Applying to jobs online vs. submitting a resume and cover letter in person.
March 19, 2010 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Applying to jobs online vs. submitting a resume and cover letter in person.

Recent college grad here, with an internship and PT job background in marketing and communications. My approach to applying for jobs since graduating has been sending my resume and cover letter to places online – marketing firms, ad agencies, PR/communications places, and a few non-profits that may be looking for a communications/marketing guy.

I’ve applied to more places online than I can count (definitely over 50 in the last 2 months), and I know that attacking the job market solely from my laptop is the wrong way to go. I’ve tried setting up “informational meetings” by cold-emailing a few people but I get no response – I’m sure they are suspicious that I’m only going to waste their time and try to parlay the meeting into a job interview. Which I wouldn’t – I understand that I would be interviewing only to learn about the industry and potentially gain contacts (which at the moment is zero).

My parents have suggested that all of this emailing and job site searching is unproductive, and that I need to be putting on a suit, visiting these offices in person and telling the receptionist that I have a resume to submit should there be any openings and ask if I can meet the hiring manager– this way, these companies can “attach a face” to my resume instead of just appearing as words on paper to them.

I’m apprehensive about this idea for a few reasons:

- It seems like this could backfire. I feel like I’m “intruding” on the company – I know how busy some of these places are, why would I expect hiring managers to stop everything they’re doing so they can meet some kid with a resume?
- I’ll show up at the office only to not be able to get past reception. “I’ll take it and pass it on to him/her, thanks, have a nice day!” Big waste of time.
- Most places online ask “no phone calls please”; I somehow doubt that this means they would prefer applicants to come in person.

However, the idea kind of appeals to me because it does seem like a nice change to researching online until my eyes hurt. So is this a good idea? If so, what is the protocol for applying to jobs in person? If not, what would you suggest?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (19 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
The job market is terrible. One can send out several hundred applications a week and not get any response, whether the application is mailed or resume painstakingly reproduced in a very uncooperative a/s400 system with a cranky web front end.

Depending on the company, you might only get a receptionist taking the information and promising to pass it on, or you might get to talk to someone. If they don't want to talk to you, they'll not come out or they'll make it known rather quickly.

You might also want to look into volunteer opportunites at the non-profits to get yourself known, even if it's not directly marketing work ... yet. It's a crapshoot, but making that contact is useful. One way that doesn't involve door-to-dooring it is to join local social and networking groups, and going to the events.

If they don't want to take your resume in person, then just go apply online. Mostly it lets them sift through things quickly, doing a search on the keywords they want. If they do want you to leave it, be ready to fill out a paper application as well, neatly and quickly - have a cheat sheet handy in your portfolio case with the information you'll need, such as specific spellings of schools, projects, internship times and dates, things like that.

And if you do leave a physical portfolio, have an addressed stamped envelope folded into the back page to get it back. I've had hit-and-miss with getting my work back, historically. Buy large envelopes in bulk, and find out the correct weights and such by a quick trip to the post office.

Good luck. It's a desert out there.
posted by tilde at 7:09 PM on March 19, 2010

if a place asks specifically for you to apply in a certain way ("no phone calls!") do what they ask.
posted by nadawi at 7:33 PM on March 19, 2010

Nowhere I've worked would take you more seriously because you showed up at the door and handed your resume to a receptionist, and certainly they would not call someone out to come talk to you. But I've worked at large software companies, so YMMV. You never know what a marketing organization will think is a ballsy, out-of-the-box move. Hey, otherwise you're sitting around in your underwear all day, so why not try it.

In the places I've worked, the way to get a human to look at your resume is to have a current employee of the company submit your resume through their internal referral system. You really don't know anyone in your industry? No school friends with jobs? No professors with industry contacts? You had an internship and a part-time job in your field and you made zero contacts? I mean, I'm an ignorant programmer and I don't know much about marketing, but isn't this what communications/marketing types are for? Exploit any connection you have, however tenuous, as shamelessly as you think you can get away with. You have to have met a few people in your former jobs. Find them on LinkedIn and ask for help.
posted by little light-giver at 7:38 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm in a very different industry, but I had some luck cold calling for jobs over the last couple months. Here's what I did:

1. If they wanted applications online, I did that and then skipped to step 3.

2. If there was no online application system, then I found out the name and email address of a manager who I would conceivably work for. If I couldn't get that, I would get at least the HR person contact. Then I would send my resume and a work sample (which is typical in my industry, but not ubiquitous at my level) via email.

