1. I send out lots of emails to prospective employers, but rarely get a response. What am I doing wrong? What are tips to getting a reply beyond the automated response?
Candidate emails are binary in the eyes of a hiring manager:
- Emails from qualified candidates who fit the job are gold
- Emails from unqualified candidates are SPAM
As a hiring manager, you spend hours, if not days, sifting through all the coal to find the gold. With this backdrop, you need to catch the hiring manager’s attention. Make it clear to them that you are that special candidate.
You’ve sent a lot of emails with few responses. So focus on quality over quantity. Increase the research you are doing on your targets before sending your email. Consider it similar to finding the perfect partner. You wouldn’t send the exact same email to lots of candidates. You’d craft a very special letter convincing them they are the one. Treat each opportunity as unique and make it clear why that job and you are perfect for each other. Here are a few other pointers:
- Keep it short. Really short. Ideally no longer than one iPhone screen. Don’t make them scroll.
- Don’t hold back. No need to play coy. Get to the point and make it clear why you’re the best for the job.
- Reference mutual acquaintances. If you know someone in common who will vouch for you, drop that name now. Affinity is your friend.
The right frequency of follow-up is highly subjective and is somewhere between wallflower and stalker. Personally, I prefer a weekly cadence but every hiring manager is different. If you’re unsure, try a higher frequency. The worst thing that can happen is you’re in the same position you started: nowhere.
At some point, you have to be honest and admit that perhaps it’s not the email but the job. If it’s a job worth applying for, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates for that role. In that case, you may not be the best qualified candidate. They may have better qualified people in the queue or even hired someone already. In this case, it’s time to move on and go prospecting elsewhere.
2. I’ve always been persistent when wanting something. What are signs I should move on to the next job prospect?
I’m never one to give up. Much of the success I’ve seen from corporate executives is their ability to keep going. Even in the face of rejection or complete futility. But I also believe that it’s important to know when to move on. Your most precious asset in life is time. You don’t want to waste it chasing a dream that will never be fulfilled especially in your younger prime career years.
We are all subject to major bias and with our jobs it can take the form of the sunk cost fallacy. This is when we continue an action because of our past investments of time, money, or other resources. We don’t make a rational choice that will maximize our utility at the present time. For example, even though you dislike the job, you feel a pressure to continue working. This is because you’ve spent years toiling away at a job. Sunk cost fallacies occur when you make decisions that are based on the emotional investments that you have already made. The more time or money you invest in something, the harder it is to let it go.
To try to break this mindset, here are some tactics to try:
- If no one is answering your emails, then treat these job opportunities as a blank slate every day. Ask yourself if you would want the job today? If not, move on.
- Ask loved ones, a mentor, or someone objective to help evaluate the situation for you.
- Go back to first principles. Why are you the best for this job? Are you just fooling yourself?
- Take a break. Step away from that opportunity. Try going after other listings and put this one on the back burner.
- Develop some metrics. Look at the data. If you haven’t received any responses then the data may be telling you that it’s a write off. Stay true to this rule for all of your prospects so you know when to bail.
3. What’s the most creative thing a job applicant has done to successfully get hired by you?
The most creative thing someone was to leverage a trusted acquaintance. They showed me they had the chops to do the job. But they made it as risk less as possible for me to hire them.
First, they made sure that someone I respected greatly referred them for the job. I contacted that person and the reference was very strong.
Second, they offered to effectively do the job for a day. They prepared for the job and gave me a presentation as though I was already their boss. Their content was raw and needed refinement but it showed me they really wanted the job. They gave me a glimpse of what they would be like in the field of play.
Finally, they offered to work for a 90-day trial period after which we could both walk away. No strings attached. Again, they showed they were willing to bet on themselves. They provided me with a very low risk option of hiring them.
These tactics aren’t for everyone but this candidate did great and I hired them as a full-time employee.
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About the Author
Dave is a seasoned executive and entrepreneur who founded several companies in entertainment, investments, and technology, and worked on Wall Street for almost 25 years.
He started his career by joining a fledgling investment bank, Jefferies, when it had less than 200 employees. Today, Jefferies is a multi-billion dollar diversified public company (NYSE:JEF). He rose from the entry level position of Analyst to Group Head of Internet and Digital Media and was one of the youngest Managing Directors in firm history. As one of the only managing directors of color in the firm, he successfully broke through the Bamboo Ceiling. He not only worked hard but also played the corporate game.
Hundreds of bankers have worked for Dave during his career. He has mentored many of them who have gone on to some of the best business schools and companies in America. He is eager to share his knowledge with Asian Americans and other disadvantaged groups seeking to maximize their potential and achieve their career goals.