As an editor at The Muse, I’m often approached by people who have job search questions. Nine times out of 10, they’re not thrilled with my answers. Mostly because they involve doing work.
“But,” they say to me, “Do I really need to do that? Like, tell me honestly, really, really?”
As much as I’d love to pause at this point, dart my eyes around, and stage-whisper, “No, if I can be honest with you, cover letters are a vast government conspiracy and the best thing you can do is not submit one”—I don’t. One, because that’s not true. And two, because that would only be fun if I could end by disappearing in a cloud of smoke. (Three, what a boring government conspiracy!)
Trust me, I understand where they’re coming from. Finding a new job isn’t easy. That’s why I also attempted to discover shortcuts the last time I started the process. And by shortcuts, I mean doing things like looking at a hiring manager’s LinkedIn profile in hopes she would see that I’d been lurking, click on my name, be entranced by all that I had to offer, and reach out to meet me right away. Note: This had a 0% success rate.
It wasn’t until I accepted the fact that job searching would involve more than simply wanting a new position that I started actually landing interviews. In case you’re currently in that stage of the hunt when just you’re trying to avoid putting in any real effort—you should read this:
Shortcut #1: Putting the Word Out in Hopes Everyone Else Will Do the Work for You
And by word, I actually mean six words: “I’m looking for a new job.”
What’s wrong with that?
Nothing if it’s included in a well-worded email to your network that lays out what position you’d like next and why you’re qualified (like this one). But a lot, if you say it off-hand during happy hour—in between a conversation about Game of Thrones and a debate about whether you’ve drank enough to justify ordering mozzarella sticks.
In your head, you’ve now put thrown your name into the ring as a potential candidate, and your friends will keep you in mind when they hear about awesome opportunities. In reality, they heard this: “blah, blah, job, blah, blah, are there calories in marinara sauce?”
The same goes for sending your resume to a few people you only sorta know at awesome companies and then sitting back. Here’s a hard truth: There’s not really such a thing as “passing someone’s resume around.” Think about it, how often have you gotten an email from a colleague with a resume attached that says “Here’s a cool dude my cousin knows who’s looking for a job in your department!”? Probably a lot less often than you’ve been told that someone’s going to pass your resume around his office.
If you want this acquaintance to take you seriously, you’re going to have to take your request a little more seriously, too. That means doing the research about openings and treating him as professionally as you’d like him to treat you.
Shortcut #2: Ignoring Additional Instructions Because They’re Just Busy Work
Yes, the application clearly states that candidates who don’t submit a cover letter won’t be considered. But, c’mon, everyone knows that cover letters are so 1995. At this point, they’re just a formality. (Like when the waiter asks if you’d like a bread basket, but knows the answer is “two, please.”)
Or, so you assume because, wouldn’t that be super convenient? Here’s the truth: 55% of hiring managers don’t look at them, but that means 45% do. And unfortunately for you, you never know what camp your hiring manager falls into.
And that goes for any additional instructions you see. I assure you that no one’s sitting around and giggling to himself as he brainstorms all the crazy things he can ask for. What if I ask candidates to attach their resumes as a PDF? What a wacky hijink! Assume everything listed is listed for a reason.
While your resume really may speak for itself, by choosing not to do what you’re asked to do, you’re very possibly removing yourself from even being considered. That means your perfect resume never even gets opened.
So, give yourself a fair shot at the position by taking the time to check, and then double-check, that you’re doing everything required.
Shortcut #3: Sending Out the Same Resume to Everyone
Sure, when you were applying to jobs right out of school, you had to tweak your resume to make your babysitting gig look legit and that internship look like you picked up some real skills (“printing and passing around reports to executives in meetings” transforms into “contributes to executive meetings by providing necessary research and documentation”).
But now that you’ve worked for some times, you’re pretty sure your experience needs no introduction, tweaking, tailoring, or context. Not to mention, you’ve worked way too hard to get that resume to hit the two-page mark, and there’s no way you’re cutting anything down because people “claim” it should only be one page. If they met you, they’d understand why you’re the exception.
Twist: Tailoring your resume for each position isn’t about removing your accomplishments. It’s acknowledging the fact that the average recruiter or hiring manager doesn’t spend more than six seconds (on average) looking at it. So, you have exactly that much time to make it clear why you’re a perfect fit.
And you can’t do that if there’s a ton of stuff on the page—only some of it directly related to the position at hand. That’s why it’s well worth taking the time to make sure each resume you send out lines up with the job description. The more you can connect the dots for the person glancing at your materials on a smartphone, the more likely it is you get an interview.
No one ever said finding a new job would be easy. But by trying to take shortcuts, you very well could be making it even harder on yourself. And if you’re like me, you could also be coming off as a major stalker on LinkedIn. So, take the time to do everything the right way. After all, the payoff will be a position you love.
Have any other “shortcuts” to add to this list? Tell me on Twitter.
Photo of person on computer courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Jenni Maier was the Editor-in-Chief at The Muse. During her time there, she edited 5,000+ articles and learned more about email subject lines, resume tips, and cover letter opening lines than she could’ve imagined. Her writing has been featured in Fast Company, TIME, Inc., her mother’s Facebook statuses, and more. When she’s not daydreaming about being a dog owner, she’s either working through her Netflix queue or baking. Or, ideally, a combination of both. Say hi on Twitter.More from this Author