Recruiters often receive hundreds, if not thousands, of applications for a job listing — and whether you're submitting the same resume for the 50th time or spent an hour crafting the perfect cover letter, there's no guarantee someone will look at your application, or invite you to an interview, after you hit "submit."
But there's a surefire way to stand out in the job search, a step that most candidates forget to do after they send in their application, Jeff Hyman, the CEO of Recruit Rockstars, tells CNBC Make It: following up with a company's hiring manager, or recruiter, over email.
"It takes a little bit of confidence and research, but it works better than any technique that I've seen in getting a hiring manager's attention," he says. "As a hiring manager, when I get a note like that — which is rare — I always read it."
Before sending an email to the hiring manager or your would-be boss, however, it's important to double-check the instructions on the job posting, Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half, says. "Some organizations will say, 'Do not contact us,'" he adds, but nine times out of ten, it's a smart job search tactic that only takes fives minutes.
McDonald recommends waiting at least one week after submitting your application before sending a follow-up email, to give the person a chance to review your submission.
Then, figure out who the hiring manager for the role is, and who the role reports to. Sometimes this information is included in the job posting, but if not, you might have to do a bit of detective work: search the role and team on LinkedIn, as well as the company's directory (if one is available), to see who the hiring manager or team leader is.
If all else fails, Hyman suggests emailing the head of the department you're applying to. If it's a marketing manager position, for example, write to the head of marketing at the company, or if it's an account manager position, write to the head of sales.
"You want to target one or two levels above the role you're interested in," he explains. "Worst-case scenario, go to the department head, because even if they're really senior, that person is likely to forward your email to the right person on their team."
Most companies have the same email format for all employees, like "email@example.com," but if this information doesn't come up in your initial search, there are services with free trials, like Rocket Reach and Lusha, that can help you pull people's work emails.
It might be tempting to follow up with someone through social media or their personal email if that contact information is more readily available, but Hyman recommends sticking to the person's work email.
You get one chance to make a strong first impression as a job candidate, and over email, that starts with a compelling subject line.
Approach the subject line like a salesperson, Hyman says: You want to pique their curiosity and show them you're the right person for the job. Here are three examples:
- "I've cracked the code on [insert company's focus here]"
- "Here's what your competition is doing to boost revenue"
- "You don't want to miss this"
In the body of the email, start by complimenting the person's work or a recent company project. Then, note which role you've applied to, and highlight some of the skills and experience that would help you thrive, or solve challenges the company is facing, in this new job.
Ultimately, McDonald says your email should answer the question: "If they hire you, how can you help the organization move forward?"
Thank the person for their time and note that you look forward to hearing from them soon. Even if the hiring manager of your dream job doesn't respond, make emailing people a consistent step in your job search routine. "It's the easiest way to show you're a thoughtful, engaged candidate," Hyman says. "Yet almost no one does it."