Have you applied for hundreds of jobs without landing one yet? If so you are probably going about it the wrong way. Here’s Forbes take on ways to improve response.
Applying is a passive approach to job searching. You’re just waiting for the ad to show up rather than being proactive. Given these factors, the odds are stacked against you. What you should be doing is actively going for what you want. Leverage your network to get introductions. Contact people directly with a powerful pitch to get informational meetings that can lead to referrals or interviews. This is what’s meant by tapping into the ‘hidden job market’. In fact, 80 percent of your valuable job search time should be focused on the hidden job market; use the remaining 20 percent to apply to online job postings.
With this perspective in mind, here are four ways to boost response when applying via job postings:
1. Not a close match? Don’t waste your time
If you’re not at least a near perfect match for the description, the odds are too high that you will be rejected by the HR person who will be reviewing your resume. In other words, unless it’s a very small firm, the HR manager is usually not screening the resumes. So the upfront criteria in the job description will be used to automatically screen out candidates.
2. Write a great cover letter
Contrary to popular belief people actually read cover letters. Of course no one reads boring, repetitive, bland cover letters with big dense paragraphs. Make your cover letter concise, with words and phrases that resonate, in a format that’s easily ‘scannable’ to the human eye. Short paragraphs, bolding, underlining, bullets and subheadings all make your cover letter easier to read. Remember this isn’t English Literature 101; anything that helps your “how I can help you” message to jump off the page is good.
If you’re a close match with a job posting, one cover letter strategy that works well is to use the ‘Your requirements vs. my qualifications’ format. When you use this format, you make it really easy for the screeners to see how you match up to the posting, and hard for them to screen you out.
Excerpt key requirements, responsibilities, or qualifications from the posting, put each of them in quotes, and below each one write how you match up. You don’t need to pull every single requirement out, for example skip “must be able to multitask.” Excerpt just the main ones out so your letter isn’t 10 pages long. In your qualifications, add your bulleted accomplishments where possible, pulled right from your resume.
Also, when using this format, the ‘letter’ part of the cover letter is actually short; just mention what you’re applying for, why you like the organization, and a summary sentence or two about your experience. Then reference the requirements/qualifications part of your letter that follows.
3. Reach out to the hiring manager directly
Don’t just rely on the job posting to get in. Instead, take the extra step to find the hiring manager or the boss of the hiring manager, or a close colleague and reach out to them with a powerful email. Use the job posting as the basis for the content of your email, and include your ‘pitch’ in the letter that demonstrates how you can help them. End by saying that you’ll give them a call in a few days to see if you can get on their calendar. If you do this letter the right way, you will get the response you are looking for.
Adapted from an article in Forbes