SURROUNDING THE POSTING – Making the Low-Odds Technique Work More Effectively

As mentioned in many of my books, articles, and blogs, and in those of many others
in my profession, answering postings is not a very successful technique for career
transition - less than 10% market penetration. This statistic is even lower when
minor or major career changes are involved. I hope most job seekers learn this
quickly, and use their search time more efficiently.

There is, however, a method of making a job posting lead to improved opportunities
for interviews.

I was reminded of this the other day, when a client was discussing his search, which
had largely consisted of answering postings. Yet, something was different with his
approach. I was all set to go into my rant about not depending on online postings as
a primary source for job opportunities, when it became clear that he instinctively
understood that just answering wasn’t enough; he wanted to “surround” the

In other words, he should fully investigate the possibility of knowing, or getting to
know, someone in the organization. If he could find someone, he would contact that
person the same way one would contact anyone for an informational interview. A
method of finding that person (or persons!) could be research instruments that
would disclose personnel information (websites, data collections like Hoover’s or
Factiva) or investigating on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn, of course, is a valuable tool for finding the right people. Try to find
someone whose role is connected, in some way, to the role posted. Write a
personalized invitation, even if you have Premium service, saying that you see that
the two of you have things in common, like ________ and ________, and you’d welcome
the opportunity to be part of her network. Chances are good that you’ll get a
positive response, which is your opportunity to write a standard approach email for
an informational/due diligence/market research meeting. As usual, you’d prefer in
person, but if not possible, Skype or phone will do.

At the meeting, treat it as a standard networking meeting, without, of course, ever
saying the word “networking.” Mention towards the end that you have applied for a
position posted at that organization, and are curious if she knows anything about
the area. She’ll get the point. Don’t ask for a direct introduction; if you’ve made
your credential apparent through your excellent opening pitch, she’ll possibly offer
some advice or information, or maybe, if you’re lucky, even an introduction for an
exploratory conversation. The very least you’d hope for is some insight into the
organization and/or position. The best? The direct introduction.

That’s “surrounding” the posting. Answering the posting is only an initial step.
Doing more than that might help a low-odds job search approach become a more
successful one.

Answering Job Ads - What are the odds?

Most job searchers immediately start by looking at ads or calling recruiters and hope they can succeed quickly with this reactive technique. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Except that it doesn’t work very well. Every year or so, I investigate how well the various search techniques function, and usually the ads and recruiters together, according to the research, account for around 12–13% of the overall job market. Most jobs are found through personal networks. 

       So, why do people depend so much on the 13% and not the 87%? Because the prospect of answering an ad, and then getting called for an interview sounds easier and more appealing because it is easier. 

       Why don’t ads account for more jobs? Because most people do not precisely fit into the specific skill sets the ads are primarily seeking.

       When I recruited for a large bank many years ago, I used ads in The New York Times for large projects and occasionally for hard-to-fill positions. We were opening a large data center and staffing it at all levels. There were 36 positions for which we advertised internally as well as in The Times. It was a half-page ad, a major and expensive recruiting effort, and we received 5,000 responses for the 36 positions within two days. We were only a staff of four and had to figure out a way to get the best possible candidates for the positions quickly. 

       5000 resumes! We split up the jobs and split up the resumes, 1250 per staff person. Our goal was to get five candidates to interview for each position. I cannot speak for all corporate recruiters, but I can say that what followed was fairly typical of many I’ve met over the years. I had responsibility for seven of the positions and actually ended up reading maybe 250 of my 1250 resumes in order to find enough initial candidates for each position. Basically this means 1000, or 80%, of the resumes were never even read on this first pass. Later on, I might have read an additional 100 if I’d been unable to find enough qualified candidates for a specific position or two. 

       You have probably had the experience at some point of reading the perfect ad practically screaming, “This job’s for you!” And you write a great cover letter to accompany your brilliant resume that fits the job perfectly. And you send it to someone like . . . me, at the big corporation, the guy who only needs to read roughly 20% of the resumes he receives. In other words, there’s a high probability that yours will never receive so much as a glance.

       You end up feeling terrible because either you get a form rejection letter (from the better companies who are conscious of their public perception) or nothing (from the organizations who don’t think that way). You may also end up feeling that something was wrong with your resume, cover letter, or credentials, when in fact that was not the case. This is only one reason, among many, why answering ads is essentially a gamble. But in a comprehensive job search, it’s a technique not to be ignored because even in a gamble, there’s a chance for success. 

       One technique that often work is to answer the ad twice. First, answer it immediately, and then . . . answer it again, maybe 10 days later. The second response will be received in a batch of maybe three, rather than the hundreds elicited earlier. Even in a small organization, an ad will draw many responses, even if only placed in a specialized trade publication. Don’t worry that someone will notice the two responses. First of all, it would be surprising to me if someone would actually notice a duplicate, and, even if that were the case, so what? Would it be perceived as a negative if two responses were noted? Does it appear desperate? My take would be that the candidate was extremely interested in the position. What could be wrong with that? 

From In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies that Work

© Jiri Hera |