It’s tough looking for a job, especially after you’ve gone through the leads from your friends, family, and co-workers. It can feel like grinding out a numbers game – X resumes per day to get Y interviews.
I recently ran across a helpful tip in Barabasi’s book “Linked” (a book about general connections, not networking for employment). He reported a study revealing that more people found jobs through casual acquaintances than close friends or coworkers. His explanation is rather involved, but here’s the gist of it. You, your friends, your coworkers, and your family all move in pretty much the same social circles. So you know pretty much the same set of people. If any of them knows of a job opening you’ll probably already know about it yourself so asking around won’t add many opportunities to your list. But a casual acquaintance will have a significantly different circle of contacts – you’ll be exploring new waters. So even if it feels awkward, as just about anyone you know if they’ve heard of any job openings. Even your barber and current cab driver.
Whether your lead comes from an acquaintance or a job posting, you’re essentially contacting a stranger. So the covering letter for your resume is essential for making social contact and getting noticed. You’ll need to research the company and position you’re applying to, and if possible the contact person you’ll be mailing. The the second biggest mistake you can make is not personalizing that cover letter. (The biggest is not including a cover letter at all.) It’s your chance to explain how you meet the job requirements and will fit in, or better still enhance, the department. It’s also the place to explain any irregularities (such as a gap in employment or change in the career path). Don’t just repeat information already in your resume; relate them to the job requirements in a way that suggests you may well be the most qualified candidate.
Unfortunately, it’s still a numbers game. With great cover letters you’ll get many, many more interviews, but it’s likely you’ll still have to send out many, many applications. I’ve always had to remind myself not to stress out. There’s no perfect cover letter (nor perfect resume), so seek a balance between how much you customize and how many resumes you’re sending out. After researching the company and position, I find myself spending a lot more time on the jobs I think I’d really like and going much faster on the others.