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The ugly reality of online job applications how to stand out from others

The ugly reality of online job applications how to stand out from others

A recent client referred to submitting online applications as a “fool’s errand.” This might be what it feels like for the vast majority of job seekers who are spending countless hours submitting resumes and filling out job applications online and hearing nothing back. Because of the increase in online applications, job hunting is now made convenient and accessible with a simple click of a button. The downside is that this often means there is a much larger pool of applicants for a single job posting and there is less ability to include a personal touch within the rigid systems.

The good news is that with a few helpful tips below, you can stand out from the crowd and dramatically increase your chances of getting an interview when responding to these advertised job openings.

Win at the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Game

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are software programs that automate the resume screening process by scanning through hundreds of resumes and searching through keywords to spot the “best” and most qualified candidates for the job. An estimated 97% of applications for Fortune 500 companies go through ATS, so it is more important than ever to understand how to get through these systems.

Resumes submitted through ATS, which is often part of the online application process, are scanned by the system before a human ever reads them.

You want to make sure that you have optimized your resume to rank in the top search results to increase your chances to get shortlisted.

Research is key in helping your application stand out. While there may be many other qualified applicants applying for the same position, the way you customize your resume and optimize it for the ATS can help you rise to the top.

Customizing Your Resume for ATS

Review each job description carefully and take note of the job description, qualifications, and skills specifically required. Include EXACT qualifications and skills (that you have) anywhere possible to help you get through the keyword search. This process is made easier by adding a “Summary of Skills” or “Core Capabilities” section to your resume that you can easily update for each position.

Optimizing Your Resume for ATS

Transform your resume into a more effective document and make it ATS-friendly by:

  • Avoiding Tables and Columns – Many ATS software either do not read or misunderstand tables and columns.
  • Special characters and symbols – Stick to standard fonts like Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, Calibri, and Georgia.
  • Follow the Document Type Instructions – While a PDF resume preserves your intended formatting, it does not translate well for most ATS software. Use Word or Text documents instead. However, make sure to submit whatever document type the ATS asks for when they list a specific requirement.
  • Avoid Graphics – Photos and even small icons can trip up the ATS and will not be included.
  • Use General Section Titles – Make sure that you use common section titles so that the ATS knows where to put your information in their system. An example would be to use “Professional Experience” instead of something more creative like, “Executive Achievements & Contributions.”

Keep it Brief and to the Point

Once recruiters get the top list of candidates from the ATS system, make sure that your resume is easy to read and does not require extra work on their part to review quickly and understand. When your resume gets in front of human eyes for the first time, they are scanning quickly (often spending less than 30 seconds per resume) to narrow the pool to the very best applicants. You want to make sure to make this easy on them by writing short bullets on your achievements in each position, writing a short overview of your experience at the top, and only including positions and education that are relevant to your current goals. An example is removing early career positions if they are older than 10-15 years.

Go the Extra Mile to Make It Personal

Do not just submit an online application and wait for the calls to start flooding in. This is what the vast majority of the other candidates are doing, and it will not get you noticed. Instead, be proactive! You can go the extra mile and get noticed by doing the following:

  • Reach Out to Recruiters – You do not have to wait for recruiters to call you. Many larger companies have in-house recruitment staff responsible for finding qualified talent. They often have the inside track on positions that are opening and what hiring managers are looking for within their organizations. Research target companies on LinkedIn to find recruiters. Send them an e-mail, call them, or send them a message on LinkedIn letting them know you are interested and briefly explaining your qualifications. They may have the ability to go around ATS altogether if your qualifications meet their needs.
  • E-Mail Hiring Managers Directly – When you complete an online application, use LinkedIn to research who the department head, hiring manager, HR manager, or supervisor is for your desired position. Then, find out their e-mail and send them a short introduction letting them know you have applied for a specific job and that you are very interested in joining their team. You can include your resume as an attachment. If your e-mail and resume pique their interest, they will look out for in their system. This may give you an edge or, at the very least, it shows them you are willing to do the extra work it takes to show real interest in their opening.
  • Let Your Network Know You Are Looking – Referrals from employees and others are great ways to get your foot in the door. People in your network may know of jobs that are opening up soon and can give you a boost of credibility or inside knowledge when you get ready to submit your application.

You are already spending a lot of time submitting online applications. With just a little more effort, you can significantly increase your chances of getting noticed and winning more interviews.

