How to get your resume in the right hands

April 1, 2010 at 11:51 am Leave a comment

The proverbial resume black hole is the bane of a job hunter’s existence. You spend so much time perfecting and polishing your resume and supporting materials, only to send them out into the online universe with little response or even acknowledgment.

We’ve all known people who applied for tons of jobs online and hit the jackpot with one — but that’s a real gamble. The most reliable way to land a job,  in what remains a hotly competitive market (especially for journalism and communications positions) is to get your resume in the hands of people who will actually read it and actually have jobs to fill now or in the near future. Doing that takes research, not a little chutzpah and a good network, but what’s your alternative? Short of the online gamble or showing up at the company and demanding to see the hiring manager (and that’s not recommended; chances are the only conversation you’ll have is with the security guard!), you’ll need to employ some smart strategies to get your resume in the right hands.

Here are some tips from hiring experts:

*Figure out who you know, or who you know who knows someone, at organizations in which you have an interest. That is still the best way to get your resume to someone in a position to influence hiring and for your candidacy to move forward there. In my recruiting experience, when a trusted colleague asked me to give a resume a read, I would. And even if my company didn’t have an opening for which they’d be a good fit, we would often set up an informational interview if the resume caught my interest. So play “Six (or fewer) Degrees of Resume Separation” — make a list of the places in town you’d like to work (and which are likely to have openings) and then start figuring out who you know there or who knows someone there. Think broadly — beyond the obvious friends and former colleagues, consider alumni contacts, friends of friends, friends of former colleagues, members of other organizations you’re involved with such as a press club or other journalism groups, neighbors who may know someone, etc. Then make sure they are comfortable delivering your resume; often if you ask nicely, they’ll be happy to do so.

*Craft your cover letter to speak directly to the hiring manager or even the HR contact if you can’t get your resume to the hiring manager. Most cover letters — especially those that arrive blindly via an email address — are generic and address hiring managers generically. If you can’t get your resume hand-delivered by someone, try to find the name of someone (often this information is available on the firm’s Web site; also research LinkedIn and ZoomInfo for the correct names) who appears to be a hiring manager. Address them by name and tell them your story and how you’d be a good fit for the organization. Ask them to please try to get your resume in the hands of a hiring manager in a specific area — again, research who that might be. You may be surprised by this, but again, in my recruiting experience, folks in HR and other places who got these letters would pass them along, often with a note that it would be nice if I read it as this person took the time to write a specific job appeal. The trick is to make it specific — the generic is a total turnoff and won’t land your resume anywhere useful.

*When applying for a posted ad, send your resume and a targeted letter to the person listed, yet first research who they are and what their position is in the company. Keep the letter specific and focus on your skills, your story and how you are a good match for the company — worry less about the requirements of the posted ad (unless you happen to be a great fit for the job), your goal is to get your resume read by decision makers there and start a conversation. Ideally, you can send the letter and then find someone in the company who knows someone and have them follow up with your resume. If the letter made a good impression, that resume delivery could have a double-whammy effect and you could get an informational interview, even if you’re not necessarily right for this particular job. (Though be careful that you’re not applying for jobs way out of your league as this strategy could then backfire.)

*Make good use of contacts made at job fairs and other networking opportunities. Follow up with them soon after. Obviously see if they have openings at their company (especially when you’ve met them at a job fair) but also, send an updated digital copy of your resume and ask them to pass it along to others in their organization who may be hiring. If it’s easy for them to do so, they often will. Then keep following up — find out to whom they sent it and follow up with a targeted job letter to them. Keep the chain going until you end up with an interview!

*Some mixed news on the job front this week, which seems to parallel D.C. hiring for journalism and communications jobs. Lots of hiring, as evidenced by the congratulations notes here in recent weeks (and with Bloomberg, Politico, Thomson-Reuters and others adding positions and filling jobs) but there are still layoffs — AP and U.S. News (that makes, by my count, eight years of layoffs there!) cut jobs in D.C. this week. Job hunters need to be prepared for a wild ride. Here is some interesting hiring news from

Article | 04/01/2010

Sobering private-sector report shows

*Yet here are some new possibilities in leads to pursue:

*Amtrak has an opening in its D.C. office for a creative director of e-commerce:

Amtrak – Washington, DC
Support Communications Department through timely postings and emergency communications. Assist in… SKILLS: Excellent communication and presentation… $94,000 – $124,000 a year
From Amtrak

*For those with an economics background (or if you know someone who fits the bill, pass it on!), the National Women’s Law Center in D.C. has an opening for a senior policy analyst in the area of family economic security:

Senior Policy Analyst, Family Economic Security
National Women’s Law Center – Washington, DC
policy and presenting data in accessible ways; excellent written and oral communications skills; facility with quantitative and qualitative research; and a…
From National Women’s Law Center

