so you’re looking for a new job…

Several times a month I get approached via email by somebody who would like to work for me.  At first it was kinda cool.  Hey! Somebody wants to work for me!  Now, not so much.

That might sound very unappreciative or arrogant but let me explain.

Virtually every inquiry I get from people looking for work is the same.  It’s a form letter.  They are polite, well written and basically, they amount to this:

Hi

I need work
Here is my portfolio
Please hire me.

Thank you

Obviously, they’re not so blunt as that but that’s how the vast majority of them come across.  If it’s a slow day, I may take a quick look at the person’s portfolio but chances are very good that the whole thing is going in the recycle bin.  Here’s why:

what’s in it for me?

Let’s be blunt… a lot of times, this is how the world operates.  When a prospective employee sends me an email asking for work that mimics the one above, they’re about what’s in it for them – a job.  They’re really not interested in what’s in it for me.  Or else, they believe their portfolio is so amazing I will drop everything and give them a call because there’s no way I could pass on such a great offer.

Usually, it’s very obvious from their letter that they have not researched what Fine Lime does, who we work with or what kind of design we specialize in.   They see web design and fire out the form letter.

Form letters, in my opinion, are spam.  Nobody likes spam.

how to get the attention of a prospective employer

Are you looking for a new job?  Great!  Odds are good that if you do your research and craft your introductory letter carefully, you can get a second look from your prospective employer.

I work with other freelancers and while I may not have a project that will be the right fit for another freelancer at a specific moment, I’m always looking for potential people that I can work with and who will fit our process.  If somebody jumps out, I will definitely respond and file the name away for when the right project does come up.  So here are some tips:

know your market

If you read our about page, you’ll realize we’re a small group of freelancers who work together.  I don’t have dozens of employees or an HR department dedicated to going through resumes.  If you want my attention, you need to appeal to me and what I do personally.  Most small firms will be the same.

What do you specialize in? WordPress? Flash? Front end design? Logos?  Target firms that specialize in the same thing.  They’re more likely to need your services.   We work mainly with WordPress and Joomla.  I don’t really have a need for Drupal developers.

However, while I may not have a need for a Drupal developer right now, that doesn’t mean something won’t come up in the future.  You can still make me sit up and listen by framing your inquiry in a better way.  How about

“I see that you specialize in WordPress and Joomla projects.  My skills are mainly focused on Drupal and I realize this may not fit with your current niche.  However, should that change and you decide to start offering services for Drupal, I would love to be able to work with your team.”

Right there, you’ve already shown me that you’ve done some basic research into what we do and you’ve offered your services without being pushy.  No, I might not need you now, but already, you’ve separated yourself from the pack and that sticks out.

how can you help?

Honestly… this is where you can make a difference.  Tell me what you can do for me that’s relevant to my business. Having an amazing portfolio is not good enough because there is so much more involved in being a good co-worker than just your skill level.  There are masses of very talented people out there.

Let me know that you understand my company.  Tell me how you can make a difference to my clients.  Show me that you took a little more initiative than simply adding my email to a database so you could fire me out a mass mailing.

it’s a value proposition

The key thing to remember when you are looking for a job is that it’s a value proposition.  Yes, absolutely you are trying to sell yourself to a prospective employer – but the key part of that is showing them why you are the right person for their firm.  Why will you fit better than the last person or the next person?  It’s the same things as approaching a new client.  They can choose from literally thousands of web development companies.  Why should they choose you?  What makes you special?  And better yet… do you understand their business?  If you don’t, how are you going to come up with a solution for them?

So next time you’re out looking for work, keep a few of these things in mind.  It’s as much about the other person as it is about you.

In the meantime, form letters need not apply.

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2 Responses to so you’re looking for a new job…

  1. Meiri August 4, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    I don’t know where the people you’re getting inquiries from learned to write introductory letters! Everyone I’ve ever spoken with and every article I’ve ever read on the subject clearly state that each letter should be customized to the prospective employer.

    I always thought that researching a business before expressing interest in working for them was common sense.

    • Melissa Hartfiel August 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

      It’s not that they’re poorly written letters, it’s just that they’re form letters. Maybe the feeling is the more you send out the more likely you will get a bite. But really, thoughtfully targeting a smaller group of people with whom your skills would fit would probably provide a much greater return!

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