CareerBuilder | March 1, 2021

The ugly reality of online job applications how to stand out from others

We asked recruitment and career experts what makes one candidate stand out over the others — here’s what they said.

If you’ve been applying to a number of jobs with little luck, it could be that your resume is getting lost in the pack of the seemingly countless other applicants you’re competing with. That’s why it’s all the more important to find ways to distinguish yourself in a compelling way.

So, we asked recruitment and career experts what makes one candidate stand out over the others — here’s what they said.


1. Provide a link to your online portfolio or social media profiles.

“Provide recruiters and hiring managers with all the information they need upfront by including a link to your [social media] profile on your resume. There are also options available for housing an online portfolio with past work experience, all of your social media accounts, as well as a resume. An page or a personal website are great options for this. This may seem obvious, but clean up your social media presence before sharing links to it.”
— Jason Siegel, director of accounting and finance and health care revenue recruiting at LaSalle Network

2. Customize your resume or application so it aligns with the job posting.

“I think it’s beneficial when an applicant takes the time to utilize the verbiage that is in the job posting in their resume or application. It shows the recruiter that you paid close attention to the requirements and related those requirements to what you did at your current or past employer. Recruiters don’t have a lot of time to read through profiles, so when we see that the candidate’s skill sets align with the job requirements, it makes us stop and check that candidate out!”
— Christina McPhee, operations recruiter, Oldcastle

3. Focus on accomplishments and results more than skills.

“Often job applicants put the focus on their skills and their previous positions. The problem with this is that if almost every other applicant approaches it the same way, then there’s little chance of any applications rising to the top of the pile. A good way to stand out is to make your accomplishments front and center. When focusing on accomplishments, be specific: How much money did you earn for your company? How much did you save? How many people did you manage? What products did you launch? What programs did you implement? Once you’ve listed your accomplishments, then support them with skills and positions.”
— Trevor Simm , founder and president of OpalStaff and Talos Solutions

4. Project the right attitude.

“Every legitimate candidate will have a well-established resume. However, to see the charisma and positive energy that an eager candidate carries with him [or her] is a game-changer. On numerous occasions, I have opted to recruit an employee with marginally less experience but with a better drive and passion than another candidate. Some people might question how it is possible to fake an eager attitude, if that’s what it takes to get hired. The answer is simple: You simply cannot.”
— Trent Silver, CEO of and millennial career coach

5. Show how you can solve a problem for the company.

“Find a problem or opportunity that directly affects the company you are applying [to]. Create a blog post specifically outlining how to solve the problem or how to take advantage of the opportunity. Clearly outline the steps the company should take. Then instead of posting it as a blog post, paste it into an email and send it to the person in charge of hiring. Attach a resume, but the resume should just end up being a footnote to the email/blog post.”
— Carrie Wood, chief marketing officer, Lease Ref


6. Put your personality on display in a positive way.

“Maintain eye contact, don’t fidget and just be yourself. Most companies hire for your personality — not the long list of skills on your [resume]. Be enthusiastic, talk about your ideas, your triumphs and what you learned along the way. Show them you are creative, innovative and unique!”
— Deborah Murray, senior recruitment consultant at Evolution Recruitment Solutions

7. Give the company a taste of the work you’d do if you were hired.

“[Take the] initiative to show them what having you as an employee would be like. For example, if you are applying for a marketing position you could write up an outline of a marketing plan for their last product launch. For a public relations position you could craft a press release and outreach strategy for one of their newer products. Impress them not only with your initiative, but also with how serious you are about working for them.”
— Michele Mavi, resident career expert at Atrium Staffing

8. Show what you can do for the company in the long term.

“I want people who aren’t afraid of the tactical work, but [who also have] a strategic mind. They understand the here and now, but [also] focus [on the] future of the organization. They demonstrate their focus by being able to share what they believe they can contribute to the company within the next two to five years based on what they have learned about the organization through the investor meetings, news, company PR releases, etc.”
— Krishna Powell, principal, HR 4 Your Small Biz

9. Be prepared to discuss salary.

“I know we’ve only just met, but get comfortable with the salary conversation. I’m going to ask you two questions: ‘Where are you at currently for salary?’ and ‘Where do you want to be in your next role?’ Get comfortable. Be specific on those two numbers.”
— Sheila Musgrove, CEO and founder of TAG Recruitment Group Inc. and author of “Hired!”

