"I've sent my résumé to over 150 companies but I'm not getting any bites," complained a job hunter. "How many more jobs should I apply to in order to generate some interest?"
Some people treat job hunting as a numbers game. They hope that by applying to enough companies, sooner or later they will find success. While there is no one magic number of how many places a job searcher need apply, you shouldn't for a moment believe that applying to everything in sight is a winning strategy for career progression. Moreover, being unprepared for success might also be risky.
Imagine getting this call: "Hi Joe. This is Jane from ABC Corp. I'm responding to the résumé you submitted to us. Thanks so much for your interest. Can you tell me why this job appeals to you?"
Gulp. Joe's chances could be doomed from the get-go if he can't quickly summon to mind a better answer than: "Well … I applied to lots of jobs. Remind me which company you're calling from, and tell me about the job. Then I'll be able to explain it to you."
Already, Joe has blown his chance to show that he actually cares about this particular opportunity. Worse, he cemented in the mind of the interviewer that he is submitting frivolous applications out of desperation and likely isn't a serious candidate.
To be fair, you can't be expected to put in hours researching the details of every company before submitting an application. Nonetheless, it is important to have a clear sense of why you're interested in every company to which you apply, and what in your background should make that particular company interested in you.
If you want to make a hit, then take the time to understand the basics of your target companies' employment brand. Be prepared to tap into their carefully crafted reputation from your first conversation and all the way through the hiring process.
Here are five possible answers to the "why work here" question. Pick and choose from them, and expand with the facts of your particular situation. Thereby, you can demonstrate that you've done your research, your interest is real and your candidacy makes sense:
1. "I've known several colleagues over the years that have worked at your company, and they have all said great things."
2. "I was excited to see on your website that you feature employees talking about how great it is to work for your company. These days so many people seem to hate where they work for one reason or another. It's wonderful to see that your employees are proud to talk about how much they love their jobs."
3. "Your company's Facebook page is really engaging. I love how you [fill in the blank]."
4. "I'm connected on LinkedIn to many people who work at your company. When I reviewed their profiles, I saw that we all shared some things in common. [You might reference similar accomplishments, prior employers, colleges, etc.] It struck me that this is the kind of place where I can fit in and excel, so I was thrilled to see you have this opening."
5. "Your company is known for making great products that help people do X. But on top of that, I know of your company's leadership role in our community through your support of X, Y and Z events or causes. Your products and philanthropy show you to be a company that cares about both the bottom line and giving back to society."
Of course, to be in a position to make any of these kinds of statements you need to do a bit of work. Check out the company's own website and Facebook page to see what it does in the community. Follow it on LinkedIn, and do a search for people in your network who have experience working there. Then, look at several of their individual profiles to determine what you have in common with them. Search for the company in the news to see if it is mentioned for something with which you can identify.
You don't need to know every detail at the very beginning of the search, but you should know enough to justify a genuine belief in your own mind that there is a basis for you considering this company, and for that company to consider you.
When you go about things this way, you won't be able to apply to anything close to 150 jobs simultaneously. But the quality of your thoughtful and purposeful applications will produce a more focused target group of opportunities that can move your search forward. When you present a compelling answer to the "why are you interested in our company" question, you will be well on your way to establishing the basis for being seriously considered for a job that will advance your career at a company you respect and admire.
Arnie Fertig is the head coach of JOBHUNTERCOACH.COM, where he utilizes his extensive background in HR Staffing and as owner of a recruiting company to help mid-career job-hunters land their next job. Arnie provides one-to-one coaching services to individuals throughout the U.S. in all aspects of the job hunt, including: resume writing, personal branding, utilizing social media, enhancing networking skills, preparing for interviews, and negotiating compensation.