The days of dropping your resume en masse and hoping that someone notices you are long gone. Pushing a generic resume is the easy way out and cedes control of your search to the employer. Your everyday job seeker will do that, but the market is so competitive that if you do what everyone else does, it won't be enough.
However, changing a few lines in your cover letter is still not enough customization to get noticed. Think of the job search like an advertising campaign where you are the product. As a consumer, you aren't swayed by one-size-fits-all advertising; instead you want an experienced tailored to you. As a job seeker, you are now the marketer so you need to customize how you woo potential employers.
Here are 7 things to customize in your job search so that it speaks to your specific dream employer at every stage of your search:
Reasons for your interest. Everyone wants to be wanted, and this is no different for your dream employer. If you are going for the It company that everyone else wants, like a Google, then you can be assured that they've heard the superficial flattery — "I want to work here because you're the best!" Yawn…These platitudes won't work. Instead, dig deep and get personal. What is it about your background, experience and career journey to date that makes Google your dream company? What is it about them that makes them your dream company?
Research you undertake. The most genuine way to prove interest in something is to know a lot about it. If your dream company is Pfizer, you will know the research in the pipeline, recent innovations, their specific challenges, and their organization. Exhaustive research is a game-changing differentiator to prospective employers. If you really cared, you would know the minutest details. It's hard to believe you're enamored of your date if you can't remember the things they just told you. Companies put out a lot of information in press releases, investor announcements, and other news — they want you and expect you to know!
Strengths you highlight. Now that you know so much about them from your above research, you can select the specific things about you that are most relevant. You can highlight the keywords that will resonate. You can talk about the specific projects that match what you will likely be doing on their team. This isn't about speaking to the technology industry overall, but Google specifically.
Communication style. When I recruited for a major media company, a candidate sent a resume, cover letter and portfolio in the style of one of the magazines this company published. Instead of telling us she understood our company and had great editorial skills, she used her edit skills outright to recreate our own magazine. This got her noticed because she made clear in her communication that she understood us. Her style also was appropriate for the job. She was in edit, where we wanted to see her creative skills, not accounting, where we would expect her to stay professional.
People you approach. If you want to get through to your dream company, you don't stop at the recruiter. You try for the hiring manager and anyone else who might have influence on this hiring decision — board members, investors, related functional areas. You identify more than one person, and you reach out to all of them.
Online presence. Are you following your dream company on social media? Are you following specific people from your dream company — the CEO, the leaders of your target functional area? Have they published books, and did you read them? Are you commenting on their blogs? Are you sharing their content? There are many opportunities to connect via social media which provide more proof of your genuine interest, can aid your research, can enable you to demonstrate your strengths, give you another method of communicating, and give you access to more people. Your online activity with your dream company is a key area where you can customize your job search.
Persistence. It would be impractical to customize your approach to every prospective employer in the way I am suggesting you should for your dream employer. Clearly, this time and energy investment should only be undertaken for a select group. However, for that select group of dream employers, you must be persistent. You must be willing to try again and again. Maybe your first approach falls flat. Maybe they like you but don't have an opening. Maybe they have an opening but it doesn't quite fit. Business and market conditions change, so hiring conditions change, and what didn't succeed before may succeed later. You must be willing to go the extra step for your dream employers.
In the next few weeks, I'll be elaborating on this idea of customizing your approach, and I will post in real-time about my own experience as I pitch a dream project that I'd like to get. This way, we can walk through each of these steps together. Stay tuned!