Why Trying for Less Will Get You More

Can narrowing down your job search focus actually get you more interviews than trying for a wide range of jobs? That’s been my experience.

First let me give you a business example, and then I’ll tell you about a client of mine who got amazing results just by narrowing her sights.

When we worked with the amazing Squared Eye to redesign our website earlier this year, we made a big decision: we would clearly define our target audience for the first time. We wouldn’t try to attract everyone. We would design a site and write copy that would appeal to creative and technology professionals. It was a little scary – after all, 50% of our clients were neither creative nor technical. Were we going to lose them? If we did, would we find enough extra clients to make up for it?

Six months later and the results are in. We now attract far more of the clients who fit neatly into our target audience. But we also attract just as many people who don’t! We’re still writing great resumes for senior operations executives and administrative assistants and accountants. It turns out that by narrowing our focus, we attracted a wider variety of people.

I was thinking about this over the weekend, because as this awful recession drags on, I’ve seen an increase in people who are widening their search out of desperation. They say things like “I’ve been a programmer for the last 6 years but I used to work in retail. Can you write me a resume that would work for both?” Or “I don’t care what kind of job I get. I just need a job.”

When I say that no, we really can’t write an effective resume without a clear focus, I know some of these people get very nervous. If they narrow down their search when jobs are so scarce, won’t they just increase the chances that they’ll stay unemployed forever?

I know it’s scary,  just as it was scary for us when we decided to narrow our business focus. But trust me when I tell you: Narrowing your focus will ensure that you are more successful, not less.

A real life example

Let me give you a recent example. A client of mine had some past experience in not-for-profit marketing and more recent experience in for profit graphic design. Her background looked a little scattered on paper, and her focus was just as scattered. She was applying for marketing jobs in both non-profit and corporate environments. When she didn’t get interviews, she also started applying for graphic design jobs in both types of organization. To make matters worse, she was trying to relocate from a rural area in the South to an urban center in the North East, and she needed to get a job prior to making the move.

When we sat down and talked, it became clear that she really wanted to do marketing for a non-profit. She hadn’t enjoyed her time in the corporate world and was much happier when her work was making a difference in the world. Once we had this defined, I rewrote her resume to focus like a laser on this target. We emphasized her passion for non-profit work, in part by showing all the volunteer work she had been doing, we detailed her past experience in the field, and we stressed her combination of marketing and design experience – a huge plus for cash-strapped non-profits.

The results were better than even I could have imagined. Within a few weeks of looking, my client wrote and told me she had lined up 3 interviews for an upcoming trip to her target city. And she had only sent 4 resumes! I haven’t heard yet whether she got any of the jobs, but the difference in results is astounding – she went from no responses, to getting 3 out of the 4 interviews she tried for.

If you have been unemployed for a while and are not getting responses, you have nothing to lose by trying my advice. Pick a target, hone in on it, write every word of your resume to appeal to those companies, and target all your networking efforts on getting to know people in that field. Forget all the other possibilities and just FOCUS!

If you do it right, you will see results.

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