okay, some job-search 101 time here. as you may know, i run recruiting for zoominfo. not a massive multinational by any means (some aspirations to world domination, but that’s mostly after a few beers and hands of texas hold ’em). we have 80 employees, we’re growing, etc, but it’s not like we’re an IBM sized company. i bring thus up to set perspective.

when you apply for a role, you have to realize that the person (in this case little old me) that is on the receiving end of your message is probably getting flooded by applications. even in a “candidate’s market” where everyone seems to be hiring. the diference is that the flood of applications is full of a lot more crud than usual. you need to stand out.

now, don’t go thinking “oh, great, i’ll attach a youtube video-resume along with a sending in a mime-o-gram to stand out”. that’s standing out only in the sense that it tells me to avoid you like the plague. and maybe be a little extra-careful walking to my car on dark nights after work.

you can stand out in better, and frankly easier ways.

so, first things and back to the stage i set in the first paragraph. even in a small company like zoominfo, i get a lot of emails – we ran a search for a marketing director, and from August through late November (when we finally hired our new superstar), i received over 300 applications for the job. when you consider that i have been working on around 5+ openings at any given time (yes, we’re hiring – apply now!), well, i’m looking at a _ton_ of resumes/cover letters, etc. on top of which i’m actually conducting interviews, setting up a new career site, etc. oh, and i’m wasting my time on a blog that no one reads. if i don’t see something that catches my eye (positively) in an initial communication from an applicant pretty quickly i’m probably going to pass. it’s a s&&ty system, i know, but oh so typical. working to improve it, but then there’s even less time…

so, what to do on your end? well, a couple do’s & (probably more imporatantly) don’t’s (?)

first off, personalize, personalize, personlaize – companies are like people, they like to be liked for themselves. if you’re just shuffling off a canned cover letter response to every posting you see, you’re not going to get a great response. if i get a message from someone that clearly knows who we are, that person gets a closer look. see if you can draw some (quick) parallels as to why you’re a great fit for the company. dig into their website, look them up on our company info site, and make some connections.

  • this is important: try to get around me. well, rather, try and find out who the logical hiring manager for the role probably is, and address your info to both that person as well as HR/ recruiting. send an a-mail to the manager, cc:ing me. this is important, because i’m an idiot who can barely spell c++. if there’s somthing about your skill set that the manager can spot and i can’t , they may “encourage” HR to talk to you. also, the manager may have a job in the back of their mind they’ve been passively keeping their eyes open for. if nothing else, it shows you made an effort to get to know the company.

second, brevity counts – Blaise Pascal was fond of saying: “The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter.” no matter how brilliant it is, think about those 300 applicants for one job in 3 months. ’nuff said.

get a friend with some business sense to read it before you send it out if you’re unsure – one of your parents, someone from your universities career office (even if you graduated 2 billion years ago they want to help), an old boss, whoever. also important because spelling errors are about as sexy in an applicant as, oh, showering in drakar noir before hitting the clubs.

let them know you’ll be following up within a set (no more than week – 3 business days is optimal) period of time. this shows you’re specific to them, that you’re proactive, and that they should at least take a look at your resume in a timely fashion. if you call & get voicemail, leave a message. don’t stalk them after that, since they’ll just slap a mental restraining order on you.

  • in this area, it’s probably best to follow up with HR/ recruiting, not the hiring manager

if you’ve enlisted the service of a bot to crawl the web and blast out your canned cover letter wherever it sees some matching keywords, stop it right now – those are obvious, and don’t win you any friends. a lot of the time the bot applies to the same job over & over again, and then you’re labeled as a pest. completely useless, and frankly a huge waste your money

finally, try and inject a little (sane) humor into your letter if you dare. in this instance, i insist you show the thing to someone else – there’s a fine line between cheeky and cheesy, not to mention downright weird. that said, a cover letter with a whiff of personality is a welcome break for the recruiter to read after trolling through all the dross they receive, and if you can make someone smile, they like you without even meeting you.