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Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Career and job search help for creative professionals.

Blue Sky Resumes is a small team of professional writers and job search experts. We offer one-of-a-kind resumes, smart career advice and fantastic customer service. This is our blog.


The Smart Job Search #9: Don’t Follow the Job Board Rules!


This is the ninth in a 10-part series designed to transform your job search. If you missed earlier posts, you can find them all here.

I’ve talked a lot in this series about ways to avoid job boards and find the hidden jobs no-one else knows about.

We’ve talked about building recruiter relationships, networking, creating an online presence and much more. We’ve focused so much on this because up to 80% of the available opportunities at any one time are never advertised.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore job boards altogether. Every now and then, you will find the perfect position advertised online and when that happens, you need a strategy for setting yourself apart.

After all, if everyone is hanging out on job boards competing for those few open positions, how can you ever succeed? The answer is to go back to step #1: ‘Think different.’

Break the rules

When it comes to applying for advertised positions, the worst thing you can do is to follow the instructions and then sit and wait for a call.

That call may come, but it most likely will not. In fact, there’s every chance that the recruiter or hiring manager won’t even see your resume.

This is because companies are inundated with responses to their job postings and so they screen resumes – either manually using a junior employee, or in an automated fashion using an online application system that scans for keywords.

Either way, there’s a very good chance that the hiring manager will never even see your resume – which is extremely frustrating when you know you’re a great candidate.

And that’s why you must break the rules.

Your Mission is to Reach the Hiring Manager

Most job ads are placed by HR. I used to work in HR so I don’t want to disparage these people – they are mostly good people doing their best! – but their job is to screen out as many resumes as possible. Their processes and systems are designed to make their lives easier, not to give you the best chance of success.

So when you see a job posting, your mission is to use your ninja research skills to find out who will be making the hiring decision, and to get your resume into the hands of that person.

The Internet is your Friend

This has never been easier than it is today. Search engines like Google and Bing allow you to dig into company records to find the names of hiring managers. On LinkedIn, you can look up the company and then find a staff listing. On Twitter, you can actually build relationships with managers within the company and use that to get the name you need (more about this in my next post).

If you can’t be sure who is hiring for the position, find the most senior person in that department. For example, if it’s an HR manager role, look for the name of the HR VP. If it’s a graphic designer role, perhaps you can find the creative director’s name. Once you know who is doing the hiring, you can make your pitch directly to that person.

Note: I do recommend still applying by the rules as well and submitting an application as instructed. After all, you may be one of the lucky ones. But then go above and beyond in case HR screens you out.

Customize Every Time

In order to make sure your resume hits home, be sure to customize it each time you send it out. Look for the position requirements and address them head on. For much more on this see How to Customize Your Resume.

If you break the rules by going directly to the hiring manager and then send that manager a highly customized resume that demonstrates your ability to make a real impact, you’ll greatly increase your chances of success. It takes more time and commitment for sure, but would you rather send out 50 generic resumes that no one ever sees, or 5 highly customized ones that reach the key decision-maker directly?

If you’re willing to put in the time and effort to make this strategy succeed, download my newest ebook – The Blue Sky Guide to Job Search. (Click here to learn more). You’ll get all the details about how to implement this strategy, including Internet search tips and tricks that make it easy to find the person with the power to hire you. And it even comes with a money-back guarantee. If for any reason, the guide doesn’t meet your expectations, we’ll refund your money no questions asked.

In my final post in this series, I’ll be sharing a great strategy for making connections online, so don’t miss it.

Read more about Job Search.

Blue Sky Resumes

About the Author

Louise Fletcher

Louise co-founded Blue Sky in 2002 after a career as an HR executive. Her industry experience includes music, video games, fashion and advertising. She lived and worked in the US for many years, but moved back to her native UK in 2012, where she now lives in the Yorkshire countryside. In addition to her full-time role with Blue Sky, she's a professional artist, so you can imagine why she couldn't answer the 'what do you do with your free time' question! Contact Louise by email.

5 comments on “The Smart Job Search #9: Don’t Follow the Job Board Rules!”

  1. David says:

    So, lets say I applied through a job board. Wouldn’t the HR manager and the lead of the dept I applied to get annoyed if I also email both of them? Would this come off as being eager or just desperate?

  2. Hi David,

    I guess this is a possibility if they are organized enough to communicate that much with each other and if (big if) the HR Manager has actually ever seen your resume when you applied through the system.

    I think it’s a risk worth taking because the odd time that it hurts you is nothing compared to all the times it will help you.

    But if you decide you can’t take the risk, then forget the HR department and go direct.

    It won’t work every time — there is no job search strategy that will work every time — and sometimes it may backfire. But overall, it gives you much better odds than going about things the same old way everyone else does.

    And one man’s desperate is another man’s enthusiastic 🙂

  3. David says:

    Yea, it would be best to go direct but they are in another city. :p

    I’m sure you’ve encountered someone do this when you worked as a HR executive. What did you think of them then? The ones who emailed you directly or visited the office after you’ve already seen their resume or portfolio.

  4. Going direct doesn’t have to mean walking in as I said in the post. Just research the hiring manager’s name and send a resume either by mail or email.

    When I was an HR exec, I was exactly the sort of person who shouldn’t have been getting direct resumes! But the answer to your question is that a good resume is a good resume, no matter how it comes in. If it matches the company’s needs and someone sees it, it will generate an interview. This ‘direct mail’ strategy is all about making sure someone sees it.

  5. David says:

    Well, I decided to also email the HR Manager my resume and cover letter. Let’s hope it all works out.

    Thank you very much for your valued information!

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