If you, like our guest columnist last week, have been sending out applications and CVs and getting no response, you may be feeling annoyed. Worse: you may be feeling apathetic. Don’t. And don't be. As John Lees, career strategist and author of How to Get a Job You'll Love, explains in this particular Harvard Business Review podcast,jobseekers tend to attribute meaning to rejections and absent responses where no such meaning exists. “Most of the feedback you get from the market place is entirely arbitrary and just noise – it’s very rarely that you get feedback saying you are pushing on a closed door, but this is how people will interpret often the random ‘no’,” Lees informs listeners. If you want to get a financial services job today, you will need to be robust enough to overlook absent or negative feedback. If you want to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other people chasing each role, it will also help if you:
“There’s a temptation to stay at home and use the internet to solve all your problems,” says Lee. “Sitting in front of a screen all day feels a bit like an occupational activity, which is why it feels attractive.” Instead of hanging out at home applying for jobs online, Lee advises that you: “Get out there and talk to people face to face.” Only use the computer for your job search during the evening.
This may be a double-edged sword. On one hand, dispatching a hard copy of your CV (ie. sending a letter, preferably to a line manager) may differentiate you: it will be opened by someone in the business rather than HR. They probably don't receive many letters. They may read your covering letter and CV and decide to hire you. At worst, they may remember you. On the other hand, a hard copy CV may identify you as an anachronistic old-schooler unfamiliar with emails. Nevertheless, James Caan, the recruitment mogul, advocates sending hard copy CVs in his new book. It will get you noticed, Caan says.
If you have some high level contacts who might help you get a new job, don’t contact them all at once. “Wait until you have a really good message,” says Lee. If you contact everyone in the first few weeks, you will have no one to try later, when your message has been honed.
“In your resume, you probably have 200 pieces of information. But if someone is going to recommend you (and you are not in the room), they are going to mention 3 or 4 things about you,” Lee says. “You need to provide them with short bursts of information. “People [who are hiring] like simplicity,” he adds. “Too many candidates say they’re complicated.” Think about what you’d like people to remember about you. What can you say about your special skills or sector knowledge? What’s different about your approach? Lee advises ensuring that this is mentioned in all your communications, whether by email or face to face.
If you’re networking and you do nothing but talk about yourself, you will not get far. Networking is about encouraging the people you’re meeting with to talk. Lee advocates asking the people you’re networking with about their careers: how did they achieve their position?
If you have a long period of unemployment, or other issues on your CV, don’t wait for someone to ask about it: raise the issue pre-emptively and prepare short, upbeat answers to help address potential hirers’ concerns.. It helps to get to the point and say, “I expect you’re worried about X...,” says Lee.
As with the hard copy CV, posting a letter of thanks may identify you as old and superannuated, but David Schwartz, a former head of European recruitment at Goldman Sachs-turned headhunter, insists that it works. “A letter makes an impression. Your typical recruiter gets hundreds of emails a day. He or she doesn't get many letters. I remember the ones I got. It may not have been a crucial factor in the hiring decision. But it certainly made me remember the candidate,” Schwartz says. Letters must be typed, not handwritten. The stamp must be demure, not crazy.