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Your Procedure for Pursuing Job Leads

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By WonderPup
August 20, 2003

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I go through the company's web site, familiarize myself with what the company does, get the names and email addresses of the people I think are key to me, and send them my resume and cover letter.

If I get unsolicited email that cannot cite the path the person took to get my name, it is almost guaranteed to end up in the trash. You may think that's foolish on my part--after all, you're a great employee, right, and I should be happy to have you!

The reality is that in the same week I get an email from a stranger, I'm probably going to get a couple emails from a FOAF (friend-of-a-friend). These are all known quantities to me. I know how the person got my name. I know that if my friend gave out my contact info, they've done at least a nominal screening, since my friends don't just dish leads for fun. I know that I can follow up with my friend to get information on the person (although many times, my friend has contacted me first to ask permission or promote the candidate). The simple fact that the candidate has passed through these hoops has eliminated many questions.

Meanwhile, the unsolicited candidate is a huge unknown. The candidate thinks pulling stuff off the website exhibits research; I probably recognize it as minimal "cut and paste" effort since a dozen others just like the candidate have tried this already. I know that no truly "inside" information is being exhibited in the letter. I suspect that I'm merely just another name on a massive mailing list, and I'll react the same way I do with all my junk mail at home--I'll use it to feed the recycling bin.

You may call it reckless and stupid since I may be turning down a good candidate. I call it using my time well, since I know I have other options.

One of the best learning lessons I had was when I left my first job. I left on good terms--I was just moving home from out of state. I was asked to screen candidates for my replacement. I was handed a stack of paper two inches thick.

I learned several things, but one of the most important was that I could have arbitrarily dumped 3/4 of the resumes in the garbage without even looking at them, and I still had a good pool of qualified candidates out of what was left. I did pretty close to that--I skimmed every single one in my pile. Spelling mistakes--gone. Two line cover letter--gone (without even reading the two lines). Hard to read printing--gone. I spent less than 10 minutes going through over a hundred resumes, and I hadn't even bothered to flip the page from the cover letter to the resume. I ended up with a smaller pool, and I repeated the process with the resume page.

Within about 20 minutes, I was down to a stack of 15-25 or so resumes. I whittled the list down to 5, every one of which was at least as qualified for the job as I was, and in 3 cases, far more so. Those 5 all got contacted for the position.

Did I throw out some good candidates? Probably. The reality of the situation is that I still ended up with more candidates than we could have possibly handled anyway.

Random emailing is NOT going to work. Pulling a couple soundbites off a web page and thinking it is research is NOT going to work.

If you want to surf the web for contact names, use the phone to get a hold of these people first, and ask for an informational interview. Or, find people who know these people. Give them some reason to want to talk with you, which hopefully will in turn lead to a reason for them to be willing to accept a resume from you.

Send it blind, and you'll be waiting a while.


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