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Ask Brian – You’ve Not Really Applied For A Job Unless You’ve Spoken To A Person

November 24th, 2008 · 5 Comments

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I haven’t done an Ask Brian column in a while (though you can still submit your questions here), because I haven’t gotten an interesting question in a while. Lately all the questions have been of a kind:

I’ve sent my resume out 90 times and haven’t heard anything. How do I hear back from someone?

So, consider this a one-time-answers-all Ask Brian on this particular question.

My basic rule of thumb is, if you haven’t actually interacted with a person, you haven’t really applied for the job.

This is an extremely unpopular rule of thumb. I can already hear you saying, But Brian, they don’t let us apply in person. They make us apply online of through their impersonal system.

I understand that. And my number one rule for applying for a job is do exactly what they tell you to do. Nothing can anger a hiring manager more than for you to submit your resume via “x” when they explicitly told you to do “y.”


However, applying for a job is a numbers game. And no one ever said you have to play the game exactly the way it’s set up.

Job applications are an impersonal numbers game to make it easier for your resume to be sifted out and rejected. And that’s precisely what you’re trying to avoid, isn’t it? So shouldn’t you be tipping the numbers scale back in your favor if you can?

The way you can tip things in your favor is to look for any angle you can find to make the job application a more personal, or at least, less anonymous process.

I heard another career professional mention recently that the general ratio of job application to job response is 1 to 5 at best. You send out your resume 5 times and get 1 response. I think in a tough environment like this, the ratio could easily go to 1 out of 15 or 20!

The overall point of my rule of thumb is that you can’t do a lazy job search. If you’re just relying on Monster or other online job boards, sure you can send your resume out 300 times in a matter of hours. But this isn’t quality, it’s meaningless quantity. It’s entirely possible that you might get a hit here or there… and don’t get me wrong, online job boards are useful and people get results from them every day… but generally you’re just throwing your resume out into the void.

You could throw 300 copies of your resume out the window just as easily. One of those resumes might land at the feet of someone hiring, but what are the odds?

The point of my rule of thumb is that you increase your odds if you take a more proactive, less-impersonal job search approach.

It’s much better if you’ve applied to a person… even if it’s just a name. And they’ve seen your application come from a person, even just a name.

If you’re one of those people not getting a response, try some other, more personal methods of job application.

Attend a job fair. You’ll get to hand your resume to a person.

Show up to the employer and apply in person if you can.

I’ve suggested before that mailing your resume via snail mail is sometimes a good tactic.

Did you apply online? Do a little googling and see if you can’t get an email address for the person doing the hiring (or anyone who might be involved in the hiring) and email your resume to them as a follow up. Mention you applied online as well.

Heck, even the fax can be a useful way to follow up. SOMEONE will have to pick up that piece of paper.

Bottom line, if you’re just playing a numbers game, you’re not helping your odds. Anything you can do to make your job search more personal in any way shape or form can increase your odds.

Everything else is just throwing your resume into the void and hoping it lands on someone’s desk somewhere.

Related posts:

  1. How To Get In Touch With An Actual Person (1800 Number Hacks)
  2. Ask Brian – How Long Should I Wait To Hear Back? – Some Rules
  3. Ask Brian- Politics on My Resume
  4. Ask Brian – Does an Employer Have the Right to Ask About Activities/Groups/Clubs?
  5. Ask Brian- Best Resume Tip
  6. Ask Brian – Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You

Tags: Ask Brian · Interviewing

  • CK

    Snail-mail, fax – all good but I heard of some even FEdEx-ing their resume (so long as you have the right person and title)! And who doesn’t want to take a FedEx package?!?

  • Tom

    I am in the same boat as the person who posted the question. However I have been using craigslist as main way to search for jobs. The majority of the positions that I apply for have no phone numbers or names of people to respond to, just an email address. I use the body of the email as an opportunity to use it like a cover letter. I take the time to make it personalized so I can really sell myself. I then attach a copy of my resume (I have a few versions that I send depending on the position, usually slightly tweaking them a bit to make sure the qualifications fit the job I’m applying for) I have also been including a plain text version for people afraid of opening attachments. After a week with no response, and if the advert is still listed, I send a follow up email. Usually asking if the position is still open and letting them know that I am eager to speak with someone. I spend the time, do the follow ups and still I can’t seem to get a response of ANY kind whatsoever. What am I doing wrong???

  • Yuliya

    Tom – I’m in the same boat….

  • EEmagChiquita

    “Attend a job fair. You’ll get to hand your resume to a person.”

    My university has a job fair each semester. When I went to this semester’s, I had enough resumes with me to supply every potential employer in my field with two.

    Three employers out of about 50 actually allowed me to give them a resume. Most of them said they didn’t want paper, and that I should apply at their website. A few of them physically blocked me from giving them a resume–I had it out and they pushed my hand back.

    • Marisol

      That is so true, I have gone to government job fairs, and when I ask what positions are open, they say there arent any actually open, so what are they doing there?  Giving us all false hopes!