A Hire Ground reader recently e-mailed me this question:

“I am finishing my last quarter of school at Bellevue College and want to work for Unigard. I have never seen an ad in Indeed.com for Unigard. I have phoned various temporary agencies to see whether they have provided temporary employees for Unigard. The answer has been, “No.” How do I make my resume look good when I submit it online to them if I don’t have the keywords they are looking for?”

From what I see in your e-mail, you’ve taken great initiative to both target a company and engage in primary research about the employer. I don’t know if you’ve actually spoken to current or former employees at Unigard. Make sure you’re on LinkedIn so you can find people locally who have a connection to the company and start setting up informational interviews.

Because you’re not actually applying to an opening right now, you don’t have to worry about keywords. You’re just investigating opportunities.

Once you get closer to the formal process — depending on the level of rapport and trust you can generate — you might not need to worry about keywords, because a human, not the applicant tracking system (ATS) will be reading your resume. In that case, you’ll need to focus on your accomplishments and the company’s desired attributes in new college hires.

The second question the reader asked was:

“I heard … that companies discriminate if you are not currently employed. Does that mean I should be employed by a temporary agency and then submit my resume online? If I had a volunteer job site, then should I put that on my resume? Would volunteering be considered similar to being currently employed?”

While this isn’t a general practice, we’ve seen that more employers today prefer employed versus unemployed candidates. An Amazon legal recruiter at my recent career mixer told me his job is to talk to top attorneys at Fortune 500 companies and see if they’ll move over to Amazon. In your case, however, you’re just graduating and you’re not the typical “unemployed professional” they’re trying to avoid.

That said, strategic volunteering — volunteering that leads you into getting one step closer to your professional goals — can only help you at this point. But I wouldn’t delay talking to employees at the prospective company to see if that experience is necessary for new college hires.

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