OK, I may be overstating that a little bit but hear me out. I'm always talking about what *good* recruiters do. I also give a lot of advice to candidates that want to get noticed by these *good* recruiters. Earlier today, I mentioned that resumes do not sit in a stack on a desk (seriously..I hope that was an illustration used to make a point). They go into a searchable database. Now think about this: do you think it's more productive for a recruiter to a) go into the database and review all candidates who have applied for a specific job or b) go into a database and search for candidates with specific key words on their resumes? Was that question too leading? Do I need to tell you that the answer is "b"?
There are a couple truths that I know, that you might not. The first is that, generally speaking, candidates are not good at self selection. Frankly, I don't expect them to be. They are motivated by what they want, not what their prospective employers want. It's kind of like when you are applying to colleges...you apply to the pie-in-the-sky schools, you apply to some some solid state schools, you apply to your tier 3 schools. That way you have your bases covered and are prepared for a clerical error at one of those top rated schools that results in your admission (just kidding guys!). You don't say "hmm, I'm not going to apply here because they won't like me". When you look for a job, you apply for your dream job (would love to do it but your qualifications don't really match), apply for jobs similar to your own but with enough differences to make them interesting, apply to jobs similar to the one you already have but where you don't have to sit next to someone that talks about their cats non-stop even when you are on a phone interview (not that this has ever happened to me though...really).
Like I said, candidates have certain selection criteria based on their own self-interest (as they should). They are applying to the jobs that look the most exciting to them, that were relatively easy to find on the careers page, that have a well-written job description. None of these are filters that weed out qualified versus unqualified candidates! If a recruiter looks at the resume of every person that applies to a particular job, they are doing the equivalent of searching through a pile of resumes on a desk. A haystack analogy here seems too obvious. Now, for a company or group without a dedicated recruiting function, or with a small number of daily job applicants, that might be OK (seriously, not casting judgement...it's just a different job when you work with a very large number of applicants). But for people doing any kind of volume, it is absolutely necessary to apply some intelligence to the process BEFORE you get into the business of reviewing resumes. So this is truth number 2: recruiters do not now, nor will they ever, have time to review every resume against every job without the aid of technology. Word.
For the record, we do in fact track which jobs people apply to here. But here's the thing...I'm not sure I really care (this is just me...I don't want to see someone talking about what Microsoft's recruiting function does and does not care about...this is me talking here). If you apply to position A, but I recruit for position B and reviewed your resume and I think you could be a fit, I am so totally going to call you and let you decide whether you want to discuss it (position B) and I am so totally going to say things like "so totally" and "dude, love your resume" and "sweet work experience" (OK, I am just making a little fun of myself there...I promise I won't do this). That's not to say that the recruiter for position A might not be interested. I would just want to present you with any/all options available to you at any certain point...the roles that appear to be a good match for your background based on your resume. To do that, I search based on keyword matches between the resume and the job. For this, it does not really matter what job you applied for. The most important thing is that your resume is in the database with key words indicative of your skills.
So here's where I give advice some of which I think you may have heard here before:
1) Still go ahead and apply to specific jobs that interest you, but don't worry too much about whether your application to any one job went through (it did, by the way).
2) Don't apply to 50 jobs at the same company. It's discouraging to see an applicant record where the person applied to 50 different positions (especially if the roles vary wildly like Administrative Assistant and Strategy Director) . I know I said that we don't expect candidates to self-select based on the interests of the employer, but don't let it get out of hand. We do track how many jobs someone has applied to and a very large number does raise some red flags. To some extent, selectivity equates to desirability. When someone tells me that they don't care what job they get at Microsoft because they just want to work here, that actually concerns me. To be in-demand, you need to be somewhat selective. When I hire someone, I want to be excited about them working at Microsoft and excited about the fact that our competitors didn't get them first.
3) Don't let what I've said keep you from applying. Saying that candidates don't generally do a good job at self-selection is not a criticism of candidates in any way. Candidates are motivated by what is best for them. Recruiters are motivated by the interests of the company. Where those 2 things come together is where there is mutual interest (duh) and where we have a hire. Plus, there's an awful lot of knowledge that recruiters have that is not in the job description. In the same way that a resume does not define everything about you, a job description does not define everything about a position. Things like group culture, team skill gaps, management style...those are all things that recruiters consider when selecting candidates that would not be appropriate in a job description.
4) If you don't see a position that's a direct fit, but you still dream of working at the company, apply to something. Most companies will give you an option of applying without a specific job code. I can't tell you how many times I've been searching in our database and have come across a candidate that fits a role I know is opening in the near future (for example, a role we hire frequently but don't have a position open at the moment). Again, it's key just to have the resume in there.
5) Key words on resumes are important!!! Very, very important. Say it again.