideas will increase the likelihood that someone will read your resume, and smile when they do.

Scott’s company the Trossen HR Group provides HR consulting and outsourcing to small and mid-size organizations.