Do you spend countless hours each week answering ads and not getting any closer to the interviews you want? Is your resume getting lost in the great cyberspace void? Do you wonder why you aren’t getting any responses to the ads? Wonder, no more. This article will walk you through a three-part strategy that will help you understand and boost your response rate for advertised positions—both on- and off-line.
According to surveys 20% of all businesses advertise their job openings—and 18% of executives find their position through Internet postings—so it’s an avenue you want to include in your search campaign plan.
If, like many others, you have been frustrated by the low-level response rate to your efforts, the number one reason is likely to be the lack of a well-developed strategy for selecting and answering appropriate ads. Knowing how to interpret and answer an ad will increase your success rate for getting in the door.
Strategy #1: Select the best ads for your background
Let’s look at the anatomy of an ad. Most ads feature five basic sections: job title, company name and description, responsibilities, qualifications and contact method. Ads vary as to the degree of the five basic elements included.
Size up each ad quickly and weed out any those are not suitable to your background or that don’t really appeal to you. Instead concentrate on those positions that match your qualifications. Ad information is not necessarily complete, so you will need to become expert in reading between the lines.
Therefore, know your position target and screen yourself by analyzing each line presented in the ad. Do you fit all of the required parameters? Can you identify specific examples that illustrate you are a good match for the position? Note also the difference in how the qualifications are described—what is required, desired or preferred.
Identify each requirement and make a list of the keywords (for example: sales, marketing, branding, finance, six sigma, etc. Create a two-column spreadsheet that bullets the qualifications according to responsibilities, requirements, desired and preferred elements. How do your strongest qualifications compare to the ones listed in the ad? Do you meet most of the important qualifications? How well can you support your ability to perform in this position?
If your answer is yes, you are a solid candidate. If you do not meet all of the requirements, however, you are not going to be able to compete. On the other hand, if you can make a strong case for the desired and preferred qualifications, then you may have a chance.
Strategy #2: Create a targeted resume and letter in response
Prioritize and send a targeted resume and letter to your most promising prospects. You can send a broadcast letter (no resume) to those that are less of a match, if you desire.
Next, review your resume and aim it at the job’s stated requirements to ensure that you hit your target. Change the profile—and any other sections of your resume—accordingly to emphasize your relevant expertise, hard skills and related results. Make certain your resume is keyword rich.
Craft a customized cover letter to pair with your targeted resume. Emphasize the match between your background and the job requirements, making it easy for the recipient to appreciate your unique value and to present yourself as the ideal applicant. Address the employer’s needs and write persuasively to show how you can help the company achieve its goals.
The best way to persuade is to demonstrate the benefits of hiring you and backing your claims with examples of how you have successfully benefited other employers. Couple this with your research and understanding of the employer’s culture and you will present yourself as a “fit.” The more you can place yourself in the reader’s world, the greater your chances of communicating meaningfully.
The closeness of your match in the employer’s or recruiter’s mind is key in determining whether your resume makes it to the first cut to be contacted for an interview. Your resume and letter must hit home, or your chances of getting an interview are greatly diminished. Avoid overanalyzing the ad to the point of conjecture where you address needs not listed—and considered irrelevant.
Strategy #3: Send your marketing documents to the hiring authority and follow up
So what happens when you submit your resume and letter for an advertised position? It will travel to the human resources department/screener or a search firm before it ever winds up in the hands of the hiring authority—your future boss.
If the ad is not blind, identify the hiring authority by calling the organization or by searching through online or other resources available through your public library. You should also determine if you know anyone at that organization that may be able to provide you with additional information and/or an inside contact.
Sending well-crafted documents to the right person in an organization maximizes your changes of landing an interview. Your efforts will not only compliment the recipient, but will also make a statement about the caliber of the individual behind the resume. Your personal response will stand out since a high percentage of replies are one-size-fits-all resumes and form letters. Instead you will elicit greater interest because you directly discuss the important points addressed in the requirements.
Once you submit your documents keep your name in front of the employers. Good follow up should be an integral part of your overall campaign. On a weekly basis go through your active job ads and follow up with a phone call or weeks later with a new letter. Since 98% of your competition is not likely to follow up, your persistence can pay off.
On a final note...
How much time you devote to job ads should depend on how likely they are to help you as compared to other search methods. A comprehensive search campaign incorporates all the different strategies. Don’t spend all of your search time on just one method. To maximize your time, efficiency and effort, make sure that answering ads is combined with all other job search methods.