My clients and readers know that I’m not a fan of relying on applying to advertised openings as the priority or single method in job search. The statistics support around a 5% return. Why? As soon as it’s out there, it’s a candidate magnet – including your competition. Then, there’s the applicant tracking systems and hoops to jump through. Then waiting for the phone to ring, wondering if you made the list.
So, should you use this strategy? Yes! While you shouldn’t rely on advertised positions, I do advise it as one of a multi-pronged approach to your job search. Don’t rule this method out. A thoughtfully-crafted application has a relatively good chance of getting you shortlisted, if you take care to analyze the opportunity. Applying also heightens your visibility, which can get you on the shortlist for another opportunity, or generate referrals.
What I do not recommend is applying randomly for jobs that are not a fit for your skills and experience. A simple numbers game, this is not! Yes, you have to reach out to a certain number of decision-makers, but sending out hundreds of poorly targeted applications will most likely have a negative impact. You will earn a reputation for wasting people’s time, throwing yourself at jobs that are not a fit, transmitting desperation and amassing rejection emails (or not hearing at all) which will not help your case or your self-confidence.
Target advertised openings with these 10 strategy steps:
- Learn more and ask for help. Your priority is to reach out and see if you can find someone who knows something about the employer organization. Then you can read between the lines of the posting to get a stronger feel for what the organization really wants. This is about peeling back the layers. If you can, find someone with insider knowledge to share their knowledge about the organization. Research the organization, its key people and other roles. Think about how this job makes sense in the big picture.
- Analyze the ad. Deconstruct the job posting. Look at the title, role description and any company or other insights. Does it seem a fit? Beyond the label, are you qualified for eight out of ten of the criteria?
- Scrutinize the strong, weak and neutral language. Attempt to get a sense for how strongly the employer feels about the criteria it outlines. Try mirroring key phrases found, to add relevance to your resume, cover letter or other communications (only if true, of course).
- How complex does the job seem to be? How is that likely to match candidate experience?
- Weighted criteria. Are there hints given (role title, salary, experience) about the preferred level of applicants?
- Look closely for evidence about the level of accountability, and gauge that against the size of the organization.
- Candidate and organizational personality. Is there an indication of the type of attitude and approach the company wants? Is there anything revealed about the organization’s culture that attracts or repels you?
- Needs and wants. Is there a distinction given as to what are preferred and required qualifications? The “must haves” and the “nice-to-haves”? Do you fall short?
- Does the company welcome questions or dialogue with prospective candidates before submitting a resume or application? Is there a “do not call” message?
- What is said about next steps or process for moving on as a candidate?
Some job advertisements have a detailed description; others are vague. The biggest challenge of dissecting postings is deciphering exactly what the employer wants. First consider the selection criteria. Then go to a detailed view of the organization on its website, particularly pages describing organizational structure, departments or units, and mission. Search press releases for details of recent activities, recognition, product launches, etc.
Use LinkedIn to view the organizational profile and information on current or former key employees. Explore whether there are others holding the same or similar job titles, and then use LinkedIn to see if you can find people who do the same job in other organizations.
What are your thoughts around the topic?