Video: Cover letters that crack the hidden job market

How to crack the hidden job market

The much-rumored hidden job market actually does exist – it is any job that is not explicitly advertised.  To get traction for this kind of job lead, you need a lot of research and a strong cover letter.

Video recorded on Sept. 14, 2011 at the Brown Bag Job Search Group.  For more information on this free networking group in the Denver area, please visit http://www.meetup.com/Brown-Bag-Job-Search-Group/
Interested in more cover letter tips?  Check out our book, “Get a Job Without Going Crazy.”

Don’t be spam: how to get the hiring manager to actually read your email

Don't be spam with your resumeIn the immortal words of Monty Python, “Spam! Wonderful spam! Spam! Wonderful spam! Spam, spam, spam, spam…”

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what many job seekers emails to key decision makers looks like. The world is flooded with spam, to the point that legitimate emails – like yours – are getting caught in trash folders or screened out entirely.

So how does one make sure that his important resume doesn’t end up in the spam pile?

Use an Engaging Subject Line

No manager is going to open an email with a subject line of “My Resume.” This is a huge flag, and it is more likely to get forwarded to HR or just deleted without being opened. Instead, use an engaging subject line, customized to your specific target.

A couple of things that managers care about are themselves and their company.  If you’re paying attention to current news through such local sources as the Denver Business Journal, ask them something about the recent events. Another source is their LinkedIn profile.  Ask them something about their career or their company.

Correct: Your recent merger; Question about your LinkedIn profile;

Avoid like the plague: My resume; Letter of Introduction; Job opening at XYZ Company

 

It’s all About the Name

When sending an email to a manager of one of your target companies, make sure you use their correct name.  This is in addition to the correct email address.  If you start off the body of the email personally addressed to them, it is more likely that they will open the attached resume:

Correct: Dear Mr. Smith: or Dear Bob:

Avoid like the plague: Dear Sir, To Whom It May Concern, no greeting at all

 

Send to Only One Person at a Time

Spam filters look for mass emails, even the ones where the other email addresses are in the “BCC” (blind carbon copy) fields.  If you go out and get a list of 100 CEO’s email addresses and blast a generic email out to all of them, all you are doing is creating spam.

To be effective, send your email to only one specific person at a time. For each of your target companies, it is likely that you will send your resume to all of the top managers.  However, each and every one of those emails needs to be personalized in order to gain any attention.

 

Follow up on the Phone

I know it sounds scary, but job searching rewards the bold.  Wait a few hours after sending your email, and then call the manager to see if she got it.  You may not actually get to speak to your target, but leaving a professional voice mail can encourage them to check their inbox – and trash – for your email.

Answers to 5 Common Frustrations with HR

Frustrated with your job search?

HR can be frustrating to even the most patient job seeker

Looking for a job is not easy, and unchecked frustrations only add to the anxiety levels.  By now, you have already developed some of your own pet peeves about the hiring process.  Do any of these sound familiar?

 

  1. Why won’t they send a rejection letter?  I just want to know either way…

It’s cheap to be rude.  HR is swamped with hundreds of resumes.  Rejection letters are the very bottom of their priority list.  Even an automated reply requires updating the data base.  To help get around this time-consuming tasks, many companies now use an automated response when you apply to the job, which includes statements like “We will contact you if your skills and experience is appropriate for the position.” If you don’t hear back from a company within 4-6 weeks, it’s safe to assume you didn’t make the cut.

 

  1. If a job closes in two weeks, why do they leave the ad on an employment site for two months?

There could be two reasons for this.  First, HR departments get so busy moving forward with the screening process that they forget to take the job down.

Second, they want to keep the field open.  If the top candidates fall through, it costs money to re-list the job opening.  However, keeping the same posting up costs no extra cash.

 

  1. I interviewed but didn’t get the job.  When I asked for feedback as to why, I only got vague and generalized answers.  Why?

