To move past the initial screening process, target your application, cover letter, resume and supporting materials to a job posting. Many employers seek a certain combination of education, work experience, skills and competencies in their ideal candidates. Certain employers, especially government agencies, are very specific, even going as far as identifying essential and non-essential functions of the job.
Review Job Posting
Print out a copy of the job posting you can mark up. Highlight the key words in the selection criteria. Job requirements could be listed in general terms, such as "strong oral communication skills" or "ability to use desktop publishing software." Some jobs have more specific criteria, such as "ability to transport inmates in approved departmental vehicles" or "use a hose to fight fires." Focus on broad key terms such as communication skills, and specific key terms such as ensuring you can use a firefighter's hose, when the job announcement calls for it.
Choose Your Approach
Once you've studied the job posting carefully, decide how to address the target criteria and make notes as needed on your markup copy. You can include information to address the selection criteria in several places. One option is to write a separate statement telling exactly how you meet the criteria. Alternatively, you could focus on the descriptions of yourself and your qualifications in the cover letter and in the items on your resume. In a chronological resume, include descriptions under each position held. In a functional resume, include descriptions under each type of work you've done, such as policewoman and firefighter.
Make a List
It's best to start fresh when deciding how to answer a job posting's selection criteria. Brainstorm a complete list of all ways you meet each selection criterion. Focus on your knowledge, skills and abilities, which is a popular approach for government jobs. Or focus on your achievements in past jobs. Ensure that your list very long and detailed.
Write a Paragraph
When you're finished brainstorming answers, you will choose one of two options. Either use your notes to write one paragraph explaining how you meet the selection criteria, or write short statements addressing each selection criterion. Here's a sample paragraph addressing a criterion of sales experience: "I've been a lead salesperson for seven years. My responsibilities have included cold selling to customers over the phone, organizing sales meetings, following up on customer complaints for my team and training new employees in our sales approach."
Write Actionable Statements
If you don't want to write a single paragraph, you could use the second approach -- writing short statements -- which means you will be making some updates to your resume. A shorter statement is one to two sentences in length, and is placed under an employer entry -- such as BCD Dry Cleaning Service -- or under an occupational entry -- such as dry-cleaning clerk -- on your resume. Here's an example: "I managed a team of four employees and recruited and trained a new team to perform the same function in a different office." Another example: "I created and delivered a new perfume advertising campaign for a Fortune 500 company." When you go back and review this revised resume, ensure the new actionable statements are not repeating how you meet a selection criteria.