SECURE THE JOB YOU WANT & EXCEL
You have used many sources, including the Internet, to research the industry, your target organization and the positions currently available there. Now, you have got to go back to all of your personal contacts to express your specific job interests and enlist their assistance in approaching the most appropriate individuals to contact for the job. The majority of positions, including entry-level jobs, become available and are filled through leads provided by an organization’s employees without ever being posted externally.
One way or another, you have to identify who are the key hiring managers and officials at your target organizations for the type of position you want to obtain. Enlist the help of your personal contacts to obtain the name, e-mail address and direct phone number of the hiring manager or human resources official responsible for filling the position. If this is not possible and you are unable to find this information elsewhere such as online, then call the organization’s human resources department, switchboard or receptionist to ask for assistance in obtaining this information.
Your objective is to talk directly with the key hiring manager or human resources official in order to arrange for a personal interview. To do so, your challenge is to get around his or her assistant or secretary who usually acts as that person’s “gatekeeper” in screening calls and making it difficult for people to talk directly to that individual. One way to get around a gatekeeper is to call the key person on his or her direct phone line after the gatekeeper has left the office, say anytime between 5:15 and 6:00 PM.
This is why it is always an advantage to have a good introduction to clear the way. Whenever possible, ask one of your contacts to call a senior person at the organization to “open the door” so you can say, “Mr. So-and-So recommended that I call you regarding the position of ______ at your organization”, using an upbeat, positive, confident tone of voice. If the person is not there, leave a brief voice message requesting that he or she call you back giving your phone number and a time when you can be reached.
If you are not able to talk directly to the person responsible for hiring, e-mail a covering letter together with your attached résumé directly to the individual’s e-mail address. Put the title of the position being filled in your e-mail’s subject line.
Before you respond to an online job posting at an organization you have identified as an attractive prospective employer, again try to find out who is the hiring manager or the name of the person in the human resources department handling the hiring. Use his or her name in responding. Make every effort to secure a face-to-face meeting with a representative of the organization. Often, you may need to utilize other personal contacts to help you arrange such a meeting in the manner that was described previously.
With most online job postings, the employer is likely going to receive hundreds, if not thousands, of responses. You better make sure that yours stands out from the herd. Customize both your response and your résumé so they are highly relevant to each specific employer.
Recognize that many job opportunities will never be posted outside of the organization that you have identified as one where you would like to work. This is why you often need to contact the relevant hiring manager or someone else in a management position to express your strong interest in working there and to ask what positions may be available in the areas that suit your background. At smaller organizations, you should contact the president or executive director for this purpose.
Almost as important as your résumé is the covering letter you send with your résumé. It should be addressed to the specific individual responsible for interviewing and hiring for the available position. As was described earlier, you have to use your best sleuthing efforts to find out that person’s name.
Start your letter “Dear Mr. Jones:” as opposed to “Dear Bob:”. Make certain you use the correct spelling for the individual’s name and title. Sign off the letter with: “Sincerely yours,” and your first name. Underneath, put your full name and contact information if this is not included in the letterhead at the top of your first page.
Make the covering letter brief and to the point. Keep it to a maximum of one page. Do not make your letter too stiff or formal. Inject some of your personality into how you express yourself. Consider including the three or four most compelling points on why you are qualified for the position, using bullets to do so. You want to grab the attention of the reader and make that person want to read your résumé and meet with you.
As is the case with your résumé, attempt to include the identical keywords and phrases contained in the job ad or posting in the covering letter, especially where you can use them to describe your qualifications for the position. If the job ad says that applicants “must have a passion for customer service” and this describes you, state in your covering letter and résumé that you “possess a passion for customer service”.
Do not include any apologies or mention that you may lack some of the job qualifications in your letter. This just makes it easy for the reader to reject you. Also, do not put a lot of “I” statements in your covering letter as in “I did this” and “I want that.” The letter needs to be more about the organization and what you can do for it than being all about you. To help differentiate your covering letter from others, include a one-sentence “PS:” at the bottom that says something positive, such as the prime reason you would be a terrific hire for this position or simply “I am extremely interested in this job.”
Keep in mind that some people will not bother to read the covering letter and will go straight to your résumé. Consequently, make sure that any important points contained in your covering letter are also in some way included in your résumé. On the other hand, do not use the covering letter to repeat the main points contained in your résumé.
Similar to your résumé, get someone you trust to proof-read a draft of your covering letter as silly, small mistakes can cause a quick rejection of your application. Never rely solely on your computer’s spell-check to catch any spelling or grammatical mistake.
In most cases, it is best to send your covering letter and résumé by e-mail as opposed to snail-mail. Place the covering letter below the text of your e-mail or show it as the first attachment above your résumé attachment. It is always worthwhile also to send a hardcopy of your covering letter and résumé by regular mail with a small hand-written post-it note attached to the top of the letter saying, “Sent to you by e-mail on [the date].” Use the same good quality 8 1/2” x 11” paper for both your résumé and covering letter, and send them unfolded in a large envelope.
After you have e-mailed your covering letter and résumé, follow up with a phone call to the hiring manager, using his or her direct line, two or three days later. Again, try to avoid having to go through that person’s “gatekeeper” as it is usually advantageous to speak directly to the individual who received your e-mail. Say that you recently e-mailed your résumé to her or him, state that you definitely are interested in this position, and request an opportunity to come in for an interview. Expand briefly on why you think you are qualified for the job if you are able to do so.
In the event the secretary or assistant of the hiring manager is blocking you from talking directly to the key person, you have to be diplomatic and professionally friendly in enlisting that person’s assistance in getting your message through. The more you can establish some form of rapport with this gatekeeper, the better your chances are of ultimately speaking to the right person in the organization.
If you are given any flexibility in scheduling the time of your interview when there are multiple interviews being conducted, try your best to become the last or second last person being interviewed. If necessary, make some excuse about not being available at an earlier time. Being last greatly heightens your chances of being well remembered.
Appendix 1. Personal Worksheet Sample
Appendix 2. Résumé Sample
Appendix 3. Covering Letter Sample
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