Job hunting going into 2012 continues to be the most brutal and challenging it has been since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and it certainly doesn’t look as though it’s going to get any easier anytime soon, either. Believe me, as the title of my book (“Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever!) suggests, today the “rules” of the “hiring game” have indeed changed!
In this blog I am going to first briefly review the job hunting approach—referred to as “Post & Hope”—that used to work, and still is thought (erroneously) by many to continue to be working. Then I am going to illustrate to you why this approach in fact no longer does work for the vast majority of today’s job hunters. And finally, I am going to show you a workable alternative to the “Post & Hope” approach, an alternative that will allow you to cut through all the “clutter” surrounding today’s busy, frazzled hiring managers and the companies they represent—and get hired!
As recently as just a few years ago, you could reasonably expect to apply to a position on the Internet, i.e., the “job boards,” have a real, live person review and evaluate your résumé and then receive at least some type of response:
- An email, letter or postcard telling you that your résumé was in fact received, reviewed and would (perhaps) be kept on file for future reference.
- An email asking you to complete an additional online application (which could mean you were possibly advancing to the next level).
- Or, maybe, just maybe, you would actually receive a phone call and have a phone interview.
Here is the scenario that typically unfolds today when you post for a job on the Internet:
- Hundreds, if not thousands of résumés are received for literally any open position. (Two examples: One position our recruiting firm recently posted received 809 online applications. One of our clients recently told me her company received over 1,700 applications for a position it posted.)
- Virtually all résumés, especially in the larger companies, are “read” exclusively by computers, at least during the initial stages of applicant consideration.
- Usually, only résumés that contain the appropriate “key words” for any given position will “bubble” to the top of the initial computer “read.” If your résumé does not contain these key words, it is doomed to stay “buried” forever, no matter how many times you might subsequently apply for the position.
- Even if your résumé makes the “first cut” by the computer, if you happen to be the 800th applicant, and the company finds the candidate of its choice in, say, the first 200 applicants, you will hear nothing further from the company—even if you just happen to be the most qualified candidate to apply!
- And, if your résumé somehow does rise to the top in the initial search by the company’s computer, you can still have a long, long way to go. Since staffing levels in Human Resources have been significantly cut in recent years, and with a commensurate doubling or tripling of the number of résumés received per job opening, best case scenario, those limited number of résumés that ultimately do get read by a human being will get a mere 20 to 30 second review, if that.
- Sometimes you may receive a computer-generated response telling you that your résumé was received. But, more often than not, you don’t receive anything.
- And if you are very, very lucky, you may actually receive an email asking you to fill out an online application, again often never hearing back.
The fact is, Human Resource departments at companies today want you to think and believe that the only way to get a job is to find their posting and make an application online. Thus, like lemmings, 95% of all job seekers find a posting online, apply and then “hope” they hear back. I think you will agree, “post and hope” is not a very viable strategy!
How to break through all the “clutter” and get hired!
Is there an alternative way of circumventing the Internet, breaking through all the “clutter” surrounding hiring managers and companies today and actually getting hired? You bet there is! But there is an important caveat: You will have to be prepared to do things differently from 95% of today’s job seekers.
Launching a direct mail campaign is one of the top “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets working in the currently brutal, highly competitive job market and it powerfully brands you as someone who is, in fact, unique and different. Here are the six steps involved in this tactic:
- Step 1: Know what you are good at and be able to brand yourself in regard to how you can make a company money or save a company money.
- Step 2: Identify appropriate companies.
- Step 3: Identify appropriate people to target.
- Step 4: Craft your direct mail letter using the techniques shown below.
- Step 5: Follow up with an appropriately worded phone call (or voice mail).
- Step 6: Follow up any voice mail with an appropriately worded email.
Since I have discussed the details of steps 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 in previous blogs, in this blog I am going to focus exclusively on Step 4, how to craft a direct mail letter that will get you hired! (Also see “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! for complete details about using this direct mail approach.)
There are FOUR critical components of a successful direct mail letter:
- The “headline”
- Bullet points
- Statement of “Accomplishments and achievements” geared toward making a company money or saving a company money
- The “P.S.”
Let me illustrate how these components work together by showing you some key excerpts from a direct mail letter that recently got one of my executive recruiting firm’s candidates hired. This candidate was applying for a technical sales position with a leading paint and coatings company. (Click here to see the entire direct mail letter.)
Here is the headline that was used in the direct mail letter (centered immediately after the salutation line and before the body copy, in bold face type):
XYZ Chemical Company has the strongest engineered ceramic
pigment technology in the marketplace!
I think you will agree, this is a headline that is sure to immediately caputure (and focus!) the attention of the hiring manager.
Here are the bullet points used immediately after the headline:
“And that is why we should connect . . . I can bring to you:
- A blend of both technical and sales skills
- A strong background in resins, additives & paint formulation
- Experience in paint applications, equipment and troubleshooting
- The ability to help a customer incorporate new technology more quickly by having led a team of chemists in the role of technical director”
Why use bullet points? Paragraphs usually get only a cursory read (if they get any read at all!) by a busy hiring manager. Conversely, bullet points strongly and effectively direct a reader’s attention and tend to get read!
This is how the candidate briefly outlined his “Accomplishments & Achievements” that are geared toward making the company money and/or saving the company money:
“Additionally, some documented successes include:
- Currently in sales/business development with $250 million division of a Specialty Chemicals company focused on value-added sales of raw materials into paint & coatings
- Achieved 121% of revenue budget in 2008.
- YTD, at 95% of budget, currently the highest in the company
- Sherwin Williams – Developed a new waterborne latex emulsion that brought in $260K in sales in year one and $4.1 million in year two. Additionally, led a team in solving a customer’s application problem, saving a $2 million account and increasing margins by 3%.”
Again, I think you will agree, in these bullet points, this candidate quickly and clearly demonstrates how he can make the company money and save the company money!
And finally, here is the “P.S.” used in the direct mail letter:
“P.S. I will call you on Tuesday, November 10th, at 9:00 AM CT to arrange a time for the two of us to talk. If this is not a convenient time, please ask Mary to call me (678-123-4567) and suggest an alternative.”
Just how important is a good “P.S.”? We learn in “Marketing 101” that a “P.S.” increases the readership of a letter by an astounding 75%! Plus, when one reads the “P.S.” and realizes that someone is actually going to call them, you have their attention and they usually will read the rest of the letter. (It is critical, of course, that you call them when you say you will!)
The most important message you should take away from this blog is this: Don’t succumb to the myth that the only way to find a job is to apply online—and then “hope” to hear something back. As we’ve seen, this approach rarely pays off for the majority of today’s job hunters. On the other hand, if you are willing (and courageous enough!) to start branding and marketing yourself like a “headhunter” would market you, such as using the direct mail letter approach featured in this blog, you can turn your job search into a job found!
Skip Freeman is the author of “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.