10. Do your homework.

“It’s a breath of fresh air to speak with a candidate who has done a bit of research on our company’s history and culture. I appreciate someone who has taken the time to craft their resume specific to the opportunity they’ve shown interest in and not just submit a generically compiled list of tasks. It shows a recruiter you’re not just interested in a job, but a career with us. This stands out better than any gimmick.”
— Michael Dobreski, corporate recruiter, Oldcastle – Architectural Products Group

The ugly reality of online job applications how to stand out from others

Face it: Most resumes and cover letters are pretty boring (yours included). When a hiring manager is trying to get through dozens (or hundreds) of job applications, there’s nothing like a little personality to attract her attention. And no, I’m not talking crazy formatting or throwing in a snarky comment.

Instead, I’m referring to what makes you stand out among tons of other qualified candidates. For example, while you might think your night classes in Spanish aren’t relevant for that startup marketing gig, the boss might think differently—and your obvious willingness to keep learning and broadening your skills could be the ticket to an interview.

Below, 11 founders from YEC share the top things they like to see on resumes and cover letters—things that go well beyond a laundry list of job titles and degrees.

1. Your Project-Based Work

I would like to see more project-based work described on resumes, rather than the typical roles and responsibilities at a company. Did you help launch a new product or service? Did you create a new process that added to the bottom line? Hiring managers want to know how you’ll fit on their team, not the title of your last position.

2. What Really Drives You

I would love to see that more potential hires list their personal “why.” What drives them to get up in the morning? What do they want to change in the world, and how does this align with my business?

3. What You’re Currently Reading

What people read represents how they spend much of their time. In the position’s application instructions, I ask candidates to jot down what blogs they read, sites they visit, and books they’ve read recently, regardless of the position they are applying for. This gives insight into what people are really passionate about and shows areas where they may have additional depth of understanding.

4. Continued Learning

Degrees have value, sure. But candidates who continue learning after traditional schooling (whether via audited classes, online courses, or community workshops) demonstrate curiosity and drive. They will be bringing more than just skills to our company, including depth, independence, and creativity.

5. Your Social Relevancy

If someone who is applying for a content management job in the travel industry has a massive social following that is all travel content related, great! He or she clearly has a passion for the subject and know what people react to. If she applies and has no social profiles whatsoever, she might not be in touch with the industry the way she would need to be.

6. A Link to Your Personal Blog

Frankly, I could care less about a candidate’s formal resume. If I want to know job history, I’ll check LinkedIn. What I want to see are examples of what someone has actually done. Whether it’s contributions to GitHub, a personal blog, or pictures from an event they helped organize, I want evidence of personal drive, curiosity, and how a candidate has moved beyond ideas to execution.

7. A Video Application

I look for that X factor that separates applications from their traditional format. I can’t quantify it, but I can feel it. Are you excited about this position? Does it show? Because your resume is probably not giving the hiring manager any real reason to stand out other than experience. I remember most hires’ personalities, which often shine in video applications. Don’t wait for your personality to show in the interview, because you may never get there.

8. Quirky Interests or Facts About Yourself

Wading through piles of resumes is boring. Some of our best hires have been candidates who have made an effort to reveal their personality through their resumes. Including quirky interests or facts about yourself in your resume is not only entertaining, it also makes me feel like I know the candidate, which naturally builds trust.

9. Experience as a Camp Counselor

If you can get a group of homesick 12-year-old kids to get out of bed and clean the bunk, you can get potential customers to sign up for a service. Being a camp counselor forces you to come up with creative solutions, motivate unwilling individuals, and deal with significant personal responsibility.

10. Languages You Speak

A foreign language is always a good one. Having a diverse supply of languages in your team can mean opening doors that are closed to everyone else in your field. There are a lot of international projects in construction these days, and when bidding for some jobs, being able to do business in different languages can be worth a lot.

11. Gap Years and Travel Experiences

Nothing has opened my mind and heart and shifted my perspective more than global travel. My adventures around the world have made me a better entrepreneur and a better human. I want to work with people who don’t view the world through a narrow lens. I have no desire to work with people afraid to leave their comfy bubbles. We’re building a global company, so you have to have a global perspective.

The ugly reality of online job applications how to stand out from others

Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019

Do you have a video interview on your schedule? As hiring becomes global and more employees work remotely, video interviews have become commonplace.

