From about mid-November to New Year’s Day, the activity of many job seekers comes to a screeching halt. Though it’s not the case that recruiters are trussing turkeys and holiday shopping non-stop through this period, it’s true that it can be harder to get their attention amid the blinking Christmas tree lights.
And then suddenly it’s January 2nd, and job seekers press the “on” button to restart their search. Too often, though, the search is singing the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”. Job seekers get caught up in old patterns—and strategies of times gone by.
I was thinking about this when I heard President Obama make an appeal for extended unemployment benefits. He said that job seekers should be given extended benefits so they can have peace of mind while they are “sending out resumes”. Though it was just a sound bite, and not necessarily indicative of the president’s view of successful job search strategy, there it was…the insidious “send out resumes” fallback activity that trips up job seekers at every level and compensation range.
Through a decade+ of career coaching I know well that many young people, women returning to the workforce after a long hiatus—and an always surprising number of more seasoned professionals—take a “blindfolded dart game” approach to a job search. They spend hours combing through big job board sites—often glomming on to any posting that even superficially mentions their area of interest. As a result, resumes are sent out haphazardly, in rapid succession—with the hope that at least one will hit the mark and score a response.
Two words on this game of darts: wrong strategy. Before you send out a resume, there at least four things you should do:
- RESEARCH THE COMPANY AND ITS RECENT NEWS ABOUT YOUR AREA OF INTEREST AND THE COMPANY OVERALL. Don’t rely on the company web site, which is too often a non-objective representation of the truth. Make sure this is a company you actually want to work for—not just a potential paycheck source. Recruiters want to hire people truly enthusiastic about and interested in their companies.
- CAREFULLY STUDY THE JOB DESCRIPTION. Make sure you meet at least 70 to 80% of the major requirements. In this job market recruiters can find many candidates who are close to their ideal. Don’t count on the strategy that they will consider you for another open position. They have a big pile of resumes and they’re laser focused on the position at hand.
- WRITE A COVER LETTER (via email is fine) that is a point-by-point match up of your skills and experience with the major responsibilities and requirements of the job.
- FIGURE OUT WHO YOU KNOW AT THE COMPANY. Sending your resume and cover letter to a nondescript “apply” email or the ambiguous “HR department” sends you tumbling down a black hole. Look for personal connections or try to identify and connect with company contacts on Linkedin. Your resume gets more attention when a company insider passes it on.
With many internet job board postings you may not know the company name and there’s no way to attach a cover letter (a major way to sell yourself) to the online application. Those are two big reasons to limit your online job search. It’s the first place job seekers go, because it’s a whole lot easier than networking among the unknown. By responding to lots of online job postings, they also feel like they’re quickly getting something accomplished. The reality, though, is that a job search requires layers of more time-consuming strategic networking—much more connecting with people than blindly shooting your resume toward job board ads.
So for all job seekers who put the party hats away on January 2nd and vowed to “send out more resumes” in 2014, I say cross that off your list of New Year’s resolutions. Scoring a bull’s-eye in your job search does not correlate to the number of resumes you send.
Yes, it’s still a difficult job market, but using tactics that only worked in decades long gone are a sure path to extended misery. This week and every week that you search, aim to send not hundreds—but five or maybe ten resumes and notes to real people who are carefully targeted personal connections or referrals from colleagues, friends or networking connections. As is true with many things in life, it’s quality, not quantity that wins. —KAS
Photo Credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net/Stuart Miles
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