In the 1989 film Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character builds a baseball field after hearing a voice say, “If you build it, he will come.” As job seekers, it seems we often try to take a similar approach.
Let me explain. When looking for a job, we focus a tremendous amount of energy building the perfect resume, making a fantastic LinkedIn profile, and writing a compelling cover letter. We pour hours of work into these items. Then, the clock starts. Months pass by and we become increasingly frustrated. We begin to wonder, “Why haven’t I found a job by now?”
The problem is, a rumor has been going around. The rumor is this: if you’re interested in a job, the only thing you need to do is apply online. If you’re the right person for the job, the company will call you. It makes sense that we’d believe this rumor. It’s the official line companies have been telling us every day for years.
This approach seems perfectly reasonable – and, it allows is to avoid our biggest job seeking fears. For example, contacting a hiring manager directly can be a scary thing. We might be rejected. We might bother them, and they won’t want to hire us. So, we stick with the safe online route.
Then, when we receive the automated rejection e-mail, we try to make up a list of reasons as to why we weren’t the best candidate. We assume something must be wrong with us and our resume. It might be our experience, our education, or even our age. It’s an awful process that can damage even the best self-esteem.
Unfortunately, many of the online systems companies use (called applicant tracking systems) aren’t as perfect as we might hope. If we only submit an application online, there’s a good chance another human may never see our resume, no matter how qualified we are.
And, even if a real live person does see our online application, will the company really want to hire us? Hiring can be a risky undertaking after all. A hiring mistake can cost the company both time and money.
To avoid mistakes, hiring managers typically start with their own network first. They think, “Do I know anyone who might be a good fit for this job?” Then, they think, “Do I know anyone who knows anyone who might be a good fit for this job?” Rarely does the manager begin a search wondering who they might find on the internet.
Rather than be a passive stranger, we should take a bolder approach. We should introduce ourselves. Find the hiring manager. Find the head of the department. Find the HR person. Send an email. Send a LinkedIn connection request. At worst, the company may ignore us. But, otherwise, they may not have ever seen our resume in the first place. This is the kind of risk that’s worth taking.
As Babe Ruth once said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”
Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at CopelandCoaching.com or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.