For hiring managers and recruiters, they’re a way to quickly conduct first-round interviews, save on transportation costs, and get the interview process started much faster than scheduling in-person interviews.

For some positions, the entire process may be handled virtually, while others may have a combination of video and in-person interviews.

Types of Video Interviews

Your interview may be a live video chat with a hiring manager or recruiter, or you may be invited to participate in an on-demand interview. With an on-demand interview, you will record your responses to a series of interview questions for the hiring manager to review at a later time.  

Tips for a Successful Video Job Interview

The key to a successful video interview is to practice beforehand, so that you avoid technical problems and feel confident with the process.

Keep in mind; a video interview carries as much weight as an interview conducted in-person, so you will want to make sure that you’re well prepared to interview remotely.

Review the following tips to make sure you ace this type of interview.

What to Expect

What should you expect during a virtual interview? The video platform will vary depending on the company, but a ResumeGo survey reports that employers typically use:  

  • Zoom: 43%
  • Skype: 12%
  • Google Meet/Hangouts: 19%
  • Microsoft Teams: 7%
  • Cisco WebEx: 5%
  • Other: 14%

Zoom ranks even higher as the most-used platform in another report. The Zenefits report notes that Zoom is the most commonly used interviewing platform (72%), followed by Skype (43%) and Google Hangouts (27%).  

Surveyed companies reported that most interviews lasted under an hour:

  • Under 30 minutes: 36%
  • Between 30 minutes and 1 hour: 48%
  • Over 1 hour: 16%

If you’ve got multiple interviews in a single day, be sure to give yourself a time buffer in between so you have time to get set for the next interview.

Advance Planning

Take the time to prepare for your interview in advance. In most cases, everything will go smoothly, but it will be less stressful if you practice in advance.

  • Do a trial run a day or two before the interview.
  • Check your webcam and any headset or microphone as if you were going to do the actual interview. If possible, use the same video technology that you’ll be using during the actual interview. That way, you won’t have any last-minute installation issues or password problems right before your interview.
  • Your camera should be at eye level (not above or below). A poorly placed camera can result in unflattering double chins or weird shadows. Check to make sure your sound equipment works properly.
  • Regardless of location, make sure that you send any materials (resume, portfolio, etc.) that the recruiter needs in advance.

Check Your Background

During your test run, take a look at the background that shows up in the video. Does it look cluttered or distracting?

Plan to have your background be tidy. A plain wall is ideal, or an office-like setting. You may be able to choose an online background to use, depending on the video platform you’re using.

Pay attention to the lighting, too. You do not want to have light sources behind you since that will leave your face in the shadows.

What to Wear

The ResumeGo survey reports that most employers prefer that job candidates wear business casual, but many don’t have a preference.  

  • Doesn’t matter: 44%
  • Business casual: 52%
  • Business formal/professional: 4%

The camera angle should show you from the waist up because your face is the real focal point. But if there is any possibility you will need to stand up, make sure your pants or skirt is professional. You don’t want to be the person whose inappropriate interview attire gets noticed.

During the Video Interview

Make sure the table and your surroundings are clean and neat. You don’t want to distract the interviewer. If you’re interviewing in your home, make sure that you are in a quiet space with no barking dogs, children, music, or other sounds.

As well, turn off your phone and any alerts on your computer to avoid getting thrown off by emails or instant messages during the interview. The microphone will pick up any noise in the room, so don’t tap your pen or shuffle papers.

Make eye contact, and remember, that means looking at the camera (and not the picture-in-picture image of yourself).

Use the same good posture you would use during an in-person interview. Avoid making a lot of hand gestures—even with a great Internet connection, there can be lag time, and hand gestures can stutter on the screen.

The Video Interview Process

  • The company selects candidates for video interviews.
  • Arrangements for an interview are scheduled.
  • The company will provide instructions on how the interview will work.
  • There will typically be 10 – 15 questions related to the job the company is hiring for.

Other than you’re not meeting the interviewer in-person, the interview process will be the same as an in-person interview. The interviewer’s objective (to screen candidates for employment) is the same. You will be asked the same type of interview questions. Also, be prepared to ask questions, as well.

What’s most important is to consider this type of interview is just as important as if you were meeting the interviewer in their office. The value, for yourself as well as for the hiring manager, is equivalent, and interviewing successfully, however it takes place, is the key to getting hired.

