Unless you're tapped for a job without throwing your hat in the ring, you're going to have to work to stand out from the applicant crowd. A good applicant should:
Let people know you're looking. Make informal contact with friends, relatives, neighbors, past business colleagues, former professors and fellow members of associations and clubs.
Target realistically. Even your mother or best friend shouldn't endorse you for a job that you're not suited to do.
Have a picture-perfect resume. No typos and rewritten for each job to emphasize your appropriate experience or skills. Be sure to quantify any accomplishments you can. Employers react to measurable results, not just statements that said you "did" something.
Capture attention with a cover letter. Some systems won't accept anything but an application form, but if you can inject personality or drop an influential name, go for it.
Include a good reference list. Make sure that former supervisors or associates you list as references are willing and able to give you on-the-spot good reviews if called.
Keep detailed records of your applications and responses. Don't lose track of any names, phone numbers or email addresses of human resource officials or line managers you're fortunate to get.
Ask for letters of recommendation from former bosses or professors that you can send with applications or produce on demand.
Prepare a 30-second commercial, your "elevator speech," about who you are and what you're looking for.
"I have been a paralegal for 15 years. I have considerable research and social media skills that I would like to direct toward helping a cause I'm passionate about. I've been an active volunteer for several local social service and civic organizations and have a broad network of contacts in the metro area. The development position at your agency is a good fit for my experience and interests."
Get out from behind the computer. You're more likely to get an interview offer through personal contact.
Diane Stafford is the workplace and careers columnist at the Kansas City Star.