How to Jump out of the Job Applicant Pool - 5 Secrets from a Hiring Manager

Part 2:

This is part two in a series of blogs I felt compelled to write after hearing story after story from friends and family members about the escalating challenges in the current job search environment. In the first blog I talked about the legions of job-seeking superbots you now have to compete with in every career opportunity you pursue. You may not realize it yet, but your competition are applying for hundreds of jobs using a combination of technology and sweat equity to play the numbers game in hopes of muscling their way into finding work. Seemingly every job posting now has 200, 300, even 500 applicants. The strategy that got you a job three years ago won’t work anymore. It’s a new playing field and it’s getting tougher every year. But rather than lament the situation, we need to change our own game plans and stack the deck back in our favour.

If you haven't seen it already, check out my blog on how to build the perfect resume. Also check out my resume template for Microsoft Word. Its the one I recently used to beat out a ton of competing candidates to land my dream job.

Get my resume template for Microsoft Word.

A Typical Job Search Funnel

A Typical Job Search Funnel

There is a pretty standard five step process a typical applicant needs to go through in order to ultimately get a job offer. It helps to look at each step kind of like a level in a video game. Each level requires its own special set of tactics in order to pass. You need a strategy at each stage or you won’t consistently differentiate yourself enough to get the volume of job offers you want.

I have the benefit of interviewing people virtually every week so I’ve seen the best and the worst job search tactics out there. I’ve compiled a set of strategies for each stage of the job search process that I would use if I were looking for work right now – they’re like cheat codes for finding your next career.

In this blog we’ll focus on stage one – how to jump out of the applicant pool. There are two fundamental issues I see job seekers struggle with at this stage. The first is getting your application or resume seen in the first place. A friend of mine recently applied to 10 jobs on LinkedIn and told me several weeks later only 1 of the 10 applications had even been read. How are you supposed to make those numbers work? This is like a baseball player only getting one at-bat per week and expecting to perform – you need a certain minimum number of opportunities at the plate to give yourself a reasonable chance of hitting a homerun. Thankfully there are a couple tactics I’ve seen that will help you get your applications in front of more eyeballs.

The second issue many of us struggle with is how to differentiate our resume in the event it is actually read. To play the baseball metaphor again this is akin to making a good swing when you finally get a pitch to hit. You can’t hit a homerun if you don’t take a homerun swing. A recruiter I trust recently told me she spends about 30 seconds scanning each resume she reads to create the initial pool of applicants to screen. What do you need to do to make your resume stand out in 30 seconds? I’ve got a great tip that is proven to help you stand out in a pile of resumes.

Here are a few tips the will dramatically improve your success at the first stage of the job search funnel. Adopting these tactics will get you further in the job search process and ultimately improve the probability of getting a great job faster.

1.       Two Tips to Get Your Resume Seen

Use a Multi Touch Approach: If you’re only applying for jobs by sending an email to one person or applying through one channel you’re not maximizing your chances of getting noticed. The most successful job seekers take a multi touch approach to campaign for the jobs they want. Here’s a nice summary of that approach by professional resume writer Michael Howard. Rather than sending your resume to one person and hoping for the best, you need to research a variety of people in the company who might have influence on the job you’re pursuing and reach out to all of them. That list might include HR staff, the hiring manager, the department head, potential peers or even junior people in the department. You can use LinkedIn or the corporate web site to get email addresses and phone numbers for a wider number of potential influencers for the role you want.

Upgrade your LinkedIn account:

While the first tip requires a time investment, this next one requires a financial investment – albeit a small one. There are many differing opinions about the value of a premium LinkedIn account but for the purposes of making your applications stand out, I think it’s well worth it. For about $25 a month you gain access to the “Featured Applicant” status (shown in the picture), which makes all your job applications rise to the top of the pile. This is a massive step to getting more eyeballs on your resume and frankly the $25 per month investment, even when times are tight, is worth it if you land a job a week or a month sooner than you otherwise would.

2.       The Number One Way to Make Your Resume Stand Out in 30 Seconds

Build a Visual Resume:

Also known as an infographic resume or graphical resume, the visual resume is woefully underused despite its incredible power to differentiate a candidate from competing applications. Here are some examples of what I’m speaking about. I’ve probably reviewed a hundred resumes this year and maybe one of them was designed with some visual creativity. If a recruiter or hiring manager has only 30 seconds to review your resume, there is NO better way to stand out than to use this type of eye catching, visually compelling resume. Trading in your old word doc, text based resume for one of these will dramatically increase the number of phone screens and first interviews you get. They don’t guarantee you’ll get an offer, but they will get you farther in the process. There are several sites that will guide you through the process of building a visual resume – this article covers the best of them. Even if you don’t pay for a design service, you can create a very simple one like I did using standard office tools. Just by adding some colour, accents and framing around key points, your resume stands out from the crowd.

Give these tips a try and let me know if your job search improves. Next week I’ll be blogging about some sure fire tips to get past a phone screen.

If you missed the first blog in the series check it out here.

Top Job Search Tips: The Multi-Channel Application

Without question, the biggest challenge I hear about from the candidates I interview, friends, and people I coach, is the how difficult it has become to stand out from the growing crowds of people applying for every job. The Internet, frankly, has made it too easy to apply for work.

