Years ago, you could lick a stamp and send a resume, and you had a reasonable chance that someone in a position to at least get you in the short pile of resumes to be reviewed would actually look at it.
Those days are over. In the days of Monster.com, and amidst a tight job market, employers are frequently swamped with hundreds of resumes competing for each opening – even at wages 30 percent less than what a comparable job paid 5 years ago.
Those aren’t very good odds.
The days of the blind resume blast are over. Everywhere you go, you find frustrated job hunters with the same complaint: “I’ve sent over 200 resumes and I haven’t even gotten a call for an interview.”
Take a lesson from flyfishers: The fish don’t bite the same lures all the time. When the fish stop biting a certain lure, fly fishermen don’t keep fishing with that lure. They change lures! They talk to each other and go with what works! If you’re still sending resumes “over the transom” to someone who’s never even heard your name before, where you’re competing with hundreds of others, chances are good that one of the other people has already met the owner or director of H.R. You need to figure out what “lure” to place in the water so you can be that guy.
Cold Mailing vs. Warm Mailing
Sun Tzu wrote that the wise warrior made sure he had already won the battle, before committing troops. Likewise, you need to have most of the battle won, before you send your resume. That means you should have already met the boss, and already know what he or she is looking for.
How to Meet the Boss
One thing’s for certain: You aren’t going to meet the boss sitting at your laptop tweaking your resume. Go where the bosses are! Here are some ideas:
• Volunteer. Community organizations like the Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Boy Scouts and other community service organizations are full of business people seeking to give back to their communities – and build up their own list of contacts in the process. Just be sure to go to serve the community, before you go job hunting. If you go there with a self-serving purpose, they can tell. Trust me.
• Industry Groups. Just because you’re out of work is no reason to let your involvement in industry groups slide. If anything, you need to increase your involvement. If you have an industry or professional association, join it. Make sacrifices to attend meetings. Even better: Volunteer to organize events! What does this do? It gives you an excuse to get on the phone with business owners throughout your community, inviting them to the latest conference or luncheon.
• Bars. Don’t knock it – men and women have been picking each other up for years. Is there a bar located near where you want to work? Go there for happy hour. Order iced tea. It’s cheap. And strike up conversations with nearby workers as they get off work. Gain market intelligence. There’s nothing wrong with asking “who would I talk to if I want to work in your department?” Then when you make the phone call, you have a name to drop, and some intelligent questions to ask.
• Walk in. Most people are afraid to do this – but salespeople willing to walk in 50 to 100 businesses a day frequently make excellent money. Why? It works. Walk in with a stack of resumes and ask for the owner. You just got out of another appointment, but you were nearby, work in the field, and wanted to introduce yourself.
• Calling. In most cases, forget about calling between 9 and 5, unless you have an invitation to call, or you already know the person. You’ll get Miss Donut Box, the 9 to 5 flunkie who takes pride in being a gatekeeper. She can’t hire you, but she can shoot you down in a hurry. When calling the boss, call before she gets there, or call after she leaves. The boss often gets in early and works late. That’s why he’s the boss. (The exception is restaurant owners. Call them between 3 and 5 pm in most cases).
• Agents. Maybe you don’t have much of a rolodex yet. But any good employment agency does. Because they’ve been using these very techniques to build up relationships with potential employers for years. We can’t stress this enough: Leverage your contacts by using a quality employment agency. In most cases, the employer, not you, pays the fee anyway. If you do pay a fee, it’s tax deductible – and can save you weeks, months and sometimes years of unemployment. Even if a placement doesn’t lead to anything permanent, you are still working in the industry, keeping your skills current, and gaining new experiences, and meeting people you otherwise would never have known.
Sure, job hunting isn’t fly-fishing. But the two still have a lot in common. You need to go out dressed right, equipped with the tools you need, provisions to last you quite a while before you land a catch, the flexibility to alter your methods in pursuit of a goal, and the intestinal fortitude and courage to stay out in the river, among the fish, never letting discouragement get the best of you, and never letting up until you reach your goal.