What Employers Look For

What do employers want to see when they review videos from candidates for employment?

Find your fit in the Federal Government

  • Start using USAJOBS Create a USAJOBS Profile

Start using USAJOBS Create a USAJOBS Profile

Save your favorite jobs and searches

Receive email updates from jobs you’re interested in.

Upload your resumes and documents

Save and manage resumes and documents for your application.

Make your resume searchable

Your resume will be visible to recruiters searching our database.

Apply for jobs in the Federal Government

You can only apply online with a complete USAJOBS profile.

Learn about the Federal Application Process

Below is an overview of the federal hiring process. This process is in place to make sure all applicants receive fair and equal opportunity.


Create a USAJOBS profile

First, create and complete your profile to apply for any job on USAJOBS.

With a USAJOBS profile, you can save jobs, automate job searches, and manage everything you need to complete your application, including resumes and required documents.

Search for jobs

Once you create your profile, you can search for jobs.

It’s best to sign into your profile before searching. Why? We can use your information to improve your job search results.

You can also use filters such as location, salary, work schedule or agency to narrow your results.

Review job announcement

If you find a job you’re interested in, read the entire announcement to determine if you’re eligible and meet the qualifications. It’s important to read the announcement because there are required qualifications you must meet and include in your application.

Prepare your application in USAJOBS

Read the How to Apply section of the job announcement before starting your application. Click Apply, and we’ll walk you through a five-step process where you’ll attach a resume and any required documents.

During the application process, you can review, edit and delete your information. We’ll automatically save your progress as you go so that you won’t lose any changes.

Submit application to the agency

When your application is ready, you’ll be directed from USAJOBS to the hiring agency’s system to submit your application. Before you submit, you may need to complete other agency-required steps such as a questionnaire or uploading additional documents.

The time it takes to submit depends on the job you are applying for and the hiring agency’s requirements.

You can check your application using the Track This Application link in your USAJOBS profile or contact the hiring agency listed on the job announcement.

Transition to Agency


Agency reviews application

The hiring agency begins reviewing applications when the job announcement closes. The hiring agency will review your application to make sure you’re eligible and meet the qualifications for the position.

The hiring agency will place applicants into quality categories. Those placed in the highest category are sent to the hiring official.


The hiring official will review the highest qualified applications and select applicants to interview based on agency policy. The hiring agency will contact applicants directly to schedule interviews.

You may be interviewed by a panel, in-person, video or phone interview, and there may be more than one interview round. For example, an applicant may have a phone interview and then an in-person interview.

Scheduling an interview may take some time, depending on the number of applicants to interview.

Agency selects candidates

After all interviews are completed, the agency will select a candidate(s) and contact them to start the job offer process.

For those not selected, the hiring agency will update the job’s status to Hiring Complete.

Explore the most urgent hiring needs

The government is looking to fill positions that are in high demand. Find your opportunity to shape America’s future.

We’re hiring – help us respond to COVID-19
The Federal Government is looking to fill various positions to help respond to and fight COVID-19. View open positions

The post-pandemic health care industry won’t look like the world you knew. Get a compilation of our experts’ most thought-provoking approaches to health care in 2021.

Together we can make health care better.

Join our network of hospitals, health systems, post-acute care providers, physician groups, life sciences firms, digital health companies, health plans and more.

Since February, Advisory Board’s Brandi Greenberg has been tracking three ways the U.S. coronavirus epidemic could end: the “good,” the “bad,” and the “ugly.” But new data, she says, has forced her to revise her expectations about what Covid-19’s future will look like—for America and for the world.

This week President Biden reached a new milestone: 100 days in office. Advisory Board’s Christopher Kerns and Heather Bell revisit the five health care predictions we made on inauguration day to determine which came true, which did not, and what are their chances of moving forward are during the rest of Biden’s presidency.

How leaders can reinforce a commitment to equity at their organization

Emerging trends like artificial intelligence and precision medicine may improve the quality and efficiency of care, but may also have unintended consequences. Learn about the trends reshaping care—what could change, what could go wrong, and how to prepare your organization.

Stress is endemic in health care, but leaders have more control over their stress levels at work than they think. The most effective leaders proactively keep their stress in check and model healthy habits by employing strategies that could also help you to become a less stressed leader.

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Today’s health care headlines

Edition June 22, 2021

See what more than 210,000 health care professionals are discussing.

