We receive resumés on a regular basis. And it’s interesting to watch, over time, how job applicant quality drifts up and down. The differences between young and old, educated and uneducated, are obvious. And sadly, today’s young people / college graduates are not being trained to job search effectively… or safely. Our most recent applicant inspired us to write this article. And while the following is written for a recent college graduate reader, we believe the basic rules apply to people of all ages.

The resumé came in as an innocent email message. It came from an unknown sender, and included a simple Word Doc attachment. The writer began with a simple “Hello,” and continued to explain how fantastic she is. The sender didn’t bother to research the principal decision maker’s name or email address, and ultimately sent the message to Info@ which is our general mail box. The body of the email was also copied from the Word Doc. So the duplicate information was un-necessary, and therefore unprofessionally written.

I won’t go into the quality of the applicant’s education or work history. Those are irrelevant here.

What was most alarming was the sender’s inclusion of her cell phone number, home address, and personal email account. While this may seem innocent, it’s simply unsafe for her, her possible roommates, and family.

In an effort to help her, and others in her job-search situation, we recommend the following job-search process that should help you find a better job with higher pay:

  1. Determine what you really want to do for work. If you really want to be an accountant, then go for it, and don’t stop till you get it. There’s nothing worse than having a job you don’t like. If you do what you enjoy, it won’t feel like work, and you’ll get paid for basically having fun.
  2. Determine the cities in which you would like to do this work. Rank the cities and start at the top.
  3. Find the companies in that city that are the best in your chosen industry. Start at the top of your list of favorite companies.
  4. Start calling the company, study their website, read news articles about them and the industry, and stop by their office for a visit. Talk to people who work there and figure out the departments. You’ll be amazed what you learn from strangers just by asking questions. Some employees might actually sit down with you on a coffee break and tell you all about the company, inside and out. Gold mine.
  5. Determine the department in which you’d like to work. And repeat the research to find out who’s in charge of that department. Get the person’s first and last name, and nickname if possible, spelled correctly. To get the name, call and ask for it. If they don’t give it to you, call again the next day and tell them you need to send a thank you note, and add that you don’t have the correct spelling of the department head’s name. Now they give it to you.
  6. Learn about the department, what they do, what they are working on, what challenges they face, what goals they have, and so on. Sit down and spend at least an hour figuring out how your education, talents, work history and problem solving skills can help the people in that department reach their goals faster than they could without you. If you can’t figure out how you’d help them, then you probably don’t deserve to work there.
  7. When you’ve completed the step above, go to the business, in person, and ask to see that specific department leader. If the person won’t see you, ask for an appointment by giving two options. Say, “I need your help. Can I see you tomorrow at 10 a.m., or would Thursday at 1 p.m be better for you?” (Never ask a Yes-No question. Your questions should have a choice, not a way out.)
  8. If the person still won’t see you, research to find his or her email address. Again, if you can’t find it. Call and ask for it. If that doesn’t work, again, call the next day and say, “My email to Joe bounced this morning. I have j-s-m-i-t-h, isn’t that correct?” And they’ll give it to you.
  9. Write to them, “Dear Mr. Smith, I know you are busy working on XYZ Specific Project. I’ve learned quite a bit about your company and I have some questions for you. Can I buy a coffee for you on Friday at 10:30, or maybe we could meet briefly in your office on Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. Which time is best for you?” At this point, the person should be very curious about you, and at the very least will want to talk to you on the phone. But you should insist on a face-to-face meeting.
  10. Be prompt. 5 minutes early. No excuses. Late = Loser. Once in person, be very friendly. Casual, but professional. Educated, but not stiff.
  11. After the initial chit chat, you’ll both get down to business. This person presumably has many other things to do. You say, “I want to work for this company. And I would prefer to work in this department. My XYZ skill will help you do ABC process more quickly and more effeciently.” An alternative line is, “My skills of ABC and XYZ have benefitted KLV Organization and RTE Company. Now, I want to work for this company. In what ways do you see my skills benefitting your department and bottom line?”
  12. At this point, you are literally the most innovative & intelligent job hunter this prospective boss has ever met. You are more of a go-getter and problem solver than any other graduate in your class. Every one of your classmates is sitting on their couch at home, being lazy, watching Who’s the Boss? reruns, in their pajamas. They’re sending blind emails to people they don’t know, at companies they haven’t researched, or may not still be in business. They’re crossing their fingers they can get hired anywhere on earth to make a few bucks to pay off their $12,000 College Universal MasterCharge consumer debt.
  13. Your future boss is impressed with you. He or she has likely never seen someone with your diligence, guts, and ability to make things happen. In fact, you’re probably better than the people already employed at this company. And if there’s a way to make a job for you, find the budget to hire you, or fire someone else so you can have their job, they’ll start thinking about it.
  14. Keep your conversation quick. After all, you promised it would be brief. Keep it under 15 minutes unless the person insists on you staying for more. Say to the person, “I really do appreciate your time. Here’s my card. [Give them an actual business card that you paid to have professionally printed. A home-made Word Doc business card template looks lame.] May I have your card as well?”
  15. The boss gives you his card. You say, “Thank you. I’d like to visit with you again, perhaps on Thursday afternoon next week, so that we can discuss the possibilities of working together. Would 2 o’clock work well for you? Or would you like to have lunch instead? My treat.”
  16. Go home and immediately write a short and sweet Thank You card. Put a copy of your business cards inside. Drive it to the post office before they close, so that it will arrive the next day. Your new boss will be blown away. Young people are simply not that professional, thoughtful or timely these days.
  17. Follow-up by email to schedule your follow up meeting / lunch. People prefer email because it’s faster and they don’t have to get stuck on the phone with you. If the email doesn’t get a reply after 24 hours, call the person. If the person doesn’t return your call, write a letter and mail it.
  18. Note that the use of a traditional resumé has yet to be mentioned in this process. (Your diligence speaks volumes more than any resumé.) The likely scenario is that the boss will eventually request a resumé just to put in the company employment files, as proof that you were in fact “interviewed.”

For your personal safety, be sure that your new business card, resumé, blog, web site, and other materials do not use your “real” cell phone, email address, and home address. Instead, use a virtual phone number like Google Voice or Phonebooth that forwards your calls to your cell phone. Use a secondary email account for your job search (preferably www.YourName.com), and by all means get a P.O. Box or UPS Store box for your mail (you can even share mail box costs with friends who are also job hunting). Using these free / low-cost alternatives will allow you to keep your personal information private, and will give you the ability to shut off someone who might harass you now or in the future. (CONTRIBUTION FROM READER “PETER”: So many people respond generically to Craig’s List ads… they have no idea who they are sending their information to, and if the “company” really exists at all! Could just be some creep who set up a false ad to get personal information.)

Keep in mind that Human Resources managers are not the decision makers. The person you will work for is the decision maker. If she wants you, she will create the position, and tell the HR manager to fill the position…. with YOU! If she can’t hire you right now, and you really want a job there, just be sure to stay in touch, on occasion (every 2-3 weeks) by snail mail to let her know that you’re still very interested in working for her. Tell her about any extra-curricular classes or seminars you’ve been attending. She’ll continue to be impressed with you. And she just might refer you to her colleague in another department.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to have some guts, and do what only a handful of people do…. ASK FOR THE JOB! Rather than waiting for Mrs. Future Boss to tell you she’d like to hire you, go ahead and say at the appropriate time, “Based on my conversations with you, and others at this company, I feel like this company is a great fit for me and for my career. I would love to work here, and I am available immediately. Should I start on Monday? Or is mid-week better for you?”