Job Search

The Three-Step Job Application Strategy

three step

You come across a listing for a job that sounds perfect.

So you review your resume, fine-tuning it to highlight the aspects of your experience most in line with the job description. You add some keywords based on the skills the ad mentions. And then you write a great cover letter. (At least, you should be doing all that.)

You submit your application, knowing you have done all you can. Or have you?

While you may hear from the company about setting up an interview, odds are very high that you won’t. If you really want the job, you need to up your game. Instead of stopping at one step, as most candidates do, take a three-pronged approach to getting hired.

The second and third steps can also help you get on the radar of a company that doesn’t have a job well suited to you, but where you would love to work one day.

The Three-Step Job Application Strategy

  1. Apply to a job online. If you see a job that interests you, apply online according to the company’s instructions. Do take the time to customize your resume and write a compelling cover letter. Some candidates, disgusted by the black hole of online job searching, are either applying to dozens of jobs or throwing up their hands and applying to nothing. A better idea is to apply selectively. Regardless of your opinion of ATS and HR departments, you need to respect the process and the people involved.
  2. Find “insiders” to refer you to that job. Send an email to people you know that work at the company telling them that you have applied for a specific role. Dana Manciagli, career coach and author of Cut the Crap, Get a Job, suggests attaching your resume and the cover letter you sent to HR to your email, so your contacts know how you are presenting yourself. Ask them if they would tell the hiring manager about you so that your resume gets noticed. Don’t know anyone at the company? It is likely that someone in your network does, so reach out to people that might have contacts at the company and ask for an introduction.
  3. Contact the HR manager and business unit manager directly. Even if you don’t have an insider referral (and keep working on getting one), find the HR manager’s name online and contact that person directly about your application. Also find the manager who will most likely be your boss if you do get the job, and send a compelling letter to introduce yourself.

Now you can relax–at least until you follow up. Manciagli suggests that you follow up in a week or so with the hiring manager. If you hear nothing, it’s fine to follow up again in a month or two if you are still looking. When it comes to job hunting, timing can be everything.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.