Guest Author: John Feldmann is a Sourcing Analyst for Insperity Recruiting Services, specializing in employment branding and advertising.
Every year, thousands of new college grads emerge from academia, filled with optimism, ready to enter the next stage of their lives. But the first step is often the hardest – finding a job, or better yet, a career. The task of finding a job is a full-time job in itself, and how are you supposed to know the dos and don’ts of job hunting if you’ve never actually done it? Alright, so you worked as a lifeguard last summer, and sold jeans at The Gap during high school. But now, you’re looking for a career – a job that will support you, pay off your student loans, act as the first step to reaching your professional goals, and ideally, draw upon the knowledge and education you acquired in school.
Several years ago, long before I began working for my present employer, I went through a period of unemployment. I spent every day searching the internet job boards for positions for which I might be a good fit, and sending personalized cover letters and resumes tailored to each position. But as months went by, I got little or no response, and as my frustration grew, my standards continued to lower with regard to required qualifications and salary.
At about this same time, a close friend of mine had just graduated and was also looking for a job. Within a few weeks of searching, he was able to obtain a number of interviews and eventually a job offer. I told him about how much trouble I had been having even getting a response from my applications and resume submissions. When I asked him how he had gotten a response so quickly, he responded by asking, “How many resumes are you sending out a day?” I responded by telling him I send out three or four a day, and only for jobs for which I know I’m qualified. His response was quite surprising. “Well, there’s your problem. I send out at least 80 resumes a day.”
Recruiters are all too familiar with this practice – it’s the “spray and pray” application technique. Even if blindfolded, if you throw enough darts at a dartboard, you’re bound to hit the bullseye eventually. Now that I have been employed in the recruiting industry for several years, I know what a turn-off this method of application is for employers. In fact, I have counseled many job seekers to not submit resumes through mass e-mails, but rather to be selective. However, I can’t deny the results that my friend got from his application method. I spent several more months sending out resumes before finding work, whereas he spent those months collecting paychecks at his new job. Ultimately, the job he found was not ideal for him, but it did lead to other opportunities and served as a stepping stone to another job for which he was better suited.
The moral of the story is this – when job hunting, especially if this is your first venture into the working world, you will receive plenty of advice on what to do, and what not to do. But there is no absolute right or wrong. It is easy for those of us who are currently employed to “armchair quarterback” your job search strategy, and those of us in the recruiting industry can tell you what hiring managers and recruiters prefer to see, and what will most likely get you disqualified. But the truth is, what works for one job seeker may not work for another, and vice versa.
In reality, the response to your resume submissions will be determined by a number of factors, namely your major, your previous work experience or internships, the number of resumes the employer has received for the job you’re interested in, and how quickly they need the job filled. Graduating with a degree in Petroleum Engineering? Chances are you will get a better response from your resume submissions than your friend who is graduating with a liberal arts degree. Spent the summer interning with Chevron? Again, you’ll probably see better results than your fraternity brother who spent the summer at the Jersey shore.
As far as how many resumes you choose to send out at a time, there is one factor that might play a part in your decision – how quickly you need a paycheck. While this is not something I recommend you base your search method on, again, it’s easy to give advice when you are comfortably employed. For those who are less concerned about finding the perfect long-term career, but more concerned about feeding their family or not being evicted from their apartment, the more resumes you send out, the better chance you have of one being seen by an employer who is looking to hire ASAP. But if you choose this approach, don’t neglect the fact that your chances increase dramatically of ending up in a job in which you will ultimately be unhappy.
Just remember, no one likes to feel unimportant. When applying for a job, there’s no better way to make the employer feel unimportant than to submit a resume and cover letter that look like you didn’t even take the time to read the job description or evaluate how your qualifications would match the required skill set. A best practice is to read each job description carefully, apply to only the ones you feel are a good match for you, and tailor each cover letter and resume to the position. But again, every situation is different, as is every hiring manager. I can’t tell you what application method will work. I can only tell you what most recruiters and employers prefer to see, and what will give you an advantage when undertaking the difficult task of job searching. The rest is dependent upon preparation, determination, perseverance and a bit of luck. I wish you plenty of the last one…the others are up to you.