Answering Ads - The Odds Are Against You But Here Are a Few Tips to Improve Your Responses

By Ellis Chase

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Putting together a good job search is more art than science. I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach. Job seekers need to know the basic strategies so they can use the ones that fit their style effectively.

This is especially true when it comes to answering ads. Every survey I've seen will show that something like 6-7% of all jobs are filled by ads (including the internet sites, matching sites, metasites, etc.). Some of the estimates are a little higher, but it's still a very low number overall. So why do people spend so much of their time with ads? Because it's easy and reactive. You don't have to go out and build relationships and spend time with research; others will do the work for you. Or at least that's what most people believe. You just write a decent cover and send your resume, and hope.

While I'll never suggest that any job seeker skip over anything that might yield as much as 6-7% chance of success, why would anyone spend 80% of their time wasting time on such a low-odds proposition? Even worse, why set yourself up to be in competition with 500 or more competitors? Or put yourself in a position where you won't even get your document read?. Yes, some people do get jobs that way, but it takes longer, is more random, and the competition makes it ridiculously difficult - even if you're answering an ad that matches up perfectly with your credentials and niche.

That said, I deal with people daily who are uncomfortable with networking. Smart, talented people who really would prefer to answer ads. What they want from me is help in making better responses.

My first inclination is always to help them figure out how they could just push, a little, to build some relationships as part of their search. But I also realize that's painful for some, and will only be a minimal part of the process.

So here are a few tricks to use when answering ads:

Answer twice

You answer the ad immediately, and then answer again, exactly the same, way 10 days later.

In the first batch, chances are good you won't even get noticed. In the second, maybe you'll be only one of three that come in that day, and you do get noticed.

Don’t always include a resume

Avoid sending the resume with a first response. There's always going to be something in the resume that's going to eliminate you from consideration. Maybe you have five years of experience in the field, and they're asking for seven. Dumb reason to eliminate you, but the piece of paper can't address the hiring manager's (or human resources') concerns. (It's one of the many reasons why I prefer more high-touch connections.)

Create a "resume letter"

This could be a list of several of the specs they're asking for, and you could match those up. Of course, you don't even mention the ones you don't have. That's real targeted marketing.

Approach someone in the organization first

This is the best approach but one that will make an avowed non-networker cringe. It's a great idea to "circle around" the job, by networking into the organization, and not mentioning you know anything about the opening. Of course, you'd position yourself exactly for the job, then ask for some advice on where you might make a connection in the organization to an area that might utilize those skills. Or if the person you're talking with doesn't catch on, then you may mention you heard through the grapevine that the organization may be hiring someone with those particular skills, and would your contact have any advice about how to approach this?  

Job search is tough and should involve some high-touch relationship building. Ads are a small part of the process, but it's the relationships, new and old, that have the highest odds for success.  

About The Author

Ellis is one of Manhattan’s top career consultants and executive coaches. His book, In Search of the Fun-Forever Job:  Career Strategies That Work, was published by Bacon Press in April.  

You can learn more from and about Ellis on his website, and via his blog.


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