Want the job? Break the rules.

Have you ever wondered why you’re not hearing back about your job applications?

You’re not alone. A candidate recently sent us a message on Yelp wondering why, despite her many qualifications, she was not getting any interviews. After reviewing her situation, I realized that this person was making the biggest mistake that I see over and over again. And if you’re not landing job offers, you are probably making it too.

 You’re following the rules.

The biggest mistake job seekers make is doing the expected – over and over again – and expecting unexpected, extraordinary results. That’s just not how it works. If you want to gain the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager who is reviewing hundreds of applications for the job you’re applying for, you need to stand out. And I don’t mean using an interesting font on your resume.

These days, applying to a job online is simply not enough. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s a waste of time. If you’re seriously pursuing a job opportunity, don’t just hit ‘submit’ and sit, wait and wish for a response. You need to break the rules.

Here’s how:

1. Cut the line.

Submitting an application online is like putting yourself in the back of a very long line of which you may never reach the front. Even if you’re the best possible person for the job, your resume may never be looked at if a company finds somebody else who’s good enough first. Therefore, the first thing you must do upon submitting an online application is to get out of this line. 

Now I’m going to let you in on a secret – there is a separate, VIP entrance in any hiring process. It is reserved for those applicants who have a personal connection with an existing employee of the company. This is the line you want to be in. This is how you get a fair shot.

So how do you find and connect with an existing employee who can help you cut the line? It’s easier than you might think.

For example:

  • Find an employee on LinkedIn with whom you have something in common, and send them a message. Eg. ‘Fellow <your school> Alum Seeking Advice.’ or ‘Friend of <mutual connection’s name> Seeking Advice.’ Invite them for coffee.
  • Check out the company’s Facebook page and see if you can attend an upcoming event. Do they have an Eventbrite? Even better.
  • Go to the company’s office with a copy of your resume and a handwritten note. Ask the receptionist for tips on getting hired. Is there anyone you could talk to while you’re there? If not, could he/she give you the name of the hiring manager for this position? Now you at least know who to look for on LinkedIn.
2. Let your freak flag fly (sort of).

It’s a common tendency of job seekers to keep their individualism under wraps throughout the application process so as not to offend or distract. But guess what? That is INCREDIBLY BORING. While a generic, polite cover letter is effective in not offending anyone, it does absolutely nothing to grab its reader’s attention. This also applies to a LinkedIn profile. 

Your personality, interests and life experiences are what distinguish you from every other person on the planet. Use them! While they may not resonate with everybody, they will stand out. They may even get you in the door. 

The business of hiring is personal – getting a job offer is all about connecting personally with the human sitting across the table or on the other end of the line. How you make that connection is by letting a hiring manager get a true sense of who you are as a person, not just a professional.

Your LinkedIn profile is a good place to start adding more YOU into your professional persona. Use the summary statement to convey who you are and what you are really good at. Don’t stop there – try adding a sentence that tells people what you care about, what issues are important to you. Post an article you found interesting. Add a quote you like.

Do not post anything offensive or revealing of TMI, of course. The point of this isn’t to grab attention by any means necessary. Just add enough information to give potential employers the chance to connect with you on something deeper than, say, your Excel skills.

3. Flip the script.

Let’s say you’ve gone through steps one and two and got an interview. Now what? This is an equally important playing field and you want to be memorable. So why not distinguish yourself from the crowd by asking the first question?

It might sound crazy, but it will make an impression. Just walk right in and say, ‘Hey <Interviewer’s name>, thanks for meeting with me today. I know you’re busy and probably have a lot of people to interview for this role, and I’ve done my homework and I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on it. What I’d love to hear from you since you’re the <Interviewer’s role>, is what you’d like me to accomplish in the first 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months on the job.’

It’s a mouthful, but at the same time, instead of waiting for the generic first questions they’ll ask you, you can take the lead and ask the question. Now you’ll get really solid, specific answers you can use to tailor your responses to the specific objectives your Interviewer is looking for.

Finally, there’s one ‘old school’ rule you SHOULD follow – but many people don’t: follow up.

Most people do not follow up after an interview and leave opportunities on the table as a result. In fact, less than 10% of people follow up with a handwritten note. So if you want to stand out from the crowd, a handwritten note is a simple way to do it. Or if you really want to shine, get creative and send your interviewer something memorable that you talked about in your meeting, such as a link to an article you think they’d like or even a book you discussed. Don’t just sit, wait, and wish for an offer.

The bottom line is this: if you’re serious about a job, you need to go after it with everything you’ve got. Be yourself (albeit the best version of yourself) and strive to make a real connection with those you’re reaching out to. The ‘rules’ are for followers. And who wants to hire them?

 

About the author:

Louis Song_CEO_Proven Recruiting-01Louis Song 
Co-Founder & CEO, Proven Recruiting

With more than 20 years of experience in Information Systems Analysis, Technology Recruiting and Sales Management, Louis is the driving force behind Proven Recruiting’s innovative culture and award-winning staffing services.  

Since co-founding the company in 2007, Louis has grown Proven Recruiting from seven original founders to more than 200 core employees and consultants spanning offices in San Diego, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Previously, Louis was a Managing Director for one of the largest staffing companies in the country. He managed an office of more than 70 people that generated more than $40M a year. Louis graduated from the American University in Washington D.C. with a BA in Psychology. He is active in local business and community organizations as a board member of the Asian Business Association (www.aba-sd.org), and Pacific Arts Movement (www.pac-arts.org).  

Have a question for Louis? Ask him in the comments below!