I wish I had a dollar for every time a client mentions that he or she is “only applying to roles online” or “submitted 100 applications online over the last week” and is shocked no one reached out for an interview. Seriously; with all that money, I could have then justified buying the latest iGadget that will inevitably end up in my home anyway (sigh).
That “sigh” is lamenting both my household’s unexplainable need for Apple products as well as my clients’ equally unexplainable need for making their go-to job search strategy almost exclusively applying online. Let me clarify, though: this appears to be their go-to strategy before we start working together. When I delve further into the “why” behind their thinking, I am met with one of a few rationales:
- I was told this is the way to go. I need to get as many applications in as I can!
- I didn’t know of another way. I am just submitting as many applications as I can.
- Isn’t this the best way? I want to apply for as many roles as possible and can do so in my jammies.
As much as these statements make me want to either bang my head against a wall or laugh (it depends on the day), I typically respond in kind and with the following point:
Your job search strategy should be about quality rather than quantity.
Any guesses about what I mean there? Bueller? Consider this:
Your resume is no longer a stand-alone document and it’s not all about your responsibilities; rather it must be a strategic marketing tool that focuses on your achievements and is aligned with your LinkedIn profile, use of the full LinkedIn platform, considers your interview prep, etc. Even if your resume and LinkedIn profile are both amazing and your LinkedIn use is top-notch, no one will bother to view either or invite you in for an interview if all you do is apply online willy-nilly (note: I need to use the term willy-nilly” more often).
Sidenote: Ever heard of an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)? This is the software that automatically scans your resume/application whenever you apply online. What happens next to your job application for that role is based on a keyword scoring system. Basically, even if your absolutely amazing resume submitted for the role indicates you are a great fit for the role but it is missing out on the keywords connected to said role, your whole application will be on a dead-end street and NOT in a recruiter’s inbox. Basically: APPLYING ONLINE IS (typically) A GINORMOUS WASTE OF TIME!
As such, here are my *Top 5 Strategies for a Quality Job Search:
1) Job Search Documents: Actually ensure that your resume and LinkedIn profiles are focused on your achievements, well-written, and supportive of one another (but not identical!).
2) Identify your Goal: Are you looking to move up in the same sector you are in? Are you looking to transition to a new sector? Regardless, what are the top 5 companies you wish to target and do you know anyone at any of them? Make lists!
3) Target for a Bull’s Eye: Regardless of whether or not jobs are available at a specific company, reach out to people at each target organization. When possible, leverage your connections and/or leverage yours to leverage theirs. Your goal is not first and foremost to get an interview but rather land an informational conversation. Doing so may very well lead to an interview but you have then bypassed the whole “online application to nowhere” route. Ask your connections to make connections for you, also offering to do the same. This goes a long way!
4) Messages: Consider your message when reaching out to people; remember, it’s not about a specific job at this point. Your message to individuals, whether it is a personal connection or not, is more focused on learning about the company and hearing his or her opinions on the organization, how that person landed a job there, and what advice he or she has for you. In short, show contacts that you value their opinion and they are more likely to go to bat for you and provide essential information about the company itself.
5) Apply Online…When Necessary: Look, I live in the digital age and spend just as much time on my iDevice as you do (see above); I get that you will likely need to apply online at some point but here are some extra considerations:
- Identify the central keywords in the job description and tweak your resume for that specific role; remember to keep a main resume and save another version as the one you will use for a specific role. Minor modifications to your resume that reflect a specific job description will do wonders in getting you past the ATS (Note: you do NOT need to do this for your LinkedIn profile as that is not scanned automatically by software when you apply for a specific role. Rather, a person will look at the profile once you have gotten past the ATS and people are generally smarter than software programs. Generally.)
- Apply online and let someone at the company know you did so because it is protocol but you wish to speak to someone about the role and overall organization. Request to know whom your contact suggests would be the ideal person to speak to regarding the role? Follow-up!
Bonus Tip! Track Yourself (a.k.a., Spreadsheets are Fun!): Look, I may be preaching to the choir here if you have Sheldon Cooper-ized your life (for my non Big Bang Theory readers, if you obsessively label everything and adore organization). Regardless, I suggest tracking your progress. Start with Point 2 and craft a spreadsheet that breaks down the companies you wish to target (aiming for 5-7 at first) and including any contacts you have. Note whom you reach out to, when, and the result. When needed, send gentle reminders to people for conversations or connecting emails and note that as well. Look at your progress and make alterations when needed.
Countless clients have reported being shocked at just how quickly this job search strategy overhaul has led to informational interviews, real interviews, and job offers. While applying online sounds like a good and the only route, placing some strategy and parameters around your search is a superb way to ensure a more efficient and effective to landing your next big role.