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8/31/14 - 3 Ways to Make Each Job Application Special


No two hiring managers should receive the same résumé and cover letter from you.

By Arnie Fertig

“Hey gorgeous :) what’s up?”

Little could "Joshua," a Tinder dating app user, imagine how sorry he would be when he sent this text message. He got this response:

“Not much but I can’t speak for the 31 other girls attached in this group message.”

Crash and burn! Joshua was either unaware or unfazed he sent this greeting to 32 women at once, and the group flogging that ensued was captured and went viral. Joshua’s chance for a lucky night would have been immeasurably better had he pursued those women one at a time and made each feel special somehow.

That true story is directly translatable into the world of job hunting. Everyone understands that when employers seek to hire and people hunt for jobs, both sides are always exploring multiple options at the same time. ? Nonetheless, people on both sides deserve to be treated as individuals and with respect.

Job hunters are justifiably upset when employers fail to communicate directly or honestly with them. It's poor business practice when employers don’t acknowledge receipt of an application, or notify a candidate with whom they’ve begun a dialogue that he or she is no longer being considered. And it's downright rude when a hiring manager promises an interviewee he or she will go the next step, but then it never happens.

At the same time, employers are justifiably irked by job-hunter rudeness that occurs commonly. When you fail to personalize your communication or show that you're interested in a given opportunity for more than the paycheck it offers, employers are likely to see you the same way those 32 women probably viewed Joshua.

Here are some things you can do to show that you're really interested, and thereby gain the interest of a potential employer:

1. Personalize your résumé. Make your résumé stand out from all the others, and show that you aren’t blasting it out to many other companies at the same time. Simply rename it: “[your name] Résumé for [company name].doc.”

2. Personalize your cover letter. Make every effort, even if you are responding to an online ad, to find out the name of the person who will read your submission. Take the time to research who will likely be the hiring manager or human resources person.

If that information isn’t available, at least personalize the addressee block at the top of your letter. Instead of a generic document, make sure you include something like: “HR Director, ABC Company, 123 Some St., City, State Zip” and begin with (as appropriate): Dear Mr./Ms. HR Director …”

Don’t be entirely self-centered in your content. It’s not about “Here I am, and this is my history,” but rather: “Here I am, and here’s how your needs and my value can be a great fit.”

Show why you aren’t looking for just any job, but how this job in this particular company makes sense. Demonstrate how you relate to an aspect of the employer: its mission, the work of the particular job and the particular challenges of the job that gets your juices flowing. Then explain why.

3. Personalize your thank you note. Make a practice of always collecting the name and contact information of the people you speak with either before or at the very beginning of your interactions with them.

When you begin an in-person interview, offer your own business card (even if it just has your home contact information) when you shake hands, and ask for the other person’s in return. This way you will have the ability to follow up promptly.

Hiring managers and HR professionals expect an email thank you note the same day, or certainly within 24 hours after an in-person or phone interview.

If you have a group interview, compose an individualized note to each person who was in the room. While the core of the notes can be the same, take the time to highlight one thing in particular that relates to the person you're addressing. It might be a comment or follow-up to a question he or she posed.

If you really want to make that potential employer feel special, take the time to also handwrite a short note and send it by snail mail. Since such a small percent of job seekers continue to follow this old etiquette standard, you're sure to stand out and get your underlying point across: “I’m not sending this note to 31 other employers. Just you. I’m interested.”

Learn from Joshua’s mistake. If you want to be taken seriously, think about getting a job in personal terms. When you treat the people with whom you want to interact with respect and as individuals, your chances of getting that lucky break will improve dramatically.

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic “I’ll apply to anything” searches into focused hunts for “great fit” opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.