Quality Over Quantity in Your job Search


More Than A Resume in the News

Quality Over Quantity in a Job Hunt

Your recent advice to a reader who asked about “résumé optimization” was spot on, but I suspect there is a deeper problem: Applying online to job postings is a terribly inefficient way to look for a job. I have read that 70 percent of job openings are filled by referrals, or by candidates already known to the company — and I suspect the number may be higher. I publish guides and run workshops on career matters, and I always stress the importance of networking as the best strategy for finding work. In fact, I ask job seekers to make me a promise: For every three hours you spend searching and applying online, spend seven hours networking. It pays off. DOUG KALISH, PALO ALTO, CALIF.

I’m happy to receive this comment (and a few others from readers who made related points), because it gives me a reason to expand on something I only had room to hint at in that column. All the experts I talked to cautioned against going overboard with online application processes: While applying for a zillion jobs feels productive, it’s often more effective to take more care in pursuing a smaller number of more thoughtfully targeted positions.

More specifically, one of those sources made a related point that didn’t respond directly to that reader’s specific query, but that I strongly agree with. Jane Horowitz, a career coach and founder of More Than a Résumé, in Denver, says she tells her clients, often young people just entering the job market, that even when you submit a résumé online to a company you really want to work for, that’s only the first step. The second is to find someone you know who can help get that résumé in front of a human being. “Try to find another way into the company,” Ms. Horowitz says. “You have to.”

In other words: Network, person-to-person. This is exactly why the Workologist believes the job search should be a permanent activity, at least on some low-key level. Today’s casual acquaintance could be tomorrow’s crucial link to a new and better gig.

As far as I can determine, that statistic about 70 percent of openings being filled via referrals factors in internal job searches that are never actually listed in public, and is thus a guess, at best. But a 2014 study by researchers from the Federal Reserve and M.I.T., scrutinizing data from one financial services firm, found that 30 to 50 percent of hires came by way of referrals — even though these made up a slender proportion of applicants, particularly compared with the volume of online applicants.

So, yes, your résumé should be “optimized” for applicant-tracking systems. But don’t spend all your energy on that. Taking time to arrange one informational interview that really cements a productive contact who will remember you and your skills, Ms. Horowitz suggested, might well prove to be more supportive.

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