The Crazy Job Search Numbers Game

25 years ago you had to actually mail in your resume or physically walk into a place to apply for a job. In that world, you just didn’t have the time to apply for many roles so you had to make sure the ones you did apply for were really well suited to your skills and aspirations. That made it easier for everyone - we self-selected to a great extent. I think it also made things easier for employers because the people applying for roles really wanted the jobs they were going for and truly believed they had the qualifications to be successful. So there were fewer total applicants per job and each candidate was a better fit on average.

Even 10 years ago, before LinkedIn, and continuous streams of job postings on twitter, you were still somewhat limited to the number of jobs you could apply to by how many emails you could send.

But today, in 2015, things have completely gone off the rails.

Here’s a quick story to illustrate just how crazy things have become.

I interviewed a guy a year or so ago who dropped some knowledge on me that has been in my mind ever since.  In the course of our conversation he explained to me, quite proudly, how he’d figured out the magic formula for the job search. During the month long period he’d been looking for work he’d refined his job search process down to a science. In 30 days he had applied for 1,000 jobs to get 20 phone interviews which lead to 5 in person interviews and ultimately 1 job offer.

1,000 applications!!?? In a month!

This is the ultimate example of the environment you’re now competing in. You’re up against job seeking super bots who are playing an almost incomprehensible numbers game to find work.

How are you supposed to win in this environment?

And just in case you’re saying to yourself … “well, this sounds like an extreme example – I’m sure it’s not that bad …” Just check some random job postings on LinkedIn and you’ll see 400 and 500 applicants for every role. It’s crazy.

How supposed to stand out in a pile of 450 resumes? (Check out my blog post on this subject)

How are you supposed to match the pace of other people applying for 1,000 jobs every month?

Even if you wanted to - Do you have the time or ability or access to the tools to play this numbers game?

How do you separate yourself from the crowd and find work in THE most competitive job market we’ve ever seen?

The biggest hurdle is right up front. Separating yourself from the 449 other people who all applied for the same job. How do you get noticed at all?

The Multi-Channel Application Campaign

If you’re only applying for jobs by sending an email to one person per job or applying through one channel (e.g. company web site), you’re not maximizing your chances of getting noticed and you’re going to have a hard time getting enough first and second interviews to actually land a job.

The most successful job seekers take a multi-channel approach to each job they apply for. They don’t try to play the numbers game but they don’t use conventional tactics either. They actually campaign for the jobs they want. Unlike the numbers game playing super bots, these job seekers apply for fewer total jobs, but apply double or triple the effort for each job they choose to apply for.

In my experience as a hiring manager, this is the best way to compete and win in todays out of control job search market.

How the Multi-Channel Strategy Works

A good place to start is with a quick description of the two sources of resumes hiring managers receive. As a hiring manager myself I can boil the resumes I actually get the opportunity to look at into two camps.

The first camp are the resumes I get sent from our recruiting department. These are the HR professionals who sift through the 450 applications that come in from the website and LinkedIn and pick out 10 or 15 unicorn applications for me to review. To successfully make it through this filtering process your resume needs to be perfect and you need to check every single box. It’s extremely difficult to compete this way. My blog post on visual resumes is a good resource for improving your chances of standing out in a giant pile of 449 other resumes.

The second source of resumes that I actually read, and the focus for this blog, come from employees inside the company and former colleagues I’m still connected with in some way. Here’s why this channel is so important – I read 100% of these resumes because they came to me through people I know or work with. As a good corporate citizen and conscientious networker, I feel compelled to give these resumes my attention regardless of quality. If a guy in the IT department who I’ve never met, sends me a resume from his old college roommate for a job I’m hiring for – I read it – every time. This is completely the opposite of the first channel where you have to have a unicorn-like resume to get through the crowd.

Even more importantly, because the resume came to me from a co-worker or former colleague, I more often than not, feel compelled to at least do a phone call or exchange an email with the applicant. That can be huge – it can overcome many of the challenges you face in finding a job. If you can find your way into this group of applications, you never get screened out for not having perfect experiences or the world’s sexiest CV – if you can find some connection to the hiring manager – it doesn’t even need to be good - you give yourself a real shot.

How to put it into Action

So what can you do tomorrow to start applying the multi-channel application strategy in your own job search? Here are 4 steps I’d recommend you take to circumvent the giant line up of 450 resumes and dramatically improve your chances of getting based the first step.

1.       Apply for fewer jobs. Rather than sending your resume or application to one person per job posting for 20 different jobs and hoping for the best, apply for 5 jobs and spend 4 times as much effort on each one. This is the optimal strategy for beating your numbers game playing competitors.

2.       Identify 5 people at each target company. Use the company website, your social networks and LinkedIn to get your resume in the hands of 5 different people who work at the company you’re applying to. You will be surprised how easy it is to figure out corporate email addresses or to find some loose social connection to people at these companies.

3.       Send a short note with your resume to each person. Once you have names and email addresses for people at the company, send a short note with your resume politely asking if they would mind forwarding your resume to the hiring manager. In my experience you should get about an 80-90% hit rate on these. People like to help.

4.       Repeat for each job. Repeat this process for each of the jobs you’re applying for. It will take considerably more time than the quick hit, one shot application process, but it will dramatically increase your chances of getting to the first and second interview stage for each role you apply for.

The multi-channel campaign approach to the job search is critical to finding work in today’s hyper competitive environment. Give it a try and let me know in the comments section how it works for you.