When you answer an online ad, you are competing with hundreds, or often thousands, of other applicants. In fact, I was recently talking to an HR Executive at a Fortune 500 company who shared with me that they received 6,000 resumes for one Customer Service Manager opening! Because of this situation, the filtering process (either human or computer) looks for as close to an exact match as possible. So, you could have a great resume and cover letter, but statistically speaking the odds are still against you making the cut. Plus, the initial screening is often done by a junior-level HR person, who doesn’t know the job requirements as well as the hiring manager– another reason that you can be excluded even if you think you’d be great for the position.
So what to do? Here’s what I and other Five O’Clock Club coaches recommend:
1) Make it hard for HR to screen you out. Write a cover letter that uses the “your requirements vs. my qualifications” format. This can be in two columns, or one after the other. In this format, you are excerpting portions of the ad and then showing exactly how you meet the particular requirement. (Don’t use this format if your background is not a close match with their requirements.) Very effective technique.
2) Don’t list your salary, unless the ad says you will not be considered without salary being listed. Say: “I would be glad to discuss salary requirements upon mutual interest.” If the ad says you must give salary, give a broad range.
3) Use ads as a means of identifying opportunities, answer the ad, then network in to the hiring manager, or just contact the hiring manager directly. This really works well if you can identify the right person and write your message correctly– you don’t even have to reference the original ad. By the way, LinkedIn is one great resource for helping you to find the right person to contact (as described extensively in my book). Their “Jobs” feature in fact helps you to identify people in your network connected with ads posted on LinkedIn. There are other approaches to identifying the right person to contact, which I’ll save for another blog post.