How to avoid the frustration of online resume submissions and still get interviews

There is nothing more demoralizing to a job seeker than submitting resumes online and never hearing back from the company. We spend a significant amount of time submitting resumes and cover letters, yet only about 5% lead to interviews. If you include the time necessary to “target” a resume to a particular job description and prepare a cover letter, this means we can waste upwards of 8 hours to submit a single resume that will never be seen.

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That is just the nature of the new job market, right?

What if I told you there was a way to ensure you don’t spend a single minute targeting your resume and drafting cover letters for a job unless you were almost 100% assured that a recruiter would at least look at it? Would it be better if I told you that you could also get what I call a “limited employee referral” for the position? I’m guessing you would be willing to give it a try at least once.

Here is the thing:  people make hiring decisions.

There are several points in the recruiting process where a person (sourcer, recruiter, hiring manager) makes a decision on whether to move a candidate forward in the process. If you don’t enter the recruiting process through one of these people, you are stuck with the 5% success rate that comes with applying online. So how do we get our resumes to them? Its simple, use LinkedIn as it was meant to be used.

Let me explain…

The most important performance indicator for recruiters is their ability to identify and source people to fill job vacancies. They conduct searches through talent pools, applicant tracking systems and tools like LinkedIn just to find people that meet specific position requirements. Recruiters then must reach out to multiple potential candidates to determine interest and request additional information. This can be a time-consuming process (to say the least) when added to their other requirements. So if a qualified candidate contacted them and expressed interest in a specific position they were trying to fill, they’d at least be willing to take a look, right?

As the world’s largest professional network, LinkedIn gives you the ability to find the specific recruiter looking to fill any particular vacancy. Using Premium Insights, you can quickly tell how you stack up against other candidates that have already applied for the job. With a quick glance, your profile gives recruiters critical information on your fit for a position and the company. If you accept this and have a general understanding of the recruiting process, you can stop submitting applications blindly and get them directly to a person in the process.

Here is the technique:

Step 1) Find an interesting job for which you meet all of the minimum requirements (and hopefully some of the preferred requirements). Now write down the exact title of the job, the job requisition number and the recruiter name (if listed). You will need this information later.

Step 2) Check to see if the job is posted on LinkedIn. If it is and you are a LinkedIn Premium member, click on the job to take advantage of your Premium Insights. You literally learn what the competition looks like and how you match up. You will learn how you match the role based on past experience, skills and current role. You will also learn how many other people applied for the job, their education level, seniority level, and what the top 10 LinkedIn profile skills are from among the group of applicants. If the job is not posted on LinkedIn, still move on to Step 3. You will just have a few more variables.

Step 3) Tweak your LinkedIn profile to help ensure you are among the top applicants. This can be as simple as a rewording of past position titles (this particularly applies to the military) or adding specific skills that you have but didn’t think to list on your profile. Please do not lie when doing this – it will come out during the process and you will only waste everyone’s time.

*Keep in mind your LinkedIn profile should not be an exact match of your resume. Since you will likely be submitting different resumes to potential employers (and targeting them all to specific job descriptions), you don’t want your profile to look drastically different from the resume. It should support your resume and validate that you would have the experience and skills required for the position. Instead of just adding resume bullets, use the description for each of your previous jobs to speak in general about what you did. You want to give enough information to be credible, but you still want the recruiter to ask for your resume.

Step 4a) In the LinkedIn search bar, type the company’s name and click the “People who work at” drop-down selection. On the right side of the screen, click the box that says Filter People By, Connections, 1st. This will show you everyone that you are connected with at the company. If you have a 1st degree connection, move to Step 5. If you don’t have a 1st degree connection, move to Step 4b.

Step 4b) Change the search criteria to the company’s name and recruiter. Scroll through the results to find the recruiter or talent acquisition program manager who you think might be working to fill the position. You can narrow this down by reviewing their profiles against the job description. You don’t necessarily need to find the exact person, but you want to find someone in the correct work area.

Step 5) Send the person you are connected with OR a recruiter at the company a message or InMail explaining your interest in the job. Make sure to mention the specific information I told you to write down in Step 1 – we want to make this as easy as possible for them. Add a simple sentence highlighting your qualifications and ask if they can refer you to the recruiter or hiring manager responsible for the position.

*Wait a few days to hear something back. If you don’t get a response within 3 days or so, message another person that popped-up in your Step 4 search criteria. Repeat this until you get a reply with a name or a “send me your resume.” If they ask for your resume, go to Step 7.

Step 6) Send a message or InMail to the specific recruiter or hiring manager identified for the position. Make sure to start the email by telling them exactly who referred you to them and include all of the specific information we wrote down in Step 1. Here is an example:

Hi Sarah,

Mike Quinn referred me to you regarding the Program Manager position (requisition number 123456). I am very much interested in the position and meet all of the requirements listed on the job description. Can you let me know if I would be a good fit? If it would help, I can send you my resume.



NOTE: Do you see the “limited employee referral?” You get an added measure of credibility by name-dropping the person that referred you. This is because another employee at the company took the time to refer you to the recruiter or hiring manager. It is generally understood that they would have at least performed a perfunctory screen of your profile to see if you meet the minimum qualifications. If you follow up with specific vacancy information and your profile looks like a fit, they will ask for your resume (or tell you to submit it online and make a note to review it). It is in their best interest to do so because you are clearly a qualified, motivated applicant for a specific vacancy they are looking to fill.

Step 7) Success! You’ve just found a recruiter that is willing to take a look at your resume. Now is when you take the time to target your resume to the specific job description. When you think it is a good fit, run it through screening software like to ensure you are at least an 80% match. If requested to submit it online (some companies require ALL resumes to go through their online system), make sure to include a cover letter. If the recruiter asks for your resume, just send it directly to them (within a day or so). If you meet the qualifications, a phone screen or interview should follow in the not-too-distant future.

Let me know how this works for you and don’t hesitate to message me if you have questions.

This article first appeared on Linkedin.