This is a tough one. When searching for a job, in some ways it makes sense to cast our net as widely as possible, so as to increase our chances of finding a job. For example, I’m working with a recent college graduate who’s trying very hard to get into a particular industry. Like many ambitious people, he’s looked online to get the names of relevant companies, and he planned to e-mail them his résumé, accompanied by a cover letter, both of which outline his excellent education, his diverse yet related experience, and his sincere interest in breaking into the field.

But, there’s a problem here – namely, companies get e-mails like this “all the time,” and although this young man is very talented, very smart, and would be a terrific employee with lots of potential, it’s a real challenge to make enough of an impression through a blanket e-mail campaign.

So, what’s an applicant to do? The answer is, specifically, “BE SPECIFIC.” What I mean by this is you stand a much better chance of getting an interview IF you can customize your approach to the job (and the hiring manager). Even a little bit of work in this area can make a world of difference. Here’s how:
“¢ Of course, talk to people about the company you’re interested in – employees, sure, but also anyone else who’s familiar with the company. Learn more about what the company does and any particular issues it may be facing. Don’t wait until you (hopefully) land an interview to research the company. You’d be surprised at how even a little of the right information can help you tweak your cover letter and résumé in the right way.
“¢ If you’re responding to a posted job, think very carefully about what the job involves, even – and maybe especially – those points that the posting or job description “leave out.” For example, if the job, as many entry-level jobs do, includes working with multiple departments or teams, you want to highlight your communications skills. (For more on this, see my Nov. 30 blog post, “Pushing the right buttons to get a job.”)
“¢ Join LinkedIn – this wonderful online tool can help you: find job openings (join LinkedIn groups, which often post jobs; and use LinkedIn to search for particular companies you’d like to work for); network – search for LinkedIn contacts that you have, or that your contacts have, or that their contacts have, for people who know about jobs or can even help you get an interview (and maybe out in a good word for you); build up your profile – summarize your experience and education in a compelling way; get recommendations – yeah, we all have ’em, but you really can stand out if your recommendations are meaningful and weave an impressive story about you; and find contacts – because, after all, that’s how the whole thing works!

My point? It’s tough to get an interview, and sometimes people feel like the right thing to do is to work hard and send out inquiries to tens of companies. Nope – spend a little time learning whatever you can about any particular company. The more specific you can be about how you might fit that company’s needs, the more likely the company will be to fit you into their interview schedule.