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Avoiding Job Application Black Holes

The Internet is has to be the absolutely best tool and the absolutely worst tool in the history of man when it comes to job hunting. It is the best tool because you can search for a job anywhere in the world and have the results in seconds. It is also the worst tool since it takes all human interaction out of the job application process, and with it all possibility of you being at cause (asserting positive control) over your job search.

OK, let's see a show of hands.  How many of you have seen a job posted on the Internet that seemed perfect for you, and the posting said, "To be considered, send your resume to some generic company email address such as resumes@BlackHoleNeverToBeHeardFromAgain.com "?

The Internet is has to be the absolutely best tool and the absolutely worst tool in the history of man when it comes to job hunting.  It is the best tool because you can search for a job anywhere in the world and have the results in seconds.  It is also the worst tool since it takes all human interaction out of the job application process, and with it all possibility of you being at cause (asserting positive control) over your job search.

So what's a job hunter to do?

Keep the part that works, throw away what doesn't, and figure out how to make the system work for you.

So by all means, search Internet job boards like DICE.com, Monster.com, the STC job listings at STC.org and your local chapter.  Make a list of all the jobs for which you'd like to apply.

If the job posting lists an actual person to whom you can send your resume, by all means send him/her your resume per the submission directions.  Then follow up in a week or so if you haven't heard back. 

But what should you do if the job description doesn't list a real person, just a URL to an online application? Or worse, a generic email like jobs@blackholeNeverToBeHeardFromAgain.com?

There is a datum, a natural law about job hunting:

The better the personal relationship you have with the person to whom you are sending your resume, the better your chances of getting an interview.

For example, what would be your chance of getting an interview if your mother's best friend is a hiring manager at XYZ Company with a job opening?  Pretty good I'd bet!  (You might not get the job, but at least you’d get an interview.)

Conversely, what do you think the relative chances would be of getting an interview if you applied for that same job by just sending your resume to jobs@XYZCompany.com?  I bet not nearly as good

Personally, I've never been that keen on waiting in line with the masses. Instead I try to find a more expedient, personal and favorable solution.  For example, say you are at an airport and your connecting flight is canceled.  Don't wait in line for an agent to handle the 40 or 50 people in front of you, pick up a phone and call the airline's reservation number—instantly you are next in line!

A similar approach can be taken when job hunting.  When a job is posted on a company or Internet job board, the company will receive 10's if not hundreds of resumes from applicants. An even worse scenario is when resumes from all job applicants at a company get sent to one email address (e.g. jobs@XYZcompnay.com), as now your resume is not just one out of many sent for one job, but your resume is also mixed in with resumes for all other jobs at the company, plus people who are just submitting their resumes to be kept on file, plus  the inevitable spam that arrives at a company's jobs@ email address.

Do you really want your email application to be just one in a sea of emails and spam in a generic jobs email in box?

(All of which, by the way, are probably processed in the sequence in which they were received, meaning who knows when they will get around to reading and processing your application.)

Which brings me back to my airport line analogy.

So how can you avoid “waiting in line” until someone gets around to processing your job application?

Locate a job using the Internet boards and then apply for the job using a personal relationship.

And since I assume you don't have family members who are hiring managers, you're going to have to build those relationships.

How many ways are there to build personal relationships?  Plenty!

SIDEBAR:  When I say “personal relationship” I mean you contacting a specific person with a direct communication.  It can be done by email (good), phone (better) or in person (best).  I say personal relationship as opposed to non-personal interactions like emailing your resume to a generic email address, website, etc.)

The first thing I suggest is to use your professional networks.  Go to chapter meetings and find someone (anyone) who works at XYZ Company. Ask THAT person to pass your resume to the hiring manager.  Not only will you stand out getting a personal referral, the referring person may get a finder’s fee to boot.

Can't find anyone who works at XYZ Company?  Check professional networking sites like LinkedIn.com and see if there is anyone at the company to whom you are connected (you know someone who, in turn, knows someone who works at that company). Look for someone who has a similar job who might be in the same department (a tech writer if you are applying for a tech writing job, a project manager if you are applying for a project manager job, etc.), but don't be afraid to try anyone else in the company if you don't have a connection to a direct counterpart. Then ask for an introduction/referral to the hiring manager or to someone in Human Resources if the connection doesn't know the hiring manager.

Note:  There is a third option between a personal referral to the hiring manager (best) and emailing your resume to jobs@ (worst): emailing your resume to someone in HR.

Over the past year or so I have observed this curiously illogical phenomenon: rarely do company websites list HR or recruiter contacts at the company, but almost all corporate recruiters have a profile on LinkedIn!

So if you can't find someone that you know at XYZ Company through networking, then search LinkedIn for people who work at that company, find someone in Recruiting or HR, and ask if you can apply for a job by sending your resume directly to him or her.

He might say "Sure!" or he might say "Apply online and I'll watch for it to arrive."  Either way you now have someone who will personally handle your application and pass your resume on to the hiring manager!

And while I have emphasized LinkedIn so far in this column, don't forget other professional and social networking sites, such as Plaxo.com, FaceBook.com, MySpace.com, Classmates.com, etc.

Getting Creative

OK, say you have tried using your personal and professional network and you still can't get a personal introduction to someone in the hiring process.  What then?

Well, now you have to get creative.  (Remember, you want to be at cause over your job search, not the affect of it!)

I'll give you an example of how you can get creatively at-cause over your job search, but keep in mind this is only one idea out of hundreds of ideas—the sky's the limit!

Chapter newsletter editors ALWAYS need articles, so write an article on hiring trends in your area.  Pick the top ten companies in your area for which you’d like to work, call and ask for the documentation manager there (or whatever field you are in), and say “I’m writing an article for my professional organization’s newsletter on hiring trends in the tech comm industry—do you have five minutes for a quick interview?”  Start by asking generic questions about their department, then ask about their plans to hire contract and perm people over the next six months.  Finish by asking if he/she would like to see a copy of the article when it is published. (They almost always will.)  Then get their contact info.  Suddenly, you are on a FIRST NAME BASIS with the very people who would hire you!  PLUS you know if they are hiring, will be hiring, and for what and by when!

You still have to write the article, of course, but you have a reason to follow up and an opportunity to mention that you, yourself, might be interested in the position if they say they are currently hiring or if they will be in the future

There are MANY ways to network, to get referrals, to become more than an anonymous email in a generic HR email In box.

All it takes is a little creativity and a whole lot of legwork.