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Beating the Odds on the Job Search

January 29, 2009

I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but the economy stinks right now. The layoffs are happening left and right, and it’s just plain scary if you have a job, and must feel desperate if you don’t. The Consumerist has a story about a posting for a part-time receptionist on Craigslist netted at least 3520 inquiries in less than a day. That’s just scary.

So – how do you get a job when there doesn’t seem any way to stick out?

I have a few suggestions that may help you get your foot in the door.

  • Read the instructions on the posting. Seriously. If you have any chance of getting through who or whatever is filtering the thousands of resumes they are bound to receive, you need to at least show that you can follow instructions. If they ask for an attached resume as a .pdf, that’s how you should send it. And always put your cover letter in the body of the email, and as an attachment if that’s what they request. Give them a reason to make the extra click. If the posting requests a certain phrase or word in the subject line – use it. They are probably using it to route to a folder, and using something else may just annoy them. (Although, sending your resume twice – once following subject line rules, and once with something witty will either annoy someone, or catch someone’s eye in the good, intended way. Attempt at your own peril.) If they request to not be called, don’t call them. And don’t call them to see if they received your resume – no one is falling for that, and it makes you look like a paranoid freak who doesn’t understand the concept of email.
  • A resume is good, but a cover letter may be what really counts. This may be controversial advice, but I think that it’s worth taking a risk on cover letters. You are of course crafting a different letter for each place you apply (and not just “I believe I would be an excellent fit for [Your Company Name Here]”) so get crazy. Tell a story that connects you to the company, or anything to make you stand out. It isn’t always possible, but I know that personally I have gotten some great responses to cover letters because it was obvious that I was paying attention and really thought about it. I find that quoting Elvis helps. But that’s just general good life advice.
  • Look for jobs on places other than Monster, Craigslist and CareerBuilder. Is there a cause that is near and dear to your heart? Find jobs relating to that cause (,,, etc.) Find out if any professional or alumni organizations that you belong to have job postings.
  • Go straight to the source. Think of companies that you think would be great to work for, or you know have offices in your area. Apply right through their website.
  • See if wherever you are looking for job posts has an RSS feed that you can subscribe to. You will be one of the first ones to know about a new posting.
  • Social Networking. This could be a whole post on it’s own, but make sure your personal brand is clean. Google yourself and see what shows up. Remove what shouldn’t. Don’t just join Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. – participate.
  • Tell people you are looking for a job. Don’t just tell them that you are unemployed, but let them know you are looking. Even better, let them know what you are good at and what kinds of jobs would be appropriate.
  • I really believe that people want to help. So, don’t just tell people you are unemployed, ask them for their help. Saying “I am looking for work” is different from “Hey, I am looking for work and could use a hand. Will you keep in mind for anything you hear?” I almost guarantee that people will start remembering something, or specifically recall your request when something does pop up.

Stay tuned for posts about things that drive me nuts when I am reading through people’s resumes (also known as do’s and don’ts) and advice for the poor sap who has to sort through thousands of resumes or finding a good candidate in general.


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