The following is adapted from Ignite Your Career!
Applying for a job is a little bit like gambling or playing the lottery. You put your application online and wait to see if you won the prize—a call back from the hiring manager or, even better, a job offer.
Often, this process feels out of your control, but unlike gambling, you can actually improve the odds of winning your job search. The key is to avoid going into the dreaded black hole of the online application system. Once your resume is in there, it’s never coming out.
The secret to improving your odds is to not only apply for jobs online, but to use all three options available to you: online, through friends or contacts, and via an executive recruiter.
By utilizing all three application channels, you’ll cover your bases, get your name in front of more decision makers, and boost your odds of successfully landing your perfect job.
Your first option, which is also the most common way to apply for a job today, is online. You’ll find opportunities on LinkedIn; job boards, such as Career Builder or Indeed; or a company website. These venues provide the easiest type of application to complete, but they also have the lowest probability of success.
Many companies use artificial intelligence (AI) or applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan the thousands of resumes they receive. The system searches for keywords and weeds out applications that don’t match. This process reduces the number of resumes an actual human will have to review to a manageable amount.
For you, it probably feels good to push that button and send something off. I appreciate that, but my best advice is that these job listings rarely net a winning hand, and should only be used as a last resort.
If you must apply online, boost your chances of reaching and being approved by a human by filling out the application fully, tailoring your resume to include keywords from the job description, and avoiding any typos. That’s the only way to get past the filters and maybe be seen by a real hiring manager.
Friends and Contacts
Fortunately, the second way of applying for a job has a higher probability of success. This is applying via former work colleagues, friends, college career centers or professors, or individuals with whom you’ve networked. These contacts do not just increase the probability that your resume will be reviewed by an actual human rather than AI; they can help get your resume to the right people.
If you’ve worked with a person previously, this is the best scenario and has the highest odds of success as they can speak to your experiences, abilities, and fit with the company. Friends may be able to speak only to your perceived fit with the company culture, but that is in turn preferable to somebody you’ve just networked with.
Keep in mind that when you ask somebody to advocate on your behalf, you’re asking them to vouch for you. Their credibility is on the line as well as yours, so be mindful of that and respect their position.
At the same time, be mindful that they may have limited influence to pass on your resume. It might never reach the decision maker, which is why this next option is the best bet when possible.
The third and best way to apply for a job is through a quality executive recruiter.
Finding a trustworthy recruiter in your industry who wants to know about your background, goals, and aspirations can be life-altering. Because the recruiter understands both what you’re looking for in a career and what the company is looking for in a candidate, they can advocate for you and help set up the perfect match.
A skilled recruiter will not only help you land this job, but they can also counsel you on potential moves, help you negotiate offers, and eventually, when you reach a point in your career where you’re managing people, help you build your own team.
To find a recruiter, I recommend searching online for reputable professionals; asking your professor if he or she knows anyone you might speak to; and contacting alumni in your area of expertise and asking them for a referral. By taking these steps, you’re likely to find someone knowledgeable in your field of interest.
Maximize Your Chances of Job Search Success
Applying for a job doesn’t have to feel like a roll of the dice.
You increase the probability for success by being strategic in your job search and utilizing all avenues available to you: an executive recruiter, friends or contacts, and online (preferably in that order).
Get to know quality executive recruiters in your field, and leverage past work associates, friends, and networking relationships. Only as a last resort should you apply directly for a job through an online listing.
Follow these tips, and you’ll give yourself a better chance of winning the big prize—your dream job—than if you default to the online option alone.
For more advice on building a successful career, check out Ignite Your Career.