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Applying Online Won't Land You a Job. Here's what will.

Marcus Wood
October 22nd, 2019 · 6 min read
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A Background

Have you ever slid into a company’s DMs to land a job? I’ve tried that and about everything else when it comes to getting a job. I even made my resume look like Twitter and applied there in college (sadly, no response). I’ve never been afraid to put in the effort when it comes to the job search, and there’s always one commonality on if I get an interview or not. Did I apply online?

To this day, I have never gotten a job from applying online to a job posting. I’m not alone, only 2% of candidates are interviewed for open positions, and 80% of open jobs are never advertised.

Quick aside, look at this beauty!

old resume

When I dug this up in my Dropbox, I found it titled as Coolest Thing I Have Ever Done.pdf. How embarrassing. 😅 Okay, back to the blog!

Why Applying Online Doesn’t Work

broken door

Simply put, it has the lowest barrier of entry and the most steps to get to a decision maker. Anyone with the internet can apply online and jobs are overrun with candidates from the start. Larger companies enlist the help of an ATS to cut through the resumes and find the best candidates of the bunch.

What’s an ATS?

Bullhorn, a recruiting platform that offers an ATS, describes it as this, “An applicant tracking system automates an organization’s recruiting and staffing operations, and provides a central repository for candidate data—including resumes and applications. An ATS is built to help you better manage every stage in the recruiting process, from application to hire, while delivering greater overall efficiency.”

automates an organization’s recruiting and staffing operations = your resume isn’t being viewed by a human

No wonder my Twitter resume didn’t get me a job, likely no one saw it! I’m still salty if you can’t tell. So let’s say your resume did make it by the ATS, what’s next?

A recruiter picks up your resume and gives it a quick glance to see if you’re qualified for the position. However, the recruiter likely hasn’t worked in the role you’re applying for and has to do the best they can. I was an IT recruiter in a past life - it’s a tough gig. Nothing but respect to the recruiters out there!

If all things go well, they email it to a manager who then passes it down to a senior resource to make a call on interviewing. Then it goes all the way back up the chain. So in order to get an interview, all of these things must happen:

  1. You apply online
  2. ATS decides you’re worthy
  3. Recruiter reviews resume and decides to pass it to a manager
  4. Manager looks at resume and passes it to a senior resource
  5. Senior resource decides to interview you

And then it has to go all the way back up the chain. There are so many points of failure, and unfortunately, you’ve likely missed out on interviews just because your resume was lost in an inbox.

A lot of the advice you’ll see on the internet encourages you to optimize your resume for ATS systems using keywords and find the right time to apply, but that’s not the best way. The best way to beat the ATS is to bypass the ATS.

What Works?

As someone who’s tried everything, I’ve had great luck by sticking to one core principle.

Increase the effort and decrease the points of failure.

So, how can you do that?

Attending Meetups

If you’re looking for a job and not getting out of the house to do so, you’ll be beat out by the people who are. For nearly every industry, there’s a Meetup or happy hour you can attend to network and learn more about places. A couple tips for prime time meetup success:

  • Don’t bring your resume. You’re there to network, and people outside of work won’t be conducting interviews.
  • Try to meet at least five people per meetup. Doesn’t matter if there’s only five people there, it’s a good number because it allows you to have good conversations, but keep things moving.
  • Ask them questions and listen. People that are attending industry meetups love talking about what they’re working on. Let them talk!

What you’ll notice is nothing above has anything to do with getting a job and that’s the point. You’re there to meet people and evaluate where you want to work. Looking for a job doesn’t mean sacrificing standards. You’ll be happier for it and search for jobs less if you make the right decision at the onset.

Connect with them on LinkedIn immediately after the event and if they have a business card, take it. Now you wait. Remember, you don’t want to seem desperate and that company likely needs you a lot more than you need them.

Treat the engagement like you would a Tinder match you’re interested in. Talk, but not immediately.

bugs bunny

After four days have passed shoot them a personal message and inquire if there’s any openings. This is where you sell yourself so lay it on them!

Calling Companies

I know, hopping on the phone and talking to someone - but hear me out. If you call a company you want to work for most likely a receptionist is going to pick up the phone, and that’s where you turn on the charm. The one gatekeeper you have to beat! Politely make small talk, say you’re in the market for a job, and would love to work at said company. Ask to speak to the manager of the department you want to work in (bonus points for LinkedIn stalking and having a name). Most likely, you won’t speak to anyone, but you’ll get what you really came for: the manager’s email.

Just like that you’ve knocked out ATS systems and recruiters. Even if you don’t see a relevant job posted on a company’s website that doesn’t matter. Companies are always hiring talented people like you and remember 80% of open jobs are never advertised.

From there, write a well thought out email expressing why you’re interested in the company, why you want to work there, and attach your resume. You won’t always hear back, but a lot of times you will.

Show Up In Person

That’s right - dress to the nines, walk through the front door, and inquire about a position. This is the ultimate increase the level of effort and decrease the points of failure because you may be interviewing that day. Only do this after calling the company and being unsuccessful that way you can say, “Well I tried calling and couldn’t get in touch with anyone so I figured I’d show up.”

wildcard

Be on your toes and ready for anything. You could be turned away or interviewed on the spot, it’s a complete wildcard. One thing is for sure though, you’ll be getting an answer instead of another, “Thank your for applying” email. And when I say be on your toes I mean it. Quick story:

My father runs a small fresh produce business and is old fashioned to say the least when it comes to hiring. It’s a small town and folks apply in person often. Most of the time it’s grabbing an application and leaving. However, if my father is the one who greets them he’ll interview on the spot, and if all things go well he’ll ask if they can start immediately. Literally, walk out of the office and start working. So be ready and be excited if you go this route!

Full disclosure: I’ve never actually done this because I received a job before getting to this point. However, if you’re looking and find the one, go get it!

Job Boards and Newsletters

Highly effective and surprisingly underused. If you’re in the market for a job, plaster your resume all over the internet. You never know who will come across it or what position you’ll find by having it out there. The best part about it, companies are reaching out to you. It’s a completely different dynamic because now it doesn’t feel like you’re having to sell yourself 24/7. They came to you, and that means you have leverage.

hot ones

Not only do you know they’re looking for someone, but if they’re calling they need someone now. These are what I call 🔥hot ones🔥 and should be treated as such. My advice for these calls is to play it cool and be friendly. Most of the time the recruiter wants to make sure you’re not a crazy person and qualified for the job. If you sound cheery and talk with a smile you’ve got it in the bag.

Hot tip: Don’t use your personal email and phone number when posting your resume on the internet. It’ll get trapped in an ATS and you’ll be spammed with jobs from now until eternity.

Alcamine

Shameless plug for the latest product I’m working on, Alcamine. With Alcamine, you create an @alcamine.com email address, input your preferences, and put the email on your resume and anywhere you’re contacted by recruiters. We score every email that comes your way based on what you’re looking for and then sprinkle in special opportunities. I built this for myself to find more freelancer gigs, and it’s been so useful I turned it into a product for everyone to use!

We just opened the waitlist so please sign up if you’re interested. The quicker you sign up the more likely you’ll be able to get the email address of your choice.

What’s Next?

When you’re looking for a job, be excited about it and meet as many people as you can. You can get any job you want long as you put in the effort - just don’t make your resume look like Twitter 😆.

I’m Marcus, a cable salesman turned IT recruiter turned web developer. I’m starting a weekly newsletter where I break down how to land a tech job and share all of the secrets I’ve learned over the years. If this article was interesting to you, please sign up!

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