10 Outdated Job-Search Techniques to Avoid
I read a funny anecdote yesterday. It went something like this:
The boss took half of the resumes we received today and threw them in the trash. He said, "I don't hire unlucky people."
It's funny, it's probably fake, and it's generally not the way things are done. Unless you really do come across a maniac at the top of the food chain, there are certain things you can do to improve your chances of getting an interview, and other things that put your whole career on the back burner. (See also: 5 Fatal Assumptions of Job Seekers)
Here are ten job-search techniques that you should try to avoid if you want to improve your chances of getting hired.
1. Apply Online
Do I hear shockwaves? Are people yelling "no, no, you must apply online!"? Well, this one came straight from the head of HR at a very reputable Fortune 500 corporation. When you apply online these days, you're competing against hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of other online submissions. And guess what? They all look the same.
So how do you stand out as an amazing candidate in a sea of identical resumes, goals, and cover letters? The online option is just too much of a hit-or-miss way to go about it. If you really want the job, find out who the hiring manager is and drop them a line. A call or an email is a lot better than filling out an online form. Even better, write a letter and mail your resume. Make it professional and unique, and address it to the person who will make the hiring decision. Congratulations, you have just leap-frogged over the hundreds of cookie-cutter online submissions.
2. Submit to New Job Postings that Are Already Old
It's sad but true. Many jobs that get published have already been circulating for a while. Employees within the company will be asked if they know anyone who's good for the position. Headhunters will be contacted. Word-of-mouth spreads the job. By the time you see the job in the classifieds and apply, candidates from far and wide have sent in their resumes, and you're already at a disadvantage. The job may simply be posted so that the company can be seen to be offering equal opportunities to everyone. So if you really want a job in a certain field or company, be proactive. Get to know the hiring managers or HR people. Do some cold calling. Ask around. You want to be fishing for the best jobs before they're announced to the masses.
3. Send Out Masses of Unsolicited Resumes
This was a tactic a friend of mine employed as we were finishing college, and it worked like a charm — not. The mass-mailers are usually fruitless and can waste a ton of your time and money. Not only that, it irritates hiring managers, and these resumes usually end up in the trash. There's nothing wrong with showing initiative, but don't start sending out junk mail. And blasting email boxes is just as bad, which is easy to do as it costs nothing.
4. Cease to Look when the Holidays Start
This one always puzzles me. "Well, it's really close to the New Year, no one will be around anyway. I'll start looking again in January." Arghh! If you're thinking that, guess what? Everyone is! And you have a prime opportunity to get your resume in front of someone when there's minimal competition. What's more, the holidays are a time of year when workloads slow down for many hiring managers, so they have more time to spend looking through resumes, not less. And as end of year budget proposals are due for the following year, planning for new hires is front of mind. The holidays are when job seekers should get busy, not idle.
5. Assume that If there's No Job Posted, It Means There's No Job Available
Another story I read recently involved a guy who found a security flaw at the hotel he was staying at. It wasn't malicious; it was by accident. He informed them of it and also let them know that if they needed an IT professional, he was unemployed and looking for work. He was soon employed for $150k a year.
The moral of this story, whether it's true or "inspired," is that opportunities present themselves everywhere. You can't assume that the only jobs around are the ones that are out there right now. Your skills could be perfect for a company, and they may not even know they need you yet. Keep your eyes and ears open, be inventive, and jump on every half-chance. You never know where it may lead you.
6. Apply for More Jobs to Increase Your Odds
Here's another common error. "If I apply for 100 jobs, I'll get more interviews and that will mean more chances of getting hired." Well, not really. If you're firing off standard cover letters and resumes to every job that sounds remotely interesting, you'll fail to get noticed by any of the hiring managers. You're basically hoping that your resume gets pulled out of the hat and you get the call. You need to be smarter; be targeted. Pick out the jobs you really want and write cover letters and resumes that are tailor-made for those jobs. Do your homework. Find out everything you can about the role, and make an application that cannot be ignored. Now, you're not relying on chance any more. In this day and age, quality is far better than quantity.
7. Have Only One Resume and Cover Letter
This is related to the previous tip, but is worth noting in its own right. When I got a job in advertising some 16 years ago, I wrote a different letter for every position I was going for. I learned about the company, what their successes had been, and how I could best fit within that structure. That was 16 years ago, when jobs were tough to come by. Now, they're even tougher. So do not ever rely on one standard resume and cover letter for every job you apply for. Job searching is hard work; some say it's a full-time job, so you cannot just run of 20 copies of each application and put them in 20 envelopes. Worse still, if you do apply online or via email, a simple copy and paste is just not good enough. Focus. Dig deep. Get to know the company, the hiring manager, and the challenges they face. It proves you're a step ahead and do nothing by halves.
8. Rely On Just One Job Search Technique
It's great to check a site like Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com every day. But don't pop online, see what's new, and then log off and grab 40 winks. It's outdated thinking to expect the ideal job will be in the one place you're looking. This is the age of digital networking, featuring Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, job forums, Google groups, and so much more. Dive into them all. The perfect job could be lurking inside any one of them.
9. Focus on Yourself
What? But it's all about you, right? Nope. It's all about the employer. They're like a first date, and they want to know how interested you are in them, not yourself. It may have worked well in the past, but that kind of "me, me, me" attitude does not sit well with employers these days. Let them know how you fit in with their organization. Show them why you would make a great addition to their team. Set your sights on making the employer feel like they're the only company you'd ever want to work for, because they're the perfect fit. When you focus on them, they focus on you.
10. Refuse to Change Careers
Remember the days when people were accountants at one company for 30 years and then got a gold watch at a retirement party? Those days are gone. And with the rapid and constant changes in technology, new careers are springing up all the time. There was a guy in my graduating class at college who was on his third career. He had trained as a sign painter, a job that was made redundant with cut vinyl lettering. He retrained as a typesetter, but desktop publishing left that career as more of a niche hobby. So, he went to college at 40 to get a graphic design degree.
How many jobs are out there now that weren't around 10 years ago? Or even 5? Social media is booming. It employs many thousands of people. They had to come from somewhere, and no doubt many people switched career paths, recognizing the way their own set of skills dovetailed into this new enterprise. So while you shouldn't cast your net so wide as to be fruitless, consider fields that are related to yours in some way.
These are the ten most common mistakes I see people making. Do you know any more, or are you an expert in the HR field with some advice to offer? Chime in.