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Don't Rush To Reply To That Job Ad -- Here's Why

Don't Rush To Reply To That Job Ad -- Here's Why

When you see a job opportunity you’re interested in, it’s tempting to spring into action and apply for the job immediately. The most widespread misconception I hear from job seekers is “If my resume isn’t one of the first resumes they receive after the job is posted, I might lose my chance!”

When a new job opportunity is publicized, the HR department gets deluged with applications and resumes in response — if the job looks interesting.

They get so many responses that they are overwhelmed. That’s why blasting out a resume or submitting an application the minute you see a new and appealing job ad is one of the worst things you can do.

I’ve been an HR person since 1984. Here is the typical order of events:

1. Job opening is approved and sent to HR.

2. HR posts a job ad.

3. HR gets deluged with applications for the new job that has been posted. They winnow down the stack of resumes to a very small number, and begin scheduling interviews. Your chances of getting an interview in that first wave are very small. If you can wait out the initial feeding frenzy, your chances get much better!

4. The hiring manager, who knows their new job ad is appealing and should net them a terrific new hire, is typically underwhelmed with the first few interviews.

Why is the manager underwhelmed? It’s because the first few people they interview for the job were selected for interviews because their resumes almost perfectly match the job spec.

The manager soon realizes where his or her job ad went wrong. The people whose resumes almost perfectly match the job spec are missing critical talents the manager suddenly realizes he or she needs — things like a creative mind, out-of-the-box problem-solving or great people skills.

Your best bet is to wait a week or two after you spot the job ad, and send a Pain Letter directly to the hiring manager’s desk.

Your hiring manager (now truly in pain, having had his or her bubble burst when the perfect candidate was not among the initial six or eight people interviewed) tends to be more receptive to your pitch now than they would have been before — back when they were feeling cocky a week ago, sure that somewhere in the stack of first-in applications was his or her perfect hire.

There are more good reasons not to rush to apply for a job. Hiring managers write job specs in a dream state. Their feet are not always on the ground when they draw up their position specifications.

Once they’ve interviewed a few people, they come down to earth — albeit reluctantly. They realize that they defined a role no living human could ever perform (except Chuck Norris, who isn’t available). They mellow. It’s not that their standards drop — rather, it’s that they realize the long list of Essential Requirements they wrote up does not get them what they need.

The discouraged manager comes back from another meeting with their Staffing team and sits down at their desk. Who can help them now?

The mailroom person swings by with the day’s mail. The manager sorts through the envelopes. What’s this? A personal letter from you to the hiring manager — your Pain Letter.

They open your letter, and think:

What’s this now — someone is telling me about my life, and listing my pain points? How did they know that? They say in the letter they’ve seen this type of pain before. Well, heck! I’m going to meet this person. I’m up for anything now — I just need an answer to my problem!

What if you wait too long, and miss out on the job? You might worry: maybe they’ll hire somebody else in the meantime!

Maybe they will.  Maybe that person will flame out because of the unrealistic expectations around the job. Maybe they’ll quit. You cannot view your career or your job search through fear-tinted glasses. If you do, you will race yourself to the bottom. You will hurt your resume, your marketability and worst of all, your confidence.

Over thirty-some years as an HR person I have only made a couple of personal referrals. I referred a friend of mine to a job at U.S. Robotics when I was HR VP there. I waited until a suitable position came along, and then I waited until the manager had interviewed the first batch of applicants.

I told my friend “If the manager hires someone from the first bunch of applicants, then you won’t be able to interview for this job, but if he doesn’t, I will give him your resume.”

“Why don’t you give him my resume now?” asked my friend.

“Because right now he only wants to see resumes from people who look like they were raised in a petri dish to perform this exact job,” I said.

“Right now he is thinking about qualifications on paper, but once he starts interviewing he will remember that who you are is a million times more important than what you’ve done. That is the moment to strike!”

The manager interviewed six people and had the same reaction to all of them: “meh.”

They were reasonable applicants but not people who made the hiring manager’s heart beat faster. They looked great on paper and I’m sure that in the right job, any of them would do very well. However, our company was growing insanely fast. You had to be nimble, creative and have a great sense of humor to succeed there.

I waited. The manager said “I struck out with that first group of interviews. Got anybody else?”

I said “Yes, a friend of mine who used to work with me is interested in the job. I encourage you to meet him if only to get a different perspective on the role you’re trying to fill.”

The manager met my friend and hired him on the spot. After that he get promoted several times. What he brought to the job was very different than the words in the job ad, but he made a huge mark on the department and caused the same manager to stop by my desk for years afterward, asking me “Got any more job-hunting friends?”

Timing is everything, they say!