How to Get Your Foot in the Door the Right Way
I’ve been CEO of Ovation for more than 30 years, and I am always amazed at the amount of blind resumes and calls I get from job candidates. Not because people reach out to me specifically, but because, nine times out of 10, these candidates demonstrate they don’t know anything about our business — what we do and what might be important to us — and yet they expect me to grant them an interview just because they sent in a resume.
While the job market has changed a great deal over the years, the need to impress potential employers with the value you can bring to their organization, as well as differentiate yourself from the pack, has not changed at all. In fact, in today’s hypercompetitive world, it has, if anything, become even more critical. So, to all the graduating 22-year-olds (and beyond) who are in the market, here are five tips on how to get the job you want, based on what has worked for me and what I see as the leader of a fast-growing company.
Make a List
The first thing you ought to ask yourself is: “What is my ideal job? Who is my ideal employer?” Now is the time to hone in on what you love to do and shoot as high as possible, before obligations like mortgages and families cause you to scale back your dreams. Particularly if you are just starting out and don’t have a lot of industry contacts, sifting through want-ads (or, as I did as a young lawyer, knocking on doors) can be extremely daunting and time-consuming, and it’s hard to know where to start. Turns out, it starts with you. Figure out what your strengths are, what makes you happy, and what skills you have. Then go from there. What companies might you be a good match for? Now start searching. Even if it’s only a list of three prospects, you have something to build on.
Using a laser-like focus, learn all you possibly can about the company you want to work for. Like many businesses, Ovation employs SWOT analysis as a strategizing tool, and I think it is a wonderful way to address employment targets as well. Identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to the business. Obviously you are doing this as an outsider, but learning about the company’s mission, reading their press releases and public information, and researching the industry in general will help you identify hot buttons for the company. The internet is an amazing source of information for research and connections. Then, you can use your findings to discover where you fit in and how you can add specific value to the company.
In any field, whenever you are trying to sell to a client, you must differentiate yourself from your competitors. The same is true while job hunting. Just sending a resume cold without any kind of customized letter is going to be met by a brick wall. As an employer, the first thing I look for is that a potential employee actually knows something about Ovation. It sounds like a simple thing, but 99 percent of the time I don’t see this. You absolutely must do the research, and then you must customize your resume and cover letter. It is essential to put in that time and effort in order to stand out in a crowded field.
Reach Out/Reach High
In any big company, the people in HR are continually bombarded with resumes and calls, and, of course, you should use official and requested channels to submit an application. But that doesn’t mean you should stop there. Early on in the process, see if you can find someone to reach out to, even if it’s just to learn a little bit about the company. This is what LinkedIn was made for: make those connections, read company profile pages and study up on business interests. My mantra has always been that if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen. There are so many creative ways to get yourself noticed, and you can always find an opportunity to have a conversation with someone. Reach out at high levels, maybe get friendly with the executive assistant to the president or CEO. They are an underutilized resource, and the right gatekeeper can really make things happen for you. Why not arrange to bump into a CEO on the subway? What do you have to lose?
Put it All Together
Anyone who is running a significant business is going to be busy, but that doesn’t mean seeing a CEO is impossible. A little over 10 years ago, my executive assistant came to me to say that she received a phone call from someone who knew a lot about Ovation and the business, and wanted to discuss career advice and strategy with me, and that it was worth my time to take a meeting. I believe all CEOs or senior executives — if they’re worth their salt and they want to bring in new talent to the organization — will be receptive to granting that meeting and at least giving some advice. In this case, I took the meeting, largely because of the persistence and knowledge that the caller, Nicole, had already demonstrated. At the time, Ovation was working to branch out to other vertical markets besides law, and I had recently read a cover article in New York Magazine about how hedge funds were taking over the world. This came up during the meeting, and her knowledge and go-getter attitude impressed me so much I sent her to meet with my partner who oversees business development. We ultimately hired her and tasked her with helping build out a new vertical market selling our services to hedge funds and private equity firms. That business has grown exponentially over the last few years, and Nicole is now one of our most successful and talented salespeople.
The bottom line is that doing the research, customizing your approach, and using persistence allows you to differentiate yourself and ultimately gets results. You might as well aim as high as you possibly can. As the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Article by Paul MetselaarInfluencer
Chairman & CEO at Ovation Travel Group
Published on May 15, 2015