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Resume Send-Out Strategies

If you are not generating solid leads, despite networking, visiting career sites on the Internet, and reading the classifieds, and you're willing to take a more aggressive approach to your job search, the following information warrants special attention. Its purpose is to spell out a successful strategy of generating job leads through targeted direct mail.

In a targeted campaign, you select a relatively small group of companies, do research on each company, and send an individualized letter to a specific person there. You then follow up the letter with a phone call and, if necessary, additional calls thereafter.

Should you use e-mail?

You can apply the targeted mailing technique, slightly modified, to an e-mail campaign, but you need to be cautious. Start by accessing employment areas of company Web sites and following their directions for submitting resumes that are not in response to specific openings. Send your e-mail only to the person listed. If you don't receive a response to the first e-mail within a few weeks, send a follow-up e-mail after double-checking the contact name.

Should you try faxing?

Not for a targeted mailing. Faxes don't come through very cleanly and may be difficult to scan into a resume database. E-mailing gets your resume there as fast or faster and increases its chances of getting into the database.

Identifying Target Companies

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No factor will have more bearing on your ability to generate job leads through the mail than the quality of your target list. That's why it's impossible to overestimate the importance of setting priorities during the selection stage. The key is establishing a set of criteria that are somewhat narrower than "anyone who will offer me a job."

Defining your criteria

The following criteria can help you prioritize. Bear in mind, though, that you may not be able to obtain all the information in these categories:

  • Location: Is the company located within commuting distance of your current home, or is it somewhere that you would consider moving to?

  • Size: How many employees work for the company? In smaller firms, you may be able to advance more quickly than at larger companies; however, the latter may provide more training opportunities.

  • Financial stability: Is the company doing reasonably well, or is it hanging on by a thread?

  • Hiring patterns: Is the company adding employees or cutting back? If the company is cutting back, how are the cuts affecting the department in which you're looking for work?

If you choose to, you can add still more criteria, such as the corporate culture, benefits package, and so on. But don't make the mistake of setting up too many criteria; otherwise, you won't assemble enough companies to make the campaign worth pursuing.

Getting started on your target list

The best places to look for the names of target companies are business periodicals and the Internet. Unless you have a specific reason for doing so, don't limit your search to large companies. Small companies are a significant source of job opportunities.

Good sources for the names of smaller, local companies include the following:

  • Business, industry, and other workplace-related Web sites

  • Regional business association directories

  • Chamber of Commerce directories

  • Local business publications

  • Help-wanted ads

A reasonable target to shoot for in the beginning is 25 companies. That number may drop after you investigate a little further and remove companies from your list, at which point you can go back to the directories and online sources and add more.

Finding Out Whom to Contact

After you assemble a list of companies, you're ready to start researching in earnest. Your first step is to get the name of the person to whom you're going to be writing. The ideal person to write to is not the director of human resources but the person who will be doing the hiring.

You may find the person's name — especially at a larger company — in an online or printed directory. Even so, it pays to call the company to verify that the person is still with the company.

Getting Your Contact to Take Notice

If you can communicate in your letter that you understand the company's needs and have something to offer, you greatly increase the chances that your letter will be noticed and that your follow-up call will lead to at least a conversation.

Here are some sources to tap when you're looking for recent information that is company-specific:

  • Company Web sites

  • Search engine business and career categories

  • The business sections of major local papers

  • Trade publications

  • Regional business publications

  • Business Periodicals Index

Your efforts to get the current information you need may not bear fruit — especially if the target company is very small. This being the case, you may have no choice but to use your network sources to get more information.

Writing the Letter

A direct-mail letter should follow a standard business-letter format and be organized as follows:

  • An opening paragraph sets the stage, capturing the interest of the reader and explaining why you're writing.

  • Two or three paragraphs elaborate on the story you began to tell in the first paragraph. Here, you can add the information that you've gathered through researching the company.

  • A concluding paragraph lets the reader know that you will be following up the letter in a few days with a phone call.

Following Up with a Call

Any of the following may happen when you make a follow-up phone call:

  • You'll get the person's voice mail.

  • The person's assistant will answer the phone, ask what you want, and, after you explain, say, "Yes, we've received your letter, and we've put your material on file."

  • The person you're trying to reach will answer the phone but

A.    Will be too busy to talk with you right now.

B.    Won't remember having received your material.

C.    Will remember having received your material and thank you for sending it in, but won't express any interest in seeing you right away.

As anyone who does cold calling for a living can tell you, you can expect to be rejected more than 95 percent of the time. If, out of every 100 letters, you can generate a dialogue with as few as six or seven people, you're doing twice as well as you would do with a standard broadcast letter.

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