If you’re trying to find a job atZappos
, you might be surprised to stumble upon this message on its website, “No job posting? That’s right! We want to get to know who you really are and not let our first meeting just be through a job posting. We invite you to get to know us, and we want to get to know you, too!”
Yes, Zappos has completely eliminated job postings from its recruitment strategy, replacing it with a social network called Zappos Insiders, where potential candidates can network with employees and demonstrate their passion for the company.
While Zappos is taking an unconventional approach, it’s a good reminder that sending a resume in cold is typically not the best way to get hired.
It’s so difficult to stand out via the traditional online application process that it’s often referred to as a “black hole,” where a resume and cover letter can easily get lost and never seen by an actual recruiter. Management experts compare it to “throwing paper aeroplanes into the galaxy.”
We asked career experts how job seekers can avoid the resume black hole and stand out to hiring managers. Here’s what they said:
1. Actively tell people you’re on the job hunt.
Ryan Kahn, founder of The Hired Group explains that “the more people you have on your team knowing that you’re on the job hunt, the better. It increases your odds that somebody might refer you.” Anita Bruzzese, founder of 45things.com, agrees, saying: “When you’re looking for a job, don’t refuse help from anybody. What you want is more people talking about you.”
2. Look for personal referrals.
When major companies have a job opening, they circulate it internally before posting it on the job boards, which creates a “hidden job market.” How do you tap into thi
s market? “Pound the pavement. Make phone calls. Contact alumni organisations, go to job fairs, and build those kinds of networks that enable you to make the contacts that will get you the job,” says Peter Cappelli, professor of management at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Job applicants with referrals often get put in the “fast lane” of the hiring process, while those who apply online gradually sink to the bottom of the pile. Amanda Augustine, job search expert at TheLadders, advises, “If you know someone who works at the company, talk to them before you submit the application. Your connection can not only help you make it past the gatekeeper, but they can also provide you with insight into the company culture and hiring process.”
3. Contact the important people directly.
Find out who the hiring manager is and be bold. Try searching them on LinkedIn. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a shared connection who can help you out.
If not, try finding their email address. Kahn recalls a time when one of his students scored a job at a prestigious movie studio. “He did his research on the way that email addresses were formatted for that particular movie studio,” Kahn says, “and then used that format to contact the president of that company.”
Of course, if you use this method, don’t bore them with a generic resume or cover letter, and make sure you understand what the company is looking for. “My student told a very compelling story of how he grew up watching the company’s movies and always dreamed of working there,” says Kahn. “He then shared how he had been working hard toward this goal. That same day, he received a reply asking him to schedule a time to meet. He got hired at the company.”
4. Be visible.
Many recruiters now use Google and LinkedIn searches rather than job-board or talent databases to find good candidates. If you get lucky, recruiters might even come to you. Clean up and optimise your social media profiles so it’s easy to find you and clear what your interests and qualifications are.
“A big push right now is with social media,” Bruzzese says. “I’ve talked to a few companies who are tweeting job postings and engaging people that way.” If there is a specific company you are interested in, try following them through LinkedIn Careers, Twitter, and Facebook, and engage with them there.
5. Be creative.
Alice Lee, who was a marketing major at Wharton, launched a “Dear Instagram” website to persuade Instagram that she would be an ideal job candidate. In days, the site went viral. Although Instagram wasn’t hiring interns at the time, her creative approach to the hiring process brought her attention from other startups, and she found an internship she really loved.
Philippe Dubost, a web product manager, took a similar approach when he created an online profile modelled off Amazon.com’s layout. He presented his 5-star reviews, educational background, skills, and professional experience in a highly enjoyable way.
It is important to note that you can’t use gimmicks to make up for a lack of work experience. “If you aren’t really qualified for the position, doing something unique won’t help you too much,” notes Kahn.
6. Show how you can contribute.
If you find a way you can improve the company and develop a personal niche within it, you are far more likely to prove yourself to be useful. When looking for a new job, you can try to create a new position for yourself.
Propose a problem and offer to fix it, so you can fill a gap the company doesn’t even realise it has. For example, if you notice that a company you want to work for doesn’t have a strong Facebook or Twitter presence, you can suggest to work as its social media coordinator. Oftentimes, students use this approach to
make their own internships.
7. Leverage an internship.
In some cases, the best way to land a job can be to come in through a side door. If you stand out during your internship, your employers might make you an offer to stay on full time.
In 2012, 69% of companies with 100 or more employees made full-time job offers to their interns. Make sure you work hard and maintain strong relationships with your coworkers and bosses, and you could turn your internship into a full-time job.
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