Edge Out Your Job Search Competition

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

Want to do something to boost your job search and get the edge over other candidates? Here are five things 95% of your competition – other job seekers – DON’T do but which can make a huge difference in winning the interview.

1 - Send Thank You Cards – Do you remember what thank you cards are? Most of us correspond by email these days. The thought of actually writing something on paper and sending it through the mail with a stamp is becoming a foreign idea. Sending hand-written thank you notes is so uncommon that it is notable. In fact, hiring managers report they give more attention to job seekers who send thank you notes following the interview. Candidates who send a quick note advance to second interviews more often than those who don’t. The simple act of writing a note, sticking a stamp on it and dropping it in the mail can have a significant impact on your job search success.

Why does this work? The candidate who writes a thank you note is practicing what marketing professionals call “branding”. Whenever something is marketed, repeated exposure to product advertising is required before the consumer “registers” the existence of the product and pays attention. Sending a thank you note after an interview or contact adds one more exposure to the “product” – the job seeker. If a hiring manager has 10 candidates he calls for a first interview, and only one candidate writes a thank you note, it is almost guaranteed that candidate will at least make it to the second round of interviews.

2 - Help Your Network Contacts – Are you a foul weather network contact? Do you only show up when you need something from your network? Foul weather contacts do not enjoy accommodating responses from people they know. Change the dynamics. Do something nice and helpful for your network contacts and do it without any expectations of reward or reciprocity. Keep in touch just because you care. Know what is happening in their lives. Practice the Golden Rule. And that thank you note thing from above – it applies to network contacts, too. If someone gives you a lead or helpful info, drop them a quick note of thanks.

3 - Research Target Companies – What do you know about the companies to which you apply? Probably not much. If you go so far as to read the company website, you are above the norm, but what about actual research? You know, delving into annual reports, press releases, media pieces, etc.? Knowledge is power. Comprise notes on companies to which you apply. As you do your research, you may discover the company is not a good “fit” for you. You may discover information that is going to be very helpful in an interview. Hiring managers expect candidates to read the corporate website. If you can demonstrate you went beyond that in your research, you will make a positive impression.

4 - Use an Effective Cover Letter – Half of most job seekers do not include a cover letter. Their reasoning is based on a common misconception that hiring managers don’t read cover letters. Do you base your job search marketing on this urban legend? Hiring managers DO read cover letters! Do all of them read all cover letters? No, but one thing is assured – if you don’t include a cover letter, it absolutely won’t be read, thus it won’t add to the success of your job search. 

A great cover letter is a total job search asset. So many things can be introduced in a cover letter which simply don’t fit in a resume. The cover letter can introduce additional information that will distinguish you from other candidates. A cover letter should support your resume in content and bring further attention to exceptional parts of your background. You can bring in “added benefits” in a cover letter such as willingness to relocate at your own expense, or that you have special training that is required for the position.

5 - Follow Up – Do you follow up on resume submissions and applications? Most people do not. Those who do are actively “branding” their job search as described above. They are working toward name exposure and name recognition. Job seekers who follow up on resume submissions and stay in touch on a regular basis with recruiters enjoy a higher success rate than job seekers who do not.

Many job ads are “blind” ads and do not provide any contact information.  It is virtually impossible to follow up to a blind ad; however, blind ads should be a very small proportion of your job search outreach. Often, blind ads are not “legitimate” open positions and in some cases, they may actually be “phishing” activities by less-than-honest individuals seeking private data to resell.

Your job search should be proactive and aggressive. You should be actively reaching out to companies and recruiters who are not advertising for open positions. You should be establishing a virtual phone book of contact information related to your job search and then following up on your actions. It’s not enough to make one contact then sit back and wait. You must engage in a consistent, active, scheduled regime of communications that ensures your resume is noticed and your name is recognized.

These are five things that make a significant impact on the success of job search. Most people do not take the trouble or time to include them in their search activities. They aren’t hard, and they aren’t expensive. They may take a little time but time is valuable when you are unemployed. Invest that time into taking your job search to the highest level and your time will become a positive resource.