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fourth
  Follow-Through is Key
To Landing a Job Online

 
 
 

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.

Get Noticed

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 time."

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 review resumes.

"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 search.

-- 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).


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