3. After about a week, I sent a physical copy of my cover letter, resume and work sample in the mail (addressed to the person in step 2).

4. A couple weeks after that, I called the person to whom I addressed my letter and said something along the lines of "This is mullacc, the guy who sent you that [work sample]. I'm going to be [in your city / in your part of town] for an interview, would you mind if I stopped by to talk?" Actually, I only reached one person directly out of about 40 calls--the rest I left voicemails for. Which was fine--in fact, after a few run-arounds with assistants, I started calling after hours and using the automated company directory to ensure that I got to voicemail.

Most people never responded. A few did, but said they were too busy or weren't hiring. But around 15% of the people I cold-called agreed to interview me, which I think was a good conversion ratio.
posted by mullacc at 7:58 PM on March 19, 2010 [7 favorites]

Follow up your emails requesting information interviews with a phone call. Then another phone call.

Ask your former professors for informational interviews (if they actually work in the field). Ask them for their friends/colleagues/contacts who work in the field and get informational interviews with them as well. Ask all these folks how the hell you break into this field. Ask them how you could improve yourself so that you are marketable and would beat out the person just like you hadn't done x. Do some volunteering. Seriously. Volunteering is good for the head. Wherever you volunteer probably has a marketing/PR/communications person who you should ask for an interview, etc...

best of luck to you
posted by fieldtrip at 8:02 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

i work at an ad agency. i don't hire people, but i do hire vendors. i HATE when they show up unannounced and try to get a meeting with me. i'm busy, first of all. secondly, i know i'm going to be subjected to a pretty hard sell. they lose points with me by doing that. but then, phone calls aren't the best, either. if i see a phone number i don't recognize, i don't pick up. the best way for someone to get to meet with me is by a referral, either by a coworker at the agency, or another vendor i already have a relationship with. i would advise you to concentrate 80% of your efforts into networking. to the internets with ye! go to industry events, talk to everyone you know, etc. you probably know someone who knows someone who can help you, at least with the informational interview part. get on linked in, research companies you'd be interested in, and online-information-stalk these people. not in a creepy way. there's a balance. good luck, it's tough out there. and also: figure out the headhunters/staffing agencies that serve the companies you want to work for. talk to them as well.
posted by apostrophe at 8:13 PM on March 19, 2010

50 resumes in two months is, quite honestly, nothing. the last time I got laid off I sent out 57 resumes that first day.

I understand where your parents are coming from. This is advice my father offered to me in the 90s until a colleague told him that times had changed just a little bit. You will not get past the receptionist and you may not even get into the building where the office is, depending where you live, without an appointment. Some offices will immediately flag you as a nutjob.

You are not getting callbacks because this economy blows chunks and you have no background. People with 20+ years of experience aren't getting callbacks. It may be difficult for your parents to recognize this, but they need to.

However, the idea that you need to be more active than passive is a good one, and one I think your parents are trying to espouse.

What you do need to do is treat looking for a job like it is your job. You get up every morning, shower and dress, and work from 9-5. make a task list. You should look for meetups, you should be reading industry websites, you should make a linked in profile and participate in some of those groups. You need to be active and vocal and that's how you can network and make connections. If there isn't a meetup group in your area for recently-graduated, underemployed people in your industry, START ONE. Tweetups. Conferences. Local professional talks. Get out there and do more than just sit home. Start a blog about how hard it is to look for a job if you're funny AT ALL.

Another thing you could do is look at all the job openings in your industry and if you see company X is doing a bunch of hiring, you could send a creative pitch to HR that says 'I know you're not hiring for [my position] but I've noticed you're hiring a lot of [x,y,z] and you may soon be looking for someone like me." I've done very well with that, but I also have a lot of experience in my field and 99.9% of the time, i've been right about the direction the company has been moving in.