Legal reasons.  No company will open this can of worms. Hiring decisions are confidential to thwart any possible appearance that discrimination occur – note that is the appearance, not the actual presence of discrimintation.  In our lawsuit happy society, it is HR’s duty to protect the company from any real or imagined threat.

If you are working with an outside recruiter, you might get better feedback; however, even this answer will be guarded.  This is another reason why it is helpful to work with a job search counselor to gain professional advice and critiques.

 

  1. How can I research blind ads to get directly to the hiring manager?

First of all, a blind ad is any job posting that does not list the company name or any direct contact information.  This is very frustrating to job seekers who want to research the company before submitting a resume.
HR departments run blind ads specifically to block job seekers from knowing who they are, or who the hiring managers may be.  However, if you are in touch with your industry and staying on top of the business news, you might be able to make an educated guess.
If you can’t deduce the company, submit your best cover letter and resume for the situation.  While you can’t discuss their specific business, use some tricks from this book to stand out from the crowd.

 

  1. I got strong feedback from the interviewers that I had the job, but the company decided to not hire anyone.  Why go through the motions?

Their priorities changed, which probably had nothing to do with you.  However, if you can convince the potential employer that you will either save the company money or make money (or both), the hiring manager or HR person is more likely to champion your cause.

7 Critical Indicators to Evaluate Your Job Search

Feedback is very minimal in job hunting.  How can you tell if your tactics are effective?  Professional recruiters know the indicators regarding a search and use them to gauge the effectiveness of their own strategies.  To see how your efforts compare, look at these common factors:

1. How long does a job search take?

  • For every $10,000 of salary, add one month to your search.

A $40,000 job takes 4 months to land, but a six-figure salary can take up to 10 months.  Maximum for most top executives hovers around one year.  However, learning more about the hiring process can significantly minimize this time.  Taking a job search class or using a consultant can add new tools to your arsenal.

 2. How many resumes do I have to send before I get an interview?

  • 10 to 20 if you carefully research most of the jobs.
  • 20 to 50 in a cool market.
  • 100+ if you are not doing any research.

If you have sent over 30 resumes without a single phone interview, you need to re-evaluate your resume and/or your tactics.  This is the best way to tell if your resume is effective or not, since HR departments will not give you any response if you ask for feedback on why you weren’t selected for a job.

3. How long does it take to get a response about a job?

  • Most job postings are open for 1 to 2 weeks.  It takes another 1-2 weeks for HR to make their recommendations.  Phone interviews are scheduled 3-4 weeks after a job posts.
  • Highly technical, executive level or niche market openings have a longer hiring cycle.  Expect phone interviews within 45-60 days.
  • Government jobs may take up to 3 months to schedule interviews.

Since HR departments can have a long screening process, it is essential to send a resume directly to the hiring manager as well as following HR’s procedures.

4. How many jobs should I apply to each week?

  • 5 – 10 if you research every position.
  • 10-30 if you send out stock cover letters/ resumes or applying to blind ads through an employment website.

It is better to apply to a few, well-researched positions than to rely on submitting to several blind ads you saw posted on the major employment sites.  However, you do not want to overlook any opportunity.

 5. How much money should I spend on my job search?

  • 1% to 3% of your target salary.

I frequently hear people say that they cannot afford to spend anything on their job search.  However, just like anything, you need to invest in your job search to see a return.

Expenses can include professional resume services, books, classes, professional pictures, clothing, employment website fees, parking and so on.  Depending on your industry and experience level, expect to pay between $200 to $700 for a professionally written resume.

However, be wary of “retained search” recruiters who ask for a large fee from you – I’ve seen fees as much as $5,000.  You do not have to pay a recruiter a placement fee, which ranges between 10-30% of your annual salary.  Employers should pay placement fees.

 6. How much time does it take to write a good resume?

  • A professional can create a comprehensive resume in 4-5 hours.
  • If you are writing your own resume, wait a day before sending it out.  Use this time to get other people to review it.
  • Online and interactive resumes will take longer, depending on the additional elements added.
  • A targeted cover letter can take up to an hour or more to draft.

