Problems Executive Candidates Have in Following Up Resumes or Applications Sent Online … and How To Solve Them
I sent my résumé to the company by e-mail,” said Jack, an operations manager in the financial services industry. “I got an automated response … and that’s it. I never knew whether or not a decision maker ever took a look at it.”
More and more executives who use the Internet to find and apply for jobs are telling a similar story.
The Web is a great place to find leads and career resources. Submitting your résumé to a company for a job you found online is fast and easy. But what comes next? Is it just a waiting game, or are there follow-up methods you can use to increase your response rates?
Steve Kobs, a human resources manager at Hanley-Wood Custom Publishing, a Minneapolis-based marketing communications firm, offers advice from the other side of the hiring game. “One week after submitting your résumé is a reasonable time to follow up with companies,” he says.
And the best way to follow up after sending a résumé or applying online?
“I prefer e-mail,” says Kobs. “If you call me on the phone and ask if we’ve made a hiring decision, you put me in an awkward position if I have to tell you bad news … or if I’ve forgotten who you are. Candidates who follow up by e-mail show respect for my time, which I appreciate,” he says.
For some positions, such as those in sales or journalism, following up after sending your résumé is more than effective. It’s expected. Because to stand out in these and similar fields, you have to prove you have the diligence and attention to detail it takes to succeed.
To paraphrase Woody Allen, just showing up can equal success. “Candidates frequently say in their cover letters that they’ll follow up with a phone call or other contact,” says Kobs. “But less than half of them actually do.” Which leaves you plenty of room to stand out, if you just do what you say you’ll do. (Another case of common sense being not so common after all.)
Andrea Hoover, CEO of JobLynx Online (www.joblynx.com), offers additional ways to set yourself apart when applying for jobs online. With more than 30 years of professional job seeking experience, which includes reading and critiquing over 100,000 resumes, she is an expert on the Internet job market.
“First, when submitting résumés online, be sure to use a professional-looking e-mail address, not the one at work or a cutesy one like firstname.lastname@example.org. Get serious about your job search. NEVER use a friend’s or relative’s email address either — this only makes you look either lazy or unfamiliar with the Internet.”
Her follow-up methods, which are more aggressive than what an HR professional might suggest, include the following:
- The day after you submit your resume to a company, e-mail them a quick note asking if they received and were able to read your resume, or if they require a different format for their database.
- The day after that, print and send a stationery version of your resume by US Mail to the hiring authority, along with a copy to any other company contacts, for review and filing for future opportunities.
- One week after your initial contact, send an e-mail to the hiring authority inquiring if you can supply any further information not included in your original resume.
- Finally, around 10 days after your online application, send another e-mail asking for the phone number of the hiring authority, since you are considering several other offers. Attach your resume to this e-mail so they won’t need to hunt for it. And ask for a convenient time to contact them for a brief phone interview.
“Your goal in following up aggressively is to sell your abilities and experience,” says Hoover. “Push for the face-to-face interview as soon as possible. When you’ve succeeded, confirm the interview time and place by both e-mail and phone.”
In most cases, your best defense is a good offense.
Put another way, if you attract a flood of inquiries from interested employers and recruiters, you’ll have less follow-up to worry about later.
An easy way to do this is to create and use an effective keyword résumé when submitting to employers online or posting to such employment Web sites as Monster.com.
For those of you not familiar with the term, you can create a keyword résumé (also known as a plain text or ASCII résumé) by saving your standard résumé as a text file. Then, add a section of keywords, which are the words employers use when searching through employment Web sites or internal databases of résumés.
Try to anticipate the possible combinations of search terms an employer might use, than add those to your keyword résumé. “When I search for a marketing editor,” says Steve Kobs, “I use keywords like ‘marketing,’ ‘communications,’ ‘manage’ and ‘managing.’”
Here are some actual search examples from Monster.com to illustrate how much of a difference this can make.
For the six-state New England region (CT, MA, ME, RI, VT, NH) I searched the résumés of all candidates with a bachelor’s degree submitted during the last 30 days. I used two keywords: “sales” and “manager.” This resulted in 174 résumés.
A search of the same candidates using the keywords “sales” and “management” turned up 89 résumés. That means 85 candidates eliminated themselves from my search because they didn’t include “management” with “manager” in their keyword sections.
Tip: be thorough when including keywords in your résumé.
Here’s another overlooked point. “When I search résumé databases,” says Kobs, “I’m looking for recent résumés, because the high-quality candidates won’t last long. And I’m looking for people who are conducting an active job search.”
My results bore this out. When I re-did my first Monster.com search of résumés submitted within the last 60 days, the resulting résumés numbered 264, far more than the original 174. That’s 90 candidates who weren’t posted recently enough for my initial search.
Tip: revise or re-post your résumé every 30 days on every employment Web site. Because employers want the freshest candidate listings, they’ll often search the most recently posted résumés first.
Keep in mind that, once your résumé pops up during a search, a human will be reading it on a computer screen. That’s why it’s crucial to make a powerful first impression — fast. Consider adding a “Professional Profile” section right below your opening. In it, describe 3-5 of your best skills and achievements, using dollars, numbers and percentages to paint a clear picture of the results you’re capable of producing.
To summarize, your ability to apply effectively for jobs online, and then follow up, can go a long way toward securing your next job.
Your best strategy will include a powerful keyword résumé (to generate the highest number of job leads at the outset) and a plan for following up regularly (to stay “top of mind” with employers who have your résumé).