You need to get creative about who you're sending resumes to. You need to do more than just apply to jobs that are listed on craigslist or monster or whatever. You need to just send resumes to anyone who you think could hire you. You need to think about what kind of people could use skills that you have on a volunteer basis - what about a band? what about a local politician? what about a church group, an advocacy group - dont' spend the day on facebook, read the local publications and see what is going on and figure out how YOU can help them, and then pitch them.

Don't send the same boring cover letter. I don't mean write it in crayon, but what about a video resume? What about building a website? You are selling YOU and you need to stand out. Be interesting, be relevant, be specific. You have a lot of competition.

Asking for informational meetings is a tough one because everyone will assume that you are just trying to get around the gatekeepers and ask for a job. If you want to reach out to people, don't send your resume and keep the email/letter to one paragraph, and specifically say what you want them to talk about : "what volunteer opportunities might get me the most useful experience" for example. And then KEEP YOUR WORD.

(I will tell you that *every* informational I have ever agreed to has turned out to be a pitch to hire someone, when I had no hiring authority and my company wasn't hiring. I will still do them but only with personal recommendations from someone I know. I hate this, because I know how hard it is out there now and how lucky I am to be working, but an informational should be an informational and not perceived as a creative way to get around HR.)
posted by micawber at 8:26 PM on March 19, 2010 [11 favorites]

your parents come from a different generation, a different economy, a different world. if some kid showed up at my office with a resume--unannouced and unasked--i would not meet with him and i'd be wondering who the fuck he thought he was that he was so special he didn't have to follow the same application process everyone else did. and if my company wasn't even advertising a position? sure, there's a couple people/companies out there who would love your cajones and would give you an interview on the spot, but they are in the ultrasmall minority.

you need to keep doing what you're doing. (50 resumes out in 2 months isn't that many). get out there and network. get on linkedin and join some groups relevant to your field. find out if your college has any alumni groups in your area. sign up with some contract agencies and go to their "mixers".
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:32 PM on March 19, 2010

That's how I got my job. *shrug*

So it must work at least some of the time. I'm not in your industry though, so maybe it's true that it's a horrible idea for you. Perhaps consider it as a last resort - if you're sitting around one day and you've exhausted every other resource, why not go out and try pounding the pavement? Worst that can happen is that they'll say, "No thanks." And you only need one person to say yes.
posted by keep it under cover at 8:42 PM on March 19, 2010

Keep an eye out for job/career fairs. That way you know they're looking for people, and can present your resume in person, and possibly get taken aside for a short interview. Dress nice, but a full-blown suit may be overkill depending on the industry. Take plenty of resumes. Be polite and professional, and prepared to answer common interview questions.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 8:42 PM on March 19, 2010

Your parents' suggestion is certainly one method, and it can work, but the other responders are correct when they say that your parents don't seem to aware of current job market trends. The suggestion to focus most of your effort on networking is correct. Sending resumes via email or web site is better than nothing, however.
posted by dfriedman at 8:58 PM on March 19, 2010

When I apply online to a job I think is a good fit, I hop on LinkedIn and starting reaching out to people whose job titles imply they might be in the department or at least know the hiring manager. Then I try to set up meetings with them. I'll typically send a "connect" invitation, specifying "friend", and then in the invite I'll say something like, we haven't met, but I noticed you do X at Company Y and I'm looking for a position doing X also. Would you be open to having a cup of coffee sometime? Then when you meet them, you'll describe the role you're looking for, why you're qualified for it, and you'll find out something about your target company, such as the name of the hiring manager, where they are in the process, etc. Best case, your new friend will offer to forward your resume to people they think might be interested. Worst case, you've now got a connection in this company. This works for me more than half the time, it's actually kind of fun.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:07 PM on March 19, 2010 [6 favorites]

If you're working in communications, create a portfolio site and make sure you're linking to it in your cover letter and resume. I've also been told by a few hiring managers that the samples I'd sent (which they hadn't asked for, btw) got them to look twice at me.