*With a hat tip to (for these next few leads), the Winchester Star in Winchester, Va., is looking for a reporter with Web skills — this could be a good opportunity for someone just starting out and looking to get some journalism experience:

Company: Winchester Star
Seeking reporter with web skills
Winchester, Virginia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Negotiable
Ad Expires:
May 5, 2010
Job ID: 1160577

Reporter/web technician The 20,000 circulation Winchester Star in Winchester, Va. is seeking a reporter to write community briefs, gather court documents and real estate transactions and help with website-related tasks. The successful candidate will have a college degree and some newswriting and website experience. Send resume and clips to

*The Humane Society of the U.S. has several openings at its office in Gaithersburg — for a communications/public affairs specialist and a fund-raising specialist  — and this one, for a Web designer:

Company: The Humane Society of the United States
Web Designer
Gaithersburg, Maryland
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
May 5, 2010
Job ID: 1160465

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest animal advocacy organization, is seeking a Web Designer for the Online Communications department. The main responsibilities of this position will be to design websites, templates, emails, home page packages, and specialty items such as Flash animations and play a lead role in managing design projects by outside vendors. Other duties include, but are not limited to: produce high-impact creative to support a broad variety of campaigns and other online initiatives; design websites, website story packages, email mastheads and templates, inset graphics, and other creative to support urgent online communications in a fast-paced, deadline-oriented atmosphere; produce engaging rich media animations, banner ads, display ads, and other content to support marketing initiatives; work with campaign, marketing, and development staff on style, approach, and brand consistency across design projects; participate as part of a team in brainstorming, developing, and continuously improving all online communications; use W3C standards compliant design that ensures maximum usability and accessibility as well as meets cross-browser challenges in a CMS environment; collaborate with third party design vendors, Flash developers, and project management teams. Bachelor’s degree preferably in graphic design, web development or computer science highly desired with at least 4-6 years experience in graphic design and at least 2 years of work specifically for online communications preferred; experience with web design tools such as Flash, Director, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Photoshop, and Image Ready. Solid HTML, CSS, and Javascript skills required. Working knowledge of PHP/ASP and Flash ActionScript useful and experience designing for a CMS environment and a familiarity and/or interest in animal protection issues a major plus. The salary range for this position is from the low $40’s to the high $40’s. Please send cover letters and resumes to or fax to 301-548-7701. This position is located in Gaithersburg, Md.

*And last but certainly not least today, the Baltimore Sun is looking for a senior vice president/director of content:

Company: Baltimore Sun
Baltimore, Maryland
Job Status: Not Specified
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
May 5, 2010
Job ID: 1160406

Senior Vice President, Director of Content, The Baltimore Sun

Do you live for the future and not the present? Are you fearless and fueled by your passions about the possibilities for news and information? Can you lead meaningful change by inspiring those around you with a vision of tomorrow?

Then you could lead The Baltimore Sun’s newsroom of the future.

We are looking for the next generation editor at The Baltimore Sun to become our Director of Content. This leader will understand that news and information isn’t about deadlines, but rather a process without start or end. Our Director of Content will create 24/7 digital media operations that super-serve local audiences that expect information without an appointment — what they want, when they want it.

Qualified candidates for The Baltimore Sun Director of Content position will be creative, free-thinking, courageous, flexible, and have their sight firmly fixed on the horizon. These individuals will be motivated to carry forward the values of public service, watchdog and accountability journalism fairly and accurately, yet be completely free from the weighty organizational and operational conventions of newsrooms past.

Ideal candidates will understand and aggressively compete for audience in the context of a cultural landscape where myriad options and aggressive competitors vie for attention. And they will demonstrate the ability to create conversations around content that engages the audience and gets people talking about us, to us and with each other.

Importantly, candidates for the Director of Content will have news experience in digital media as well as traditional media and are as enthusiastic about building online communities as they are overseeing watchdog investigations. Top candidates will be those who can manage breaking news throughout the day while producing a daily newspaper at night.

The best candidates will possess a depth of knowledge about the business of new media and understand how to attract and build audiences that provide revenue growth. They will have an awareness of and hunger for the exploration of new technological tools and be passionate about what’s on the horizon for digital media.

Be ready to explain how you would set a quick pace for change in the newsroom, and back it up with real-world experience. Tell us how you would assemble your management team, audit and align your resources and set the direction for audience growth. Tell us your innovation successes and failures, and provide examples of how you have inspired your employees in the past and how you would do so in these challenging times.

Be a part of The Baltimore Sun. We’re not accepting the present. We’re making the future.

If this describes you, send your resume to by April 12.

Good luck on the hunt!



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