How to Get Noticed in a Sea of Candidates

How to Get Noticed in a Sea of Candidates

by Kerry Scott on 20 May 2009

208497785_04995dbd9dPhoto by SC Fiasco

People always ask me how they can stand out in a huge crowd of candidates.

Generally, my answer is, “Be really qualified for the job.” Everyone hates that answer, because they want me to give them a trick or a tip or some little thing they can do to control the outcome. Unfortunately, being the most qualified candidate is really the only way to make sure you’re the one they call (unless you’re related to the boss, or willing to be a total weenie).

This is especially frustrating at the beginning of the hiring process, when you know there are hundreds of candidates applying. You worry that even though you ARE qualified, they might not read your resume closely enough to see it. You worry that the HR person won’t know enough about the job to know whether you’re qualified or not. You’re worried about whether your resumes has enough keywords to even be seen in a search of their database. You want to call to “follow up,” but you know you shouldn’t.

So try this:

Put a hard copy of your resume and your cover letter in an envelope, and mail it to the hiring manager. Don’t send it to HR. Use your network, Google, LinkedIn, etc. to find out who the hiring manager is, and mail it old-school.

In doing this, you’re insuring that the person who is actually in charge of this opening will see your resume.  Usually they are screened by HR, so you’re making sure you at least get through that part.  There’s no guarantee that that will mean you get a call, but it’s something.

You don’t need fancy resume paper; just regular printer paper is fine.  If you don’t have a printer that does envelopes, it’s fine to hand-address it (in fact, I’m more likely to open a hand-addressed envelope first).  Whatever you do, don’t use those goofy portfolios or fancy folders—those are annoying and wasteful and often cannot be recycled.  You’re going for simple here, not flashy.

You should write a special cover letter for this, with an extra paragraph that says something like, “I applied through [whatever the ad said to do] on [whatever date], but I wanted to get in touch with you directly as well.  I’m very excited about the opportunity to work for you at XYZ Company.”

You should still apply through the method specified in the ad, because people who can’t follow directions don’t get a call.  Mail the resume AFTER you’ve done so.  Your goal is for the hiring manager to receive your stuff, and then call the HR person and say, “Hey, did you see this Pat Gomez person?  We should call that one.”  When that happens, you want your resume to already be in that HR person’s resume database.

Some people vary this a little by sending the packet via overnight service.  If you’re out-of-town and want to be sure it gets there quickly, I can sort of see this…but when I get a FedEx package from the same town as me, I think, “Wow, dude, you just wasted $15.”  Wasteful spending is sort of out of style right now, so I’d stick to the mail (with delivery confirmation, if you want to be sure it got there).

Oh, and so as to avoid making my Tales of the Cluefree list:

  1. Use proper postage.  Don’t send it postage-due.  The price of a stamp just went up, and I always got postage-due stuff from candidates right after that happened.
  2. Please don’t use your current employer’s letterhead envelopes with a personal return-address label slapped over the logo.  It’s tacky.  Go to Walgreen’s and spend the $1.99 on a box of white envelopes.  You don’t need fancy paper, but you do need paper that’s not stolen.

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{ 3 comments }

class factotum May 20, 2009 at 7:54 am

“Wow, dude, you just wasted $15.”

My then-boyfriend sent me some chili powder when I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile. No, I didn’t know you can make it from scratch. It really bugged me that he didn’t take the powder out of the glass bottle and put it in a plastic bag before he mailed it. This was international postage! He wasted a lot of money to mail glass! How could he be so irresponsible?

I broke up with him. Not just over that, but that was part of it. My people do not waste.

class factotum’s last blog post..Just desserts

Jessica Lewis May 20, 2009 at 6:11 pm

I’m following your advice right now! I applied for a job online over the weekend but am so enthusiastic about it that I need to try anything to stand out. And I know how tough the competition is, even just for an interview, because I’ve gone on only a few interviews since being laid off in November. I’ve been a job hunter several times before and never had this much difficulty getting a job.

Pfandfrei May 31, 2009 at 2:07 pm

The ‘most qualified’ candidates definitely do NOT always get an interview.

Pfandfrei’s last blog post..Fotonauts Offers a Sneak Peak At Its Upcoming Fotopedia

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