Slamming a resume out quickly just to get it done will not be effective.  Take the time to research the universal criteria for your desired job, not just what you think is important.  Same with cover letters: consider the employers’ needs, and write about how you can answer it.

7. How many hours a week should I spend on my job search?

  • 20-40  hours a week.

Once your tools are in place – online profiles built, resumes written, cover letters drafted – devote more time to networking and research.  The majority of your job search should focus on social media, finding contact information, reaching out to hiring managers and researching your desired industry.  More than ever, employers want someone who understands their needs – do your research to find out those needs.

 Final Words

Job searching is a tough business.  Accept the fact that it will take some time, effort, patience and money.  While the silence may be maddening, keep track of the amount of resumes you send and compare it with your results.  You may uncover problems with your tactics.  In sales, it is well known that only 5-10% of your initial contacts will lead to an opportunity.  Keep in mind that every “no” gets you closer to the “yes.”

Fall hiring season heats up

In case you hadn’t noticed, August 2011 showed an increase in the amount of recruiter jobs posted on conventional employment websites like Monster.com and Careerbuilder.com.  That’s good news for the rest of the job market – it means that employers are still planning to do their hiring push for the fall months of September, October and November.

Traditionally speaking, companies hire in the fall to take advantage of their remaining budget for the year.  Many departments face a “use it or lose it” mentality on their allocated funds by the end of the year.  Now they realize that they must hire, or else possibly lose the new person for the coming year.

Considering the stock market insanity during the beginning of August, there was real concern that the fall hiring season may not happen at all.  While some market segments are down, it is a promising sign that contract recruiter jobs in a variety of industries are on the rise.

Private service sees a spike during this time of year as well; families are back from vacation, children are back in school and it is time to think about adding staff before the holidays.

5 Signs that you might not want this job

It can be very exciting to get a job offer, especially if you’ve been looking for a while. However, taking a job that isn’t the right fit can be devastating – either you are miserable, or worse, you leave after only a couple of months.

So how can you spot these bad situations before you are in the job?

Paying careful attention to these tell-tale signs of a “loser” job can save you tons of grief:

1. Unreasonable salary expectations

If the job description is three pages long but they are paying bottom-of-the-scale salary, this is a loser job.  They want you to do everything, but they aren’t willing to pay you what you’re worth.  If you’re working with a recruiter and they assure you this can be worked out, be cautious – sometimes their strong-arm tactics to raise the salary can create even higher job performance expectations or a secret resentment because they had to pay more.

2. Disrespect in the interview

Disrespect can take any number of forms: waiting too long in the lobby, constant interruptions when you’re talking and taking cell phone calls.  I have heard stories of job seekers being subjected to 6-8 hour interviews and were never offered a snack, meal, glass of water or even a bathroom break.  That’s a bad sign.  Whenever an employer is being rude in an interview, you can bet that they will probably treat you the same way – or worse – on the job.

Of course, some people are extremely busy.  If a crisis demands immediate attention or decision that just can’t wait, be patient and understanding. Stay alert and read the signs of the whole situation, not just your part in it.

 3. High turnover rate

High turnover is a huge sign that something is amiss.  People don’t stay long when the boss is insufferable.  To uncover this culprit, ask “what is your turnover rate?”  If they answer, “well, we had some people who weren’t the right fit…”  that means the home or business has a revolving door.

4. Bad mouths previous employee

It may be the case that the last person in this job was a disappointment.  However, if the employer goes on and on about all the things that went wrong, be cautious.  If they use crude language, cutting remarks or slanderous statements, run for the door.

 5. Dismisses your questions

During every interview, you should get an opportunity to ask questions to your potential employer.  Most of these are designed to show your own expertise.  But if the employer isn’t willing to listen to you and your questions, it is a sign of disrespect – a disrespect that will probably carry over to the job.

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