Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Make your Online Job Application Stand Out

a Philadelphia business displays a help wanted sign in its storefront.

naples-herald-dot-logo-20x20 (1)Isn’t it great how easy it is to apply for jobs online? Maybe, but maybe not. I am going to paraphrase from Charles Dickens’s, A Tale of Two Cities. “It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.”  If you are applying from LinkedIn, you can often see the number of applicants for any given position. It can range from 30 to over 300 and this only accounts for the candidates who apply through LinkedIn. There are many others who use the company website, Indeed and other online sources. Competition has never been so fierce. So, how do you stand out in an online world?

It helps to understand the process. Generally, technology provides the initial screening of your resume and cover letter. The job description is the key to getting your candidacy reviewed. Most job openings have both paragraphs which detail the overall duties and responsibilities of the position and an experience and qualification section. Since the technology screening is a key word search, the more direct correlation your resume and cover letter have to the description, the more likely it is that your application will bubble up. However, since this is only the first step make sure that the use of the key words is relevant to your experience and qualifications and that neither your resume nor your cover letter look like you simply copied or are parroting back their words.

Once your resume and cover letter come to the attention of the recruiter, it must continue to stand out on its merits. One client of mine was interested in a sales job at Kellogg’s. We first made sure we altered the resume to incorporate enough key words to attract the search engine. Next, we took a photo of his family of four gathered at the breakfast table enjoying their morning bowls of cereal which were, you guessed it, Kellogg’s cereal.  The cereal box was featured prominently in the picture. The photo was inserted at the top of his resume. He got a call from the recruiter the day after he applied. The recruiter complimented him on the creativity of the resume.

A cover letter should not be a restatement of your resume. It is your opportunity to shine. In it, you should detail your understanding of the company and of the position. Then, make the case that your personality, attributes and experience make you the perfect fit. Every corporation has a culture. If you research thoroughly, you will get a glimpse of the culture of the company. Make your personality come through. If a recruiter or hiring manager believes that your qualifications are a match for the position and that you would fit in, you have created an advantage.

Next, use LinkedIn to find out if you know someone who works for that employer. If not, see if you know someone else who has a connection to an employee of the company. Do not be afraid to reach out to a connection for help. Networking is the reason that LinkedIn exists. Take every advantage you can. If you are successful in getting a connection, take their advice on how to proceed. If not, try to find out to whom the position will report. This information is often in the job description. If not, it can sometimes be deduced or you can narrow it down to a few different people. LinkedIn often provides the name of the recruiter. Once you have identified some actual humans, reach out via email.

It is not too difficult to figure out someone’s email address. If you go to the corporate website you will easily get the company.com configuration either in contact us, about us or for info etc. Then check out the press releases. At the end of many press releases there is a contact address such as Renee.Bacherman@company.com. Use that same configuration for your list of contacts. If that does not work go to Google and try some searches. You can get the names of the management team from a corporation’s web site.

Put their name in Google, sometimes their email addresses will be contained within some of the search results. You can also try searching for “email addresses for company.com.”  If worse comes to worse and none of these options work, all is not lost. There are a few common configurations for email addresses and one of them will work a vast majority of the time. They are: firstname.last@company.com, firstinitiallastname@company.com firstname_lastname@company.com. firstnamelastname@company.com and for smaller companies, you can also try firstname@company.com.  Try each one separately. If it does not get returned as undelivered, you will know that you have the correct address.

Send each email individually and tailor it specifically to that person to whom you are writing. Before you send the email make sure you have the right content. Research all the people on your list. Use corporate websites, Twitter, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn. Find out everything you can about that person. If they are an executive or senior manager chances are there will be some interviews, articles or presentations that will give you a glimpse into their personalities. As previously stated, corporate websites provide a lot of information about a company’s history, culture, mission and philosophy. The more you know about whom you are writing to and the company you want to work for, the better able you are to position yourself well.

People like to be flattered, recognized and understood. If you can find some common ground, use it. Detail how you relate to their corporate mission and philosophy. A little humor can also go a long way. Demonstrate knowledge about the company, their history, their products and services etc.  Let the person know that you want to work specifically for that company, in that position and how you are uniquely qualified to contribute.

Finally, just as you research others, they are researching you. If you are a frequent user of social media make sure that your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram etc. represent you in a light that you want prospective employers to see you in. If you have any derogatory or profane tweets, get rid of them. Facebook should be free of pictures of you being overserved or underdressed. Your Facebook page will not land you a job but it can eliminate your chances of ever getting it.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is. Recently, I did an experiment. I applied for about 15 jobs online and waited to hear back. I also applied for 15 other jobs and did all the additional work described herein. Out of the 15 online only applications, the only responses I ever received were automated emails acknowledging my application. Out of the other 15 applications, I heard back from 9 and had interviews scheduled. You can be the best candidate for the job but if you do not get an interview, it doesn’t matter. Someone is going to get that job with a little extra effort, it might be you.


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