‘Two Americas’: Why some states are far more vulnerable to the delta variant

Health experts warn that the particularly contagious delta variant may soon become the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States and could create “two Americas”—comparatively safe areas with high vaccination rates, and other areas with low vaccination rates and the potential for Covid-19 surges.

Why America is suddenly facing an ‘unprecedented’ blood shortage

As more patients in the United States seek medical care amid the continuing Covid-19 pandemic and a recent increase in violent crime, the nation’s blood supply has hit a “dangerously low” level—forcing some hospitals to delay or ration care.

Medicaid is officially bigger than ever. What does its future hold?

Medicaid enrollment increased to record highs between February 2020 and January, with around 80 million people now enrolled in the program, according to data from CMS. Here’s why experts say the program has grown so significantly—and what they predict for the future.

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“ The team at Nesco Resource helped to find me work that maximizes my skills in a field that is cutting edge and challenging. That works for me. ”

“ I’m working with Nesco Resource to find assignments in my line of work. Assignments that pay well and offer benefits too. That works for me. ”

“ Nesco Resource found me consistent assignments, with flexible hours and room to grow. Long term and short term. That works for me. ”

“ I’m gaining experience with the kinds of companies I want to grow with. Nesco Resource has helped me find the right kind office team that can use my skills and challenge me to grow. That works for me. ”

“ Nesco has helped me apply the skill in accounting and finance that I know are valuable to companies in my area. Now I know all the options available to me for my career and my life.That works for me. ”

About Nesco Resource

Nesco Resource is a national firm offering services in staffing, direct hire, and a host of other staffing and recruiting solutions. Through its branch office network, Nesco Resource offers clients and employees services ranging from Temporary Staffing, Permanent Placement, Recruitment Process Outsourcing, Onsite Management Services and more.

Nesco Resource has dedicated offices supporting Engineering & IT, Clerical & Light Industrial, and Accounting & Finance specialties. Whether you’re one of the thousands of people we’ve helped find a job or a company that we’ve helped find talent.

No one wants to be annoying or bothersome to a professional contact, especially when you want a job, meeting, sales dollars, or something else very important from that person. But the average person can get a few hundred emails a day, and some of your messages might go unanswered. How do you know when it’s okay to send a follow up message without being annoying?

This post originally appeared on The Muse .

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about his job search that went something like this:

Friend: I wrote to him last week and still haven’t heard back. It’s so frustrating.

Me: Why not follow up and check in?

Friend: I don’t want to be annoying.

So, to the question: Should you follow up? Absolutely. In fact, it’s your job. And how often should you do so? My philosophy is: As many times as it takes. The important thing is to do it the right way. Or, as I call it, to be “pleasantly persistent.”

Here are a few tips on how to (nicely) follow up with that hiring manager, sales lead, or VIP—and get the answer you’re looking for.

Rule 1: Be Overly Polite and Humble

That seems obvious enough, but a lot of people take it personally when they don’t hear back from someone right away. Resist the urge to get upset or mad, and never take your feelings out in an email, saying something like, “You haven’t responded yet,” or “You ignored my first email.” Just maintain an extremely polite tone throughout the entire email thread. Showing that you’re friendly and that you understand how busy your contact is is a good way to keep him or her interested (and not mad).

Rule 2: Persistent Doesn’t Mean Every Day

Sending a follow-up email every day doesn’t show you have gumption or passion, it shows you don’t respect a person’s time. The general rule of thumb is to give at least a week before following up. Any sooner, and it might come off as pushy; let too much time pass, and you risk the other person not having any clue who you are. I typically start off with an email every week, and then switch to every couple of weeks.

Rule 3: Directly Ask if You Should Stop Reaching Out

If you’ve followed up a few times and still haven’t heard back, it’s worth directly asking if you should stop following up. After all, you don’t want to waste your time, either. I’ll sometimes say, “I know how busy you are and completely understand if you just haven’t had the time to reach back out. But I don’t want to bombard you with emails if you’re not interested. Just let me know if you’d prefer I stop following up.” Most people respect honesty and don’t want to waste someone’s time, and they’ll at least let you know one way or another.

Rule 4: Stand Out in a Good Way

I once had someone trying to sell me something that I was remotely interested in but that was nowhere near the top of my priority list. Every week, he’d send me a new email quickly re-explaining what he sold—as well as a suggestion for good pizza to try around the city. Why? He had seen a blog post where I mentioned I’d eat pizza 24/7 if I could, and cleverly worked that into his follow-up. It made him stand out in a good way , and as a result, we eventually had a call .

