How do you get a hiring manager’s attention when some job postings receive hundreds of applications? It can feel like an impossible task. Remember, cover letters and resumes are not the only way to put yourself in front of someone who could be your next employer. But for the purpose of this article, let’s say you are following the traditional path that many candidates take in their job search — seeing a job listing online and deciding to apply. What next?
Is “to whom it may concern” a good option? This could be the beginning of a new relationship, and it’s important to start on the right foot. Skip this generic option and go for a personalized approach. Use your detective skills to find out the name of the hiring manager. You could find them on LinkedIn, through your contacts, on the company’s website or even by calling the company’s main phone number to ask. People love to feel acknowledged and like that you’ve taken the time to get to know who they are — and things like “to whom it may concern” or “dear sir or madam” as your salutation just don’t do the trick. Think about the way you feel when you’re greeted by name at your favorite restaurant or at a fancy hotel. It makes you feel special and acknowledged as a valuable customer. Create that experience for hiring managers by taking the time to personally address them in your cover letter.
If you absolutely can’t find a name — try one more time. If you are still having trouble finding someone, go with something that’s still as personal as possible, such as “Dear Marketing Team.” Your goal is for the hiring manager to feel like you took the time to learn about the company when he or she reads your greeting.
Once you’ve caught their interest with the greeting, be sure that the content of your cover letter addresses the company’s concerns. Talk less about what you want from the role and more about what you bring to the role. If hiring you will help the company solve a problem, provide explicit examples that illustrate how you’ve solved similar problems for other people. It can also be very easy to miss a spelling or grammar issue when you’re rushing to complete and submit your cover letter and resume. Whenever possible, have a partner proofread your documents before submission. If a colleague is not available, reading the documents out loud can be a very effective way of spotting errors or typos.
If you’ve found the hiring manager’s info on LinkedIn, I recommend following up via LinkedIn as well. Invite them to connect with a personalized note. Mention that you’ve recently applied for a role and note a few of the qualifications you possess that you think would be most attractive to them.
Another effective and proactive way to reach out to hiring managers is via LinkedIn before a job is posted. A personalized approach is best here, too. Skip the generic LinkedIn template and write an engaging note to start this relationship on the right foot — after all, you want to work for this person one day. See how much charm you can pack into the 300-character limit. Consider mentioning a connection, common interest or skill you’d like to share or develop. Don’t feel like you need to pitch yourself at this point, just start the conversation to pique his or her interest.
The best-case scenario is that you have a connection in common who can make a warm introduction to a hiring manager for you. That’s a built-in endorsement and, in most cases, the introducer and hiring manager can put a lot of weight behind the introduction. In this case, it is absolutely essential that you are responsive, polite and positive throughout the interaction. I know this seems obvious, but in this instance you are now responsible for your contact’s reputation in addition to your own. Waiting several days to respond, leaving the ball in their court or acting disinterested after an introduction is made could damage your relationship with the person who made the introduction and ensure that valuable introductions aren’t repeated in the future. Thank both parties and ensure that you respond to all emails within one business day. Share regular updates with the person who introduced you so they know how the relationship is progressing. Remember, those who are introduced to a company through a reference are 15 times more likely to get the job, and your job interview starts the moment the introduction is made. It’s time to shine!
After the interview, a prompt and personalized approach still applies. Send a different thank you note to each person with whom you interviewed within 24 hours of your meeting. In the thank you note, you’ll want to thank them for their time and acknowledge a particularly impactful piece of information they shared. This could be about a project they are working on, their perspective on your role, or their career paths, for example. Close by stating the attributes that you believe would be an asset to the team and, if you want the job, say it. You don’t want there to be any doubt that you want to bring your expertise to the team.
In each of these scenarios, you’ll want to speak the language of the hiring manager. Tune in to industry jargon. Are there terms you see over and over when reading job descriptions or industry publications? Make sure you use those terms when writing to a hire manager. Did you know that Hulu calls their employees hooligans? I recently spoke with Lauren McGoodwin, founder of Career Contessa and former recruiter at Hulu. She shared that when people used that term in interviews, she knew they’d done their homework and researched the company. Find the phrases that will make the difference for you. This will break down barriers immediately, and you’ll more easily show yourself as a member of the team.
Another small, language-related note — steer clear of passive voice. You want to sound professional, of course, without your tone totally falling flat on paper. Keep your verbiage as engaging and active as possible.
Hiring managers will also appreciate it if you make it easy for them to contact you. If you’re in a job search, consider adding an email signature that includes your full name, email, and phone number. This way if a hire manager wants to share your information, it’s an easy copy and paste. If they want to call you right away (score!), they don’t have to open your resume to find your information. If you are doing a fair amount of in-person networking — and you should be — it’s also a good idea to order business cards. You can easily create and order customized business cards online at a low cost and it’s well worth the investment. You don’t need to include a lot of information; your name, phone and email should do the trick. If you want to add more, consider including a job title or tag line to catch the reader’s attention.
With the overwhelm of a job search, it’s easy to be tempted to just send your resume and a generic cover letter to every potential employer and see what sticks. I encourage you to think about quality over quantity in your job search. A customized and personal approach is the best way to create a positive impression on a hiring manager.
Alyson Garrido is passionate about helping women advance their careers and find jobs they will enjoy. As a career coach, she partners with her clients to identify their strengths and create a path toward a more fulfilling career. Alyson provides support around preparing for interviews, performance reviews and salary negotiations, ensuring that you present yourself in the best possible light for job search and career advancement. Learn more or book a session with Alyson by visiting www.alysongarrido.com.