Before the rise of the Internet, the first place you would go to find out what jobs were available was your local newspaper’s classified ads. Now, of course, you can see all manner of jobs, from any kind of employer, with a simple search on job boards like Monster or aggregation sites, such as Indeed and SimplyHired. And, with some quick clicking, you can apply to scores of jobs in an evening.
Unfortunately, many people feel that this is the way you are supposed to conduct a job search to the exclusion of everything else. When you approach it this way, you are in for a long and frustrating experience with diminished chances for success.
Recently, a person complained that he’s been diligently applying to jobs on Indeed. He claimed to be selective and, over the last several months, sent out more than 80 applications. “So, what’s your response been to all this activity?” he was asked.
“Nada. Zilch. Zero … not a single interview,” he reported with a marked sense of exasperation.
People often don’t realize how great the odds are stacked against job seekers for virtually every online advertisement. Recruiters and human resources screeners commonly see hundreds upon hundreds of resumes submitted in response to ads. Of those, only a scant few will result in a conversation. Yet, on the employer side, it’s not uncommon to find someone to hire by placing an advertisement.
Put differently, you have only a small likelihood of success with any given response you make to an online job posting because each application is, statistically speaking, like flipping a coin. No matter how many jobs you apply to, you’ll still have the same odds – one in however many scores or hundreds of applicants reply.
At this point, you might throw up your hands in despair. Don’t. There are things that you can do to increase your odds of being chosen for a position that fits you well. Here are some strategies that are often most effective.
1. Take time to build your network, both in person and online. Attend networking events, participate in your professional organizations and introduce yourself to people. Practice the art of small talk. Understand that, with every new acquaintance you make, you enlarge your network.
2. Narrow your applications to a relatively few positions. Don’t bother with a lot of “Hail Marys” for which you clearly aren’t well suited to meet the employer’s needs. Instead, look for positions where you can add value to employers.
3. Do your research before you reach out to the employer. Check out the company in the news or on LinkedIn. Figure out its challenges, and how you can add value with your skills and experience. Use this research as you make your case for being considered in your cover letter.
4. Figure out how you can network your way into the company before you apply. You can use LinkedIn to find people in the company you can proactively reach out to for informational interviews. Don’t ask for help at the onset, but instead spend some time building a relationship and make yourself the first one to offer help before you ask for it.
5. Ask your contact if the company has an employee referral program. If so, would he be interested in forwarding your resume to the right person? Remember that, if you’ve already submitted your resume to the company, the employee won’t get credit for your application, and that makes a big difference.
Remember the old story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow but sure can win the race. The same is true with your job hunt. Go for fewer job applications, but do a thorough job of researching each and making a clear argument for how and why you can add value to the company. It’s tedious work, but in the end, your chances of success will skyrocket.