Get out there!
Part 2: Three paths to get employers to see your resume
In yesterday's post, Writing strong resumes and cover letters, we discussed how to amplify these documents and catch the attention of recruiters and hiring managers. If you followed the advice in that post, you now have a powerful resume and cover letter to share with the world.
But how do you share it?
You can release your resume into the wild and get people's attention through methods including:
Direct company contact.
In today's post, I'll focus on the first three.
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Most companies have a jobs or careers section on their website that you can use to see what positions they have open. There are pros and cons to applying for positions this way.
The most significant benefit of applying directly to a company is that you'll work with them exclusively; if they decide to interview you. For example, this direct access eliminates the back-and-forth you must deal with when working through a staffing agency or third-party recruiter.
Since you'll be working directly with the company's human resources (HR) department, getting detailed information on the company's benefits, culture, and other information is more straightforward.
Negotiating an appealing job offer is also easier since the HR department and hiring manager have easy access to each other and have a vested interest in building a positive working relationship with you.
Most companies don't have dedicated recruiters, so people in HR must juggle hiring with all the other wicked shenanigans they're responsible for.
HR departments are busy and only go through some of the resumes. They'll find a handful of applicants they like and stop looking. Therefore, you'll often receive a friendly email from the HR department thanking you for your interest in their company and assuring you that the feeling is not mutual; but please try again later. Keep pushing forward if this happens to you. Look at the situation through the lens of HR being busy, not commentary on your skills.
There are a lot of job boards you can use to get your resume online. The two most popular ones are Indeed.com and Monster.com. OK, they may not be the most popular, but they are the two that materialized in my head first, so they win.
I would also like to mention FlexJobs.com. Where Indeed and Monster focus on full-time corporate positions, FlexJobs concentrates on jobs that provide flexible work hours, gig work, remote opportunities, part-time work, etc. There isn't as much competition in this space, so FlexJobs may provide a way to break into the market you want without having to contend against more seasoned applicants.
Unlike company career pages, where posting your resume results in a single view from a single company, job boards allow you to post one resume and have thousands of companies see it. Sounds great, right? It is!
Most of my jobs have come via job boards. However, there are some things to consider.
Job boards have a vast range of opportunities available. For example, searching a site like Indeed could reveal the perfect job for you that you didn't know existed.
Companies and recruiters can also find you through their searches. For example, I get emails daily from people asking me to apply for their positions based on my Indeed profile.
Most job boards include alerts that let you know when a job that matches your profile becomes available. Pounce on those when you get them. Companies often stop accepting applications after the first baker's dozen, so you'll want to act quickly.
Another recent trend on job boards that dramatically benefits you is salary information. There is nothing that screams "neophyte!" quite like over-selling or under-selling yourself salary-wise (to be fair, though, I don't believe anything has ever cried "neophyte!" in the entire history of the earth). Access to salary information also helps you save time by avoiding jobs that pay less than expected.
Finally, most job boards have company reviews, which can help you to avoid employers that don't fit your personality or other requirements.
Unfortunately, there are many scammers on job boards. Before applying for a job, check online to see if the company has a professional-looking website, positive reviews on sites like Glassdoor, or an established social media presence. Job listings with spelling and grammar errors can be a clue to illegitimate postings. The best way to stay safe is to only give personal information, like your birthdate, social security number, or address, to a company once you have a signed offer letter and have researched them thoroughly.
Many listings on job boards are stale, so you may apply for the ideal job only to discover the company filled it back in 1897.
Companies list jobs on job boards and their corporate website, so you could double-apply on accident. I recommend using Numbers, Excel, or Google Sheets to keep track of the companies you've contacted and how you submitted your resume so that you only send it once to each place.
Finally, the automation used by job boards will match you up with irrelevant listings. For example, Indeed has emailed me multiple alerts for registered nurse positions because they "match my profile." Unless rendering a Band-aid useless by getting salve all over the sticky part is the only medical experience necessary, I'm confident I fail to meet the qualifications.
I owe my initial success to staffing agencies, specifically a recruiter named Lawrence. He saw value in my resume and worked with Intel to get me my breakthrough role. Of course, I had to work hard on my skills and prepare for the interview, but Lawrence opened the door for me and shoved me into my cubicle.
Staffing agencies make their money by placing people in jobs, and they excel in their craft, so if you're trying for your first professional job, a staffing agency may get you into places that would be closed to you otherwise. They have a reputation that you don't have yet, so you can ride into your first position on their coattails, to be cliché for one glorious moment.
Staffing agencies can also negotiate salaries for you. This assistance is helpful if you haven't yet mastered that skill. They also tend to pay better than market value for contract positions (see cons before getting too excited). Therefore, if your full-time counterparts make $70K a year, you could make $80K for the same job as a contractor, minus government mountebankery.
Staffing agencies have a reputation to protect, so many offer free training and online courses to advance your skills. If you get the chance, take advantage of those opportunities.
Contract positions through staffing agencies will pay you for every hour you work. So while your salaried counterparts are toiling away for free late into the night, you're getting paid for those overtime hours.
Finally, staffing agencies can get you into positions quickly.
Staffing agencies tend to have limited benefits or no benefits at all. On the plus side, you make more money per hour, but the downside is that your money can disappear quickly in a medical emergency or if you or your spouse gets pregnant.
Since there is a high fee associated with staffing agencies, many companies won't use them, which limits the companies you can get into.
Since staffing agencies make money by placing you in a position, they may rush you into a job you don't want.
There isn't a best way to get your resume into the hands of an employer. The point is that it gets there. Use a carrier pigeon if you have to. The fact is that each method of contacting employers has pros and cons. It's up to you to know what those are and balance them to meet your needs.
If you're trying to break into your first professional position, try all these contact methods and take the first position you get, even if it differs from where you want to end up. You're progressing if your first position is a step in the right direction. That is all that's important. Who knows? You may even discover a new path you love more, which would have eluded you otherwise.
For today's challenge, try sending your resume out using the three methods we reviewed today. Then, let us know how it turned out in the comments.