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Advice / Job Search / Networking

How to Get Noticed for a Job Before You Even Submit Your Resume, Based on a True Story

Almost three months ago, I put in my two weeks’ notice. After being unhappy for so many months, it felt like a huge relief. But it was also quite terrifying. Because I wasn’t moving onto another gig yet—not technically, anyway. I’d applied to two opportunities within the month prior and had gone to a couple interviews, but nothing was written in stone yet. Nothing was even written in sand. There were no offers of any kind, but I’d made my choice: I was leaving no matter what. If neither worked out for whatever reason, my plan was to freelance fulltime (gulp).

So, eight weeks ago, I sent my last email, attended a “see ya later” happy hour for myself, and closed my work laptop for good. I had no “traditional 9-to-5” back-up plan, but there wasn’t an ounce of me that doubted my decision (OK—maybe there was a smidgeon of apprehension.) I figured out how to buy insurance on my own, assured my parents I knew what I was doing, and was ready to tackle “funemployment” head on.

Flash forward to today, and I’m two weeks into a new job. I know—it was faster than I was expecting, too. One of the positions I’d applied to prior to making my departure—the one I had a good gut feeling about, the one I actually wanted—brought me on campus for an eight-hour in-person interview. Yes—eight hours. And I suppose I did pretty well. Four days later, they offered me the role.

But even though performing that day was the final step—the icing and the cherry on top of the cake—that’s not the only thing I owe this job to. If anything, I probably mostly owe it to what I did before I even hit “Submit” on my application. Before I even touched up my resume or constructed my cover letter.

1. I Scrolled Through My LinkedIn Feed (and My Email History)

OK—I must admit: Sometimes I visit my LinkedIn feed just as much as Facebook or Instagram. I’m not sure if that classifies me as a career nerd or a social media addict (or both). But despite my slightly unhealthy fixation with these apps, it ended up paying off.

Because one time, as I was getting all the details on what executives had been poached from my first-ever company, I just happened to see a job posting pop up. I was interested immediately. I’d wanted to work in the university setting for a while, and now I found an opportunity that was not only in higher education, but also aligned with my mission of making the world (or at least some of it) a healthier place.

After scanning the description for a little, I suddenly thought, “Hold on a second—how do I even know the person who listed this?” After all, I’m fairly picky about whose connections I accept (hint: If you want to connect with me, you better tell me why!).

I did a quick search in my Gmail and aha! About three years ago, a mutual friend gave her my contact info, and she’d reached out requesting information about my company (at the time) and possible positions there. And—thankfully—I took the time to answer thoroughly.

2. I Reached Out to the Person Who’d Posted the Job

Because we’d communicated before, I felt comfortable trying to connect with her about the position. Had I not responded years earlier, I’m not sure I would have. Because if I didn’t have the courtesy to answer her, why would I think she’d do a favor for me?

By the end of that very same day, she’d responded. And, fortunately for me, she was more than happy to chat.

3. I Asked Her a Very Frank Question

Because she wanted the hiring process to move as quickly as possible, we opted for chatting on the phone two days later rather than waiting for a time we could both meet in person. On the call, I asked for more details about the role and what she was looking for, as well as briefly explaining why the position was of interest to me.

And then, I did something pretty bold. Well, for me at least. Because I didn’t feel I had sufficient experience to fulfill one of the requirements, I wasn’t entirely sure I was qualified. And because of that, I wasn’t 100% sure I should apply. So, I said something along the lines of, “OK—just to level with you here, I’m not sure I have enough familiarity in that specific area. Do you still think I should apply?”

And she said yes. So, I did.

There’s no denying that your resume and cover letter are important. They’re both pretty crucial pieces to the puzzle. But they aren’t the only ones. If you ignore the others, you may be overlooked and not even make it to the interviewing stage. There were 120 other applicants for this job alone. And I can’t help but think that connecting with my now boss ahead of time helped to get my name on her radar. Sometimes, that’s the hardest part.

So, next time you find a gig you want, try taking those extra steps. See if any of your LinkedIn connections work at the company you’re looking at. If not, see if any can give you an introduction to someone who does. And then? Reach out to that person. Get your name, your face, your interest in the position on his radar. Your application can’t do all the work.

Photo of woman on phone call courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.