Dear Matt: Everything I read says that after I apply for a job through a company system I should also find out who is doing the hiring and contact them directly. Will this really give me an advantage, or will it just annoy them and jeopardize my chances of gaining an interview?
Matt says: There is one simple way to look at this, says Tim Cotroneo of St. Paul-based MDS Staffing (mdsstaffing.com). "If the résumé meets the expectations of the person in charge, then you are doing them a favor by submitting. If your qualifications don't fit their needs, then you may be wasting their time."
Ultimately, the person doing the hiring wants to fill the job, so someone is going to get noticed. If you feel that your qualifications match the job description, then contact that person. If you don't receive a reply, that probably means that the person reviewing résumés didn't feel like you were a good fit.
You have to sell yourself throughout your job search, says Tony Nelson of Minneapolis-based TBN Consulting (tbnconsulting.biz). You can't sit back and think that the employer is going to find you. You have to market yourself, sell yourself and show that you are the candidate to fill their needs.
"While in a job search you're a sales person," said Nelson. "Your product is you. The cost is your negotiated annual salary."
Think about this: Let's say you were trying to sell this same company a $75,000 piece of equipment. Would you have more success calling the person in charge of buying the equipment and asking them specifics about what they need, or by sending a flyer to the purchasing department and waiting for a call? The point is that by making a few phone calls or LinkedIn connections, you can gain valuable insight into a position, company and industry that are not disclosed within the job description.
However, anyone can send a résumé directly to a person once they get their name. Don't just state that you applied and are interested in the job. Instead, highlight your top skills, experiences and achievements and explain how you are a match for their needs. It's not about you -- it's about how you match what they are looking for.
"Highlight something about your background that sets you apart from the pack," said Cotroneo. "This does not include warm and fuzzy adjectives like dependable or cheerful. Specific, related work experiences are what often gains an interview." If done right you won't annoy, you will impress. And that's what employers want.