The job boards are slow as the employment market continues to tighten. Does that mean you should sit back and wait for a job of your liking to magically appear on iMedia, The Ladders or any of your other preferred job sites? Me thinks not! Create a wish list of companies you want to work for and take the initiative to contact these guys directly. Visit their Web sites, call the main number and ask for the name of an HR Director and the head of the department you want to work in (e.g., if you are a marketer, get the name of the Marketing Director). Your ultimate goal is to get at least one face-to-face informational interview. You want to introduce yourself to the right people, meet them, and make such a great impression that they will call you when a suitable position opens up.
Your cover letter has to be highly targeted. Illustrate that you are smart about the company’s business. If, for example, you want to work on the account side in a particular advertising agency, find out what accounts the agency is working on. Check out their advertising, see if they have been involved in any philanthropic work. Make note of what you know in your covers.
Pay attention to staffing changes in the industry. MediaPost and MediaBistro both publish weekly round-ups of “who took what job, and where” in their “People on the Move” and “Revolving Door” newsletters. If you read that “Joe Boxer” got a job as a Sales Director for the entertainment category at Facebook and you’ve got an entertainment background, drop Joe Boxer a note congratulating him on his new position and tell him how you believe you can help him lead the company to even more success (leaving aside any comments about their sucky redesign!).
Let’s compare this to dating. Imagine that a friend of yours sets you up on a blind date. On your first date you find out that he/she already knows what your favorite food is, where you went to school, and where you grew up. You’re impressed, right? Here’s someone who took the time to get to know some key things about you before you even met. Now imagine that the same person meets you and can’t even remember your full name. Who do you think you’d be more impressed with? The same holds true in the search for a job. A company is going to be more impressed with the candidate who does his homework and takes the time to know its business.
Once you show that you are knowledgeable about the company’s business, it’s key to outline the reasons why you would be a valuable addition to the company. Describe your particular experience and how it is relevant to the type of job you are seeking with the company. If you are looking to be an account executive, for example, make sure that you can clearly articulate the job responsibilities associated with this title and tie your experiences in with each of these responsibilities.
Close your cover letter with a line that says YOU will initiate the follow up, not that you “look forward to a response in the future.” A good closer could go something like this: “I appreciate your attention and will follow up in a few days to potentially set up a time to meet at your convenience. If you’d like to reach me, please feel free to call anytime at 212.222.2222 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
You want to really stand out? Send your cover letter and resume by email AND snail mail. Nobody sends hard copies anymore and there’s something real nice about getting a crisp resume in large envelope. Old-fashioned and nice….