The job seeker and the hirer have common goals. One wants to gain employment; one has the ability to grant employment. In theory, the hiring transaction should go off without a hitch. In reality, however, even though the goals of both parties are the same there can be a disconnect.
Why? In this article, I find the fault mainly in the job seeker. The job seeker is the proactive party; the one expected to polish, approach, and convince the hirer that they’re the right candidate for the job. The hirer is simply expected to entertain and evaluate the job seeker.
Like speed dating or handing out business cards at a typical networking event, a lack of personal attention almost guarantees that a genuine connection won’t be made.
It stands to reason that the job seeker would put in a ton of effort in order to give themselves the best chance to get hired. In practice, however, this isn’t always the case.
The following are some of the most common, yet also most ineffective, approaches job seekers use in their quest to get hired.
Typical Ineffective Job Seeker Strategies
1. Blasting Out Applications in Bulk
Like speed dating or handing out business cards at a typical networking event, a lack of personal attention almost guarantees that a genuine connection won’t be made. Similarly, when looking for available positions a typical job seeker may use 20 online job boards, search generic keywords, and ‘speed date’ dozens of different company websites.
A broad search is a reasonable strategy at the beginning of a job search in order to narrow down the possible positions. But just like the example above, if blasting out job applications in bulk is the primary strategy, it will only guarantee mediocre (at best) results.
2. Using Every Job Site Imaginable
There are a million and one job sites out there. From a company’s own index of available jobs, to craigslist, to many others, job sites are everywhere. Broadening the search is a reasonable strategy, but the best jobs are very rarely posted on generic job sites.
The job seeker needs to target their search. If they’re seeking Canadian jobs in marketing, communication, or creative fields, FreshGigs.ca is the place. There are also many online groups and communities on a particular skill or topic. These are ripe with relevant job information, possible contacts, and job postings.
3. Making Only Surface Level Changes to Each Application
In an effort to strive for efficiency, the job seeker may take several hours and apply for as many jobs as they can. They will likely change the introduction, a few small points in the body of their application, and (hopefully!) the name of the company they’re applying to. The efficiency-focused job seeker may take pride in shortening the time required for each application, but they neglect to focus on the quality of each application.
I have certainly been guilty of this in the past. I would sit down for a couple of hours, resolve to get through 10 applications, and change only the most basic details in each one. As anyone could have predicted, this didn’t result in success. It was only when I focused on quality and not quantity that my job hunt became dramatically more successful.
4. Refusing to Venture Outside of Cyberspace
In our world of cyberspace everything, many job seekers don’t venture outside of the internet for their job search. Yet old-school techniques like stopping by the company office to inquire on available jobs remain effective. In fact, up to 47% of job seekers who stop by the office of a company they’re interested in, whether or not there is a job posting available, will gain employment. Yes, I’ve actually seen this work.
The risk of making a hiring decision that doesn’t work out is very high. Therefore, the hirer is very careful about not making a mistake.
Quality is King
How does a job seeker demonstrate quality? Is it through a generic resume and cover letter? Or something different?
The hirer is perpetually afraid. Hiring is a very expensive endeavor for an organization. The cost of a new hire in a management position, according to a report by the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, can be up to 150% of that person’s salary. That is, if the salary of a new hire is $50,000, the organization can expect to spend up to $75,000 on acquisition costs, HR expenses, training, and any financial hiring compensation.
The risk of making a hiring decision that doesn’t work out is very high. Therefore, the hirer is very careful about not making a mistake. The focus on applicant quality is very high. So how does the job seeker demonstrate quality before the interview?
- A Non-Generic Resume
Take a look at these interesting resumes. However you may feel about them, they’re guaranteed to evoke an emotion. Relationships are built on emotion; not logic. And a new job is most certainly a relationship. The job seeker should tailor their resume to the industry they’re interested in. It doesn’t have to follow the examples above, but a twist in an otherwise standard resume will only help the candidate. I like to call this strategic personality.
- A Creative Application
When the delivery of the application isn’t required to be done through a company website, take some creative license and demonstrate quality in the medium of delivery. Try mailing in the application in a box addressed to the hirer. Boxes nearly always get opened; letters don’t.
Create a landing page for your application. You don’t have to be technical to do this – with Unbounce you can create a stand-alone web page with no technical know how at all. For visually non-creative people such as myself, this is an easy solution to really make an impact.
- Evidence of Research
Do research on the job itself, as well as the hirer. If you’re able to find out who the hirer is, mail them a personal note. Call them up and ask for them on the telephone. Send them a personal email. Appeal to their wants; everybody likes personalization. Bypass HR and deliver your application directly to the hiring party (if you can reliably find out who this is).
- Solve a Problem
Go above and beyond in your application. Through your research of the company, you should have come across a particular project they’re involved in or a specific area of their business that they’re making progress in. Take some time and draft up plan for how you would solve their problem or contribute to a solution. Demonstrate competence.
If you have computer programming skills, contribute to a related open-source project on GitHub. If you’re a copywriter, rewrite a section of the company’s website that you think needs improvement, and give your analysis.
Lying on a resume is, unfortunately, widespread among job applicants. This is why demonstrating a skill is so powerful; it cuts through the layers of carefully crafted qualification statements on applications and shows immediate competency.
This is related to the point above. Just because many applicants do blur fact and fiction on a resume doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. If you are looking to learn a skill that’s required for the job, write that you’re looking to learn it on your resume. Don’t say you are an expert. Doing this helps neither party.
Quality Over Quantity
Ok, there really is only one thing the job hirer looks for. They want a quality candidate that will contribute to their organization. Remember, hiring is expensive. Seriously. If a new hire doesn’t work out, the organization has lost a ton of money.
Hirers want to be wooed. They want the bouquet of roses, the chocolate covered strawberries, and the handwritten note putting their worries at ease. But it’s the job of the hirer to sniff out dishonesty. Don’t do it without the goods to back it up.
Finding a job is not rocket science. It’s definitely not easy, but think about all the time that the typical job seeker spends blasting out resumes to companies they’ve never heard of. Instead of putting in minimal effort, try instead to court interesting companies. Use targeted channels like FreshGigs.ca. Go and say hello. Introduce yourself. And above all, let your decisions be guided by the concept of quality over quantity.