We can do almost anything online these days. We can grocery shop, go to school, find a date, watch a movie, and now, find a job.
In our modern reality, the internet has transformed the way we look for work. We have shifted away from a paper-based system as candidates fill out most applications on job boards or employer websites. While advances in technology have made the job search more comfortable and convenient in some ways, on the other hand, accessibility has led to an increase in competition. Companies and recruiters are inundated with applications when new positions get posted.
On average, each corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes. Of these candidates, four to six will be called for an interview, and only one will be offered the job. (ERE Survey, 2013).
So, while it's nice to sit at home in sweatpants and apply for 50 jobs at the click of a button, submitting your resume to postings online will only take you so far. The best way to separate yourself from the pack and land an interview is to go beyond where most people stop in their approach. Diversify and balance your efforts by using a combination of techniques both online and in person to gain some traction.
The Balanced Job Application Strategy
- First, let's take it back to the basics.
- You'll need to have a few things handy to complete your application online, including your master resume, a cover letter, and contact information for your references. You may also need data related to your employment history such as the full address and phone number for previous employers.
- Next, note down 10+ organizations that you would love to work with, or whose mission or values closely align with yours. Then identify 2 to 3 ideal job titles or roles that you are targeting.
- Search for these positions on employer websites, LinkedIn, and on job boards like Indeed, LinkUp, and FlexJobs.
- Customize your resume and cover letter to include experience that only relates to the job you’re applying to. Reminder – the cover letter should complement your resume, not duplicate it. Utilize specific keywords directly from the job description, of course always being honest about what you have done. Complete the application carefully following all the instructions.
- Get personal. Check LinkedIn to see if you have connections with any employees at the companies where you submitted applications. Send them a message or invite them to coffee to find out more about what it's like to work there. Don't ask them to get you the job but do let them know what you are searching for, what you have to offer, and see if they would feel comfortable telling the hiring manager about you. Even if you don't personally know someone inside the organization, it's likely that someone else in your network does. Don't be afraid to reach out to people you know who might have connections at the company and ask if they would be kind enough to make the introduction.
- Reach out. Call the company directly, tell the receptionist that you're applying for XYZ position and you'd like to introduce yourself to the hiring manager. You could alternatively say that you'd like to address your cover letter to the appropriate person, and sometimes the receptionist will provide you with his or her name and direct email. You can also do this research online and send your focused resume and compelling cover letter via LinkedIn.
- Network. Spending so much time online pursuing new employment opportunities can be a slippery slope for some job seekers. If you're anything like me, you can get sucked into a cyberspace vacuum and then suffer from a little mental myopia where it's hard to see the bigger picture. With the internet and social media, we’re more connected than ever, yet somehow more isolated. When you are job hunting that feeling can amplify because you’re putting yourself out there and sometimes you only hear crickets. It can be difficult not to take that personally. Networking can help break that isolation funk. Get dressed up, get out there, and show off your awesome personality!
- As a professional courtesy, let your references know ahead of time that you have listed their information on a job application, so they won't be caught off guard if someone contacts them regarding your candidacy. Reconnecting with your references will also give you the opportunity to catch up and tell them about your search. You never know where one conversation might lead, and as a bonus, you can refresh their memory about how fantastic you are.
- Seek out social and professional events in your area where you can meet like-minded professionals.
- Join groups on LinkedIn that focus on the career fields that interest you. Send fellow members a quick note to get some advice and create relationships.
- Work with recruiters. I find it useful to think of working with a recruiter as a form of networking because it’s about making connections and staying in touch. Recruiters are typically working on a multitude of different positions for a wide range of clients at one time. I used to work in staffing and trust me, it can get hectic. You want to be the first person that comes to mind when new opportunities arise. Connect with a few reputable firms and take the time to go in and meet with the recruiter in person. It’s worth the time since you’ll be able to build rapport, demonstrate how you present yourself in a professional setting, and it will help the recruiter remember you when they’re marketing to their clients!
Applying for jobs is time-consuming and some people say looking for a job is a full-time job itself. While it does take time, employing these strategies will help you focus the precious time you have on things that will help you hit your target. It's useful to think of yourself as archer aiming at a mark. Hitting a bulls-eye requires a lot of skill and preparation. An archer must be aware of his or her surroundings and adjust for a multitude of factors before releasing the bowstring. If you're aiming into the wind, or if you’re trying to accomplish something challenging, you must aim high to offset the slowing effect of the environment. We are more likely to achieve our goals or hit our target if we know what we're aiming at, and what preparations or adjustments we need to make to succeed.
As a final thought, if you feel like you’re being pulled in too many directions, stop what you’re doing and remember why you’re applying for a job in the first place. Hold onto that vision and use it to fuel your daily actions. Pull out your calendar and identify where you can spend time focusing on the application process itself. Allocate a few hours a week to each of the strategies and tactics listed above. Simplify your method, find balance, and take ownership of your search so you can take control of your career. You deserve it!
As always, I am here to help. Please contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions about this process or if you would like to see posts on any particular subject in the future. If you like what you read today, don't forget to subscribe to this blog below!