Why do some candidates quickly find jobs online, while others have been
e-mailing their resumes for months? In many cases, job hunters who get the best
results are those who follow up their e-mail correspondence with old-fashioned
techniques -- persuasive hard-copy letters and phone calls to employers.
Consider Elie Fouere, a Connecticut architect. Mr. Fouere was thrilled when
he saw an online ad for a first mate with Maine Windjammer Cruises in Camden,
Maine, and quickly responded to it. Too excited to wait to hear back from the
company, he found the phone number for the owner, Captain Ray Williamson, on the
company's Web site and called him the next day.
Mr. Fouere told the owner he'd taken sailing classes, spent weekends
rebuilding a sailboat and really wanted the job. Capt. Williamson said the first
mate also needed to serve as ship's cook, serving three meals a day to about
30 passengers. Undaunted, Mr. Fouere said he would cook as well. He then drove
10 hours from Connecticut to Camden to convince the captain of his interest. He
was hired on the spot.
Contrast his experience with that of the applicant who saw and responded to a
job posting on a Silicon Alley job board for a director at the Practising Law
Institute, a New York nonprofit organization that provides services to the legal
community, who wanted to create a new online division. She e-mailed her resume
and cover letter, then followed up with a hard-copy version.
At the end of the week, she called the company and spoke to the director of
human resources. The director said she was impressed with the candidate's
credentials, and asked her to write a proposal on how she would create the new
online division. The director said that all candidates had received the same
instructions, but the applicant called back several times for more guidance on
how to write the proposal. She insisted she couldn't write the proposal
without more instruction. Eventually, she was labeled as a pest who couldn't
follow directions and was eliminated from consideration.
In a banner job market, it's easy to find postings for good jobs on the
Internet. What's difficult is ensuring that out of the thousands of candidates
who see and apply for the same jobs as you, you're the one who lands an offer.
Naturally, you need to respond to postings quickly with a well-crafted online
resume and cover letter. But you also need to know when and how often to call an
employer after it arrives and how to sell your candidacy during follow-up
conversations. Employers evaluate candidates by their behavior, and following up
properly makes a good impression, says Reed Morton, director of the health-care
executive-career resource center at the American College of Healthcare
Executives, a professional organization in Chicago.
Let's assume that you've responded to the job posting of your dreams with
a carefully written and e-mailed resume and cover letter. Here's how to
attract an employer's attention after sending your credentials:
Start with a hard copy. Sending another version of your resume allows
you to make a second contact with the company, shows your interest in the open
position and demonstrates your attention to detail. In the unlikely event that
your e-mail was misplaced or didn't arrive, mailing a personal letter directly
to the hiring manager ensures that he or she has a polished, formatted version
of your resume.
"The serious candidate may decide to send the resume and cover letter by
express mail to the decision maker," says Dr. Morton. "This behavior
improves the odds that the resume [is read] by the right person at the right
Send another e-mail. It's also appropriate to send another e-mail a
few days later asking whether your material arrived. You could even e-mail your
resume a second time and mention that you sent a hard copy as well.
"This puts you in front of the person again," says Carole De
Domenico, consultant and account manager in New York for Professional
Reemployment Outplacement Service (PROS), a government-funded outplacement
service for dislocated workers. "It's a known fact that people who follow
up get the attention."
Phone the hiring manager. If you don't hear from the company, call
the hiring manager, or ask a well-connected networking contact to call for you.
While some advise waiting two weeks before calling, others feel a few days
is adequate. "I always advocate a more active instead of passive
approach," says Bee-Leng Chua, professor of management at the Chinese
University of Hong Kong. He feels a few days are sufficient for employers to
"If the HR manager is annoyed that you didn't wait for the company to
respond first, this says something about her; if she's friendly, thanks you
for calling and gives you information about what will happen next, this says
something else," he says.
When calling, remember this is a "second chance to present yourself in
the most positive light," says Joan Wall, human-resources director of the
Institute of International Education, a nonprofit educational and cultural
exchange, training and technical assistance organization in New York.
Think about the content of your message, says Paul Shrivastava, professor of
management at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. "Be prepared to offer
something more than what's in the resume," he says. "Perhaps you can
explain why you're interested in the company, what unique value you bring to
the job, or some personal anecdote that illustrates your enthusiasm for the
company and hooks the listener."
Don't worry that employers will think you're pushy. "If the person
is calling to check on the status of a resume sent for a specific job, that
seems reasonable to me," says Diana Davenport, director of administrative
services at the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based private foundation. "If
she's well-spoken and not pushy, it might boost her chances of getting in the
door for an interview."
If a networking contact has connections at the company you're targeting,
don't hesitate to ask him or her to put in a good word for you and check the
status of your application. This also provides a ready reference on your behalf.
Tailor Your E-Resume
Your follow-up tactics will work only if you've sent the company a flawless
resume that's tailored to the specific opening. It should convey a sterling
work history and impressive list of academic and professional accomplishments.
Among your credentials, weave in descriptions of your key interpersonal and
leadership qualities, such as creativity, initiative and reliability, and your
special technical expertise.
When describing your experience, match it to the job's requirements, says
Lynn McClure, principal of McClure Associates, a management consulting firm in
Mesa, Ariz. For a position that requires candidates with "good people and
technical skills," don't write, "sold computers," says Ms.
McClure. Instead, say that you "effectively dealt with customers from a
wide range of backgrounds and are proficient in Excel, Word, Access and
Lotus." she says.
Ms. McClure recommends omitting an objective on e-mailed resumes.
"Things change too rapidly," she says.
Your resume should be easy to read yet pack a punch. A flat, boring
presentation will land yours on the "to-be-filed" pile in less than 30
seconds. Remember, every word counts when you're reducing 10 to 20 years'
experience into one or two pages.
Polish Your Cover Letter
Like their hard-copy cousins, cover letters sent via e-mail should be
directed to the appropriate hiring manager and be designed to convince him or
her that you're the right person for the job. If you don't know the name of
the hiring authority, call the company and ask for the name and title of this
person. Addressing your cover letter "To Whom It May Concern" does
little to convey your ability to do research.
Your letter should demonstrate your familiarity with the company's products
and services, its industry position and strategic plans for the future, so do
some advance research. You also should describe what's needed to succeed in
this job. Tell the hiring manager how your attributes and skills and experience
match these demands.
"Let them know you've got fire in the belly for the job," says
Ms. De Domenico. "That way, they know you aren't just sending a resume
just to send a resume."
Show enthusiasm, but don't be too informal. E-mail may be casual, but cover
letters and resumes require perfect grammar, punctuation and spelling.
If you're sending your documents as an attachment, send a test e-mail to
friends to ensure you don't send recipients a page or two of symbols or
gibberish instead of text, or unformatted text that randomly runs off the
screen. Even when you send a letter and attachment to the correct e-mail
address, "it isn't certain that what the recipient opens is a candidate's
best sales representative," says Dr. Morton.
He suggests including keywords or nouns that are relevant to the skills
required in your job or function in the text of your resume. This way, if your
document is stored into a database, it will be more likely to pop up during a
-- Ms. Garber, a human resources director in New York, writes about
career and employment issues. Her next book, scheduled to be published January
2001, is "I Need a Job, Now What?" (Barnes & Noble).