21 Apr Job Candidates: Three Ways to Stand Out Without Gimmicks
A recent Wall Street Journal article confirmed what you and I already knew: job application gimmicks rarely work. Then why do some of you keep trying them? Because you don’t know what else to do in such a competitive job market.
So the unemployment numbers are creeping down. Whoopie! So what? For you, there are still hundreds of applicants per job posting, you have no indication from companies how you’re faring, and it’s hard to break out of the black hole of Human Resources.
Clearly, you do need to stand out; but trying too hard to be cute isn’t going to do it. Rather than regaling you with more stories about how candidates are trying to use gimmicks, I’d like to get right to a few recommendations.
Spoiler alert: you will say, “These are so basic.” If they are so basic, why do I need to say it again? Because you’re not doing them!
1. Always do a cover letter. And stop using “I” in that cover letter, too!
I recently posted a job at a University and all I’m getting are ”bare naked” résumés. Not just relevant résumés, but résumés from candidates with backgrounds in other fields than the one I am looking for. If you are applying to a job that you don’t have a strong fit for, then use your cover letter to explain why you want the job and why you are a good candidate.
Even if it is clear (to you) that you have the background, your cover letter should list the top 3 requirements the company is looking for and what your direct experience is in those areas. Repeat: every point you make in the cover letter should start with THEIR requirements and finish with how you meet those requirements.
2. Have a front door AND back door application strategy. What is that?
First, the front door is “getting into the system” and applying for the position through a company’s required process. Although statistics show that very few candidates get jobs purely by applying through a job board or a corporate career site, you need to do this no matter how much you are networking. It shows respect for a company’s process and the role of their recruiting and hiring teams.
Recently, a client of mine applied through the front door of a major telecommunications company. And, although he has yet to hear anything from the company on that position, an internal recruiter called him and asked him to apply for another position. He has since had phone and face-to-face interviews and they advised him that an offer is forthcoming. You never know!
Now, the back door is what I call targeted networking. Immediately after applying, find the following: (a) anybody who knows anybody who works at that company and (b) employees of your target company. If you don’t know anybody, then LinkedIn is your best tool. Here are the steps:
#1: Learn how to use LinkedIn by taking their tutorials here. Don’t guess, job seekers, or you’ll make mistakes.
#2: Connect with your targets by sending them a personal message. Never just click “connect” in your search results, which automatically sends a most uninspiring, impersonal message. Instead, open up their profile, click “connect” and erase all the text that is pre-populated. Although character spaces are limited, write something like, “I just applied for a position in your company and I would like to ask for 15 minutes of your time via the phone. May I have your phone number to call within 3 working days?”
#3: Watch your notifications to know when your connection accepts your invitation. Send them another message such as, “Thank you for accepting my LinkedIn invitation. I would like to ask for 15 minutes of your time via the phone since I have just applied to a position in your company.”
3. ASK for support from your new network contacts. There are two primary requests you want to make:
- Employee referral program: “John, I applied for the Training Specialist position in your company and was wondering if you would submit my credentials through your employee referral program?”
- Introduction to the hiring manager: “Sally, I applied for an engineering position in your company and was wondering if you would forward my credentials directly to the hiring manager to help my odds of getting reviewed?”
There are so many other ways to get ahead of the pack, but that’s all we have time for today! Please contact me with any questions, comments or additional ideas!