The lesson: If done well, a little creativity in your follow up can go a long way. If you’re following up about a job, try Alexandra Franzen’s tips for giving the hiring manager something he or she can’t resist.

Rule 5: Change it Up

If you’re not connecting with someone, try changing it up. In other words, don’t send the exact same email at the same time of day on the same day of week. Getting people to respond can sometimes just come down to catching them at the right time. If you always follow up in the morning, maybe try later in the day a few times.

Remember: If someone does ask you to stop following up, stop following up. But until you hear that, it’s your responsibility to keep trying.

The ugly reality of online job applications how to stand out from others

Accepting the reality of your life sounds like it should be easy enough. But many, many people hold to their own version of reality. It may be based in regret, disappointment, denial, or just waiting for something better–a promotion, for the kids to be grown, retirement, whatever. Failing to connect with reality is why some of us have pants in the closet that haven’t fit in years. More significantly, it keeps people in unfulfilling jobs or even in the wrong profession entirely.

There are few better things you can do for yourself than giving up the fictional version of your life and learning to accept yourself, your life, and your reality. Even if your situation is terrible, the first step in improving it is acknowledging it for what it is.

Here are 11 ways to cope with reality–especially the parts of reality you don’t like–and how you can change it into a reality you want.

1. Accept yourself.

Acceptance is the ability to unconditionally value all parts of who you are. That means you acknowledge all of yourself–the good and the things that need improvement. For most of us, self-acceptance can be hard. We tend to be critical of ourselves, but there are a number of ways to learn to accept yourself and your life. It all begins with your state of mind.

2. Acknowledge your reality.

Sometimes facing reality isn’t the easiest thing to do, but accepting your current situation can make you happier in the present and lead to a better future. Understanding, accepting, and working with reality is both practical and purposeful. Acknowledging your reality will help you choose your dreams wisely and then help you achieve them.

3. Practice radical honesty.

When you can admit your own pretense, you can begin to powerfully create a new future. Denying your current reality–especially if it’s a bad one–will not make it make it go away. Dealing with the bad stuff is a way to get to the good stuff–but it takes practice, practice, practice.

4. Identify your part.

To fully accept your reality, it’s important to acknowledge any role you may have played, good or bad, in getting where you are. Ask yourself questions related to your current situation to help work toward solutions. To fully accept your reality, it is important to identify what you may have done to foster success or failure. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can work toward the best next steps.

5. Admit your mistakes.

Remember that you can’t fix anything until you admit there’s a problem. Try to view your mistakes not as failures but as learning opportunities, and have the strength within to realize you control your reality and you’re the only one who can change it. Decide what’s important to you and set your mind to it.

6. Own your outcomes.

Work toward owning every part of your reality–not just the things that need work but also your strengths and successes. Owning all your outcomes can help teach you to do better next time, to see failure as a learning moment.

7. Don’t let fear get in your way.

Don’t let fears–especially fears of what others think of you–stand in your way. You must be willing to do things in the unique ways you think are best, and to reflect on any feedback you receive.

8. Count on your competencies.

It’s easy to look in the mirror and point out all your insecurities. But to face your reality, it’s best to start counting all positives. Make a list of your strengths, the things you are good at, the values that you hold, and the accomplishments you’ve achieved. Counting on your competencies helps you realize your strengths, which in turn will help you improve your attitude toward yourself.

9. Let go of your biases.

Don’t get caught up in the life you think you are supposed to have, but work on creating the reality you are meant to live. Your biases can blind you to almost any reality. You can try to ignore them, but closing your eyes won’t make them disappear. Instead, learn to understand them and let them go.

10. Accept that struggle will always be part of your reality.

Don’t shy away from challenges, but rather wade into the struggle and get comfortable with operating and living there. Struggles are a way of life, and we have to learn to confront them. And you never know–something the most challenging things can hold the greatest opportunity for success.

11. Make a plan for reaching your goal.

Include steps you will take to take to create a new reality. Break your goal into small steps that you can accomplish one at a time to build your confidence and self-worth as you go. Your new reality can begin to happen once you have a plan with specific goals.

Remember, you will never be able to create the right reality if you aren’t willing to let the wrong reality go.