If do you choose to keep looking online, target your search. I think that Monster and Career Builder are so large that they're sort of useless. Check out things like the PRSA's Job Center, Opportunity Knocks for non-profit jobs, or The Association for Women in Communication's board (even if you're not a woman, you can find the job listing somewhere else and apply that way). Sites like Simply Hired have RSS feed and Twitter accounts you can follow.
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:34 PM on March 19, 2010

I work in advertising, and I hire people. At my company, showing up unannounced, and inquiring to speak to someone would get you pretty much nowhere fast; you'd speak to the receptionist and that would be about it. If your resume found it's way to my desk (possible, not probable), I probably wouldn't read it, as we have methodology in place for our hiring process. Without the first couple of layers (call to you from an in-house recruiter after resume submission, HR speaking to me to see if the resume was a fit for our team), there's no way that we would take your resume seriously. This has been standard at the several agencies that I have worked at in my career. Keep on sending out resumes through the channels that the agency requests - if you're a fit for something, someone will get a hold of you. Good luck.
posted by jivadravya at 7:18 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

When someone shows up without an appointment, I don't see them. I honestly don't have time for that.

When someone mails a hard copy, on nice quality paper, I'm more inclined to read it rather than just scan it.

On the other end of things, I have always had very good luck by hand-tailoring my resume to the particular job I'm applying for. I don't send out very many, but I probably have a 90% callback rate. And yeah, that includes in 2008/recession, which was when I last went job hunting.

I've also had good luck going through recruiters. Some of them are a waste of time, but the good ones will sell you to a company in a way that most people don't have the chutzpah to do for themselves.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:31 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with runningwithscissors:

You are in the marketing field- market yourself!

Make sure you are on EVERY social networking site, not just you personally, but your brand. If you don't have a brand, make one. Buy the domain, create a website, have a blog, twitter, facebook, linkedin, and everything else you can think of.

Find people who work for the companies you like the most and take them out to lunch/dinner/beers. Find out if those companies are really worth pursuing, and not just fantasies. Find out who the major players are there, pass your resume along to those people to pass to the players, as long as you aren't using them and they don't feel like you are using them

Get out there and show how effective you are at what you want to do- market. The only way to get your foot in the door, so to say, is to prove how great you are in your field.

Our society is so jaded, we have so many companies pushing all of this crap at us that we are much better at filtering. The only way you are truly going to be able to create a following/draw interest, is to have them come to you. The only way you can do that is by offering something that no one else has thought about, or something packaged differently than what is out there... and being authentic.

And, most importantly, work on your elevator pitch and make yourself accessible.

Good luck.
posted by TheBones at 8:56 AM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree that you should be selling yourself. Get a profile on sites like LinkedIn and PROpenMic and MarketingProfs, and join groups about PR and communication. Join discussions.

Start a professional blog. By professional I mean, stick to PR subjects, write intelligently about them. Look for new trends. Read up on social media. Use all that info to blog about. Read every book about PR you can find in libraries and online. Write about those.

Additionally, why don't you offer your services pro bono to some non profits that you like? You will get practice this way. You meet people, build a smallish network. All these things will be helpful to you.

Get a side job as a salesman (B2B, preferably). If you ever want to make it big in PR, you'll have to be able to sell.

If you do all of that stuff, you'll be well on your way to finding a job.
posted by NekulturnY at 9:56 AM on March 20, 2010

I'd be weirded out if someone dropped off a resume in person. I'd certainly still look at your resume, but it wouldn't earn you any points.

But it's really not too hard to stand out in an email. Are you writing a cover letter for each job? Really writing one, not just attaching the same "Dear Sir or Madam." Spend a few minutes googling the company and write a cover letter that calls out specific ways in which you are qualified for this job. Do that, and you're starting out in the top 2% of applicants.
posted by meta_eli at 9:54 PM on March 21, 2010

Job hunting is a job in itself.

You need to apply to as many jobs fitting your description as possible.

57 job application is not enough. Sometimes it takes a lot less (lucky),
sometimes more. You need to search & apply more.

I recommend signing up with all major job sites (CareerBuilder, Monster,
HotJobs), monitor local newspapers & Craigslist.

You need to be among the first to apply to a new job in order to increase
your chances of getting a job interview.

After you've applied online, send the resume by fax 2-3 days later. Wait
2-3 more days and call their human resource manager. If he rejects you
on the phone do ask nicely for a feedback on your job application.

This way, you'll surely find out what you're doing right ... and what you're
doing wrong and adjust.

Hope it helps.

posted by gabc at 9:30 AM on June 29, 2010

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