Many outplacement specialists refer to the so-called hidden job market as the best source of job vacancy leads. We are not great believers in a hidden job market because we can't imagine a manager or a company that would not advertise for a person to fill a vacant position. If it is a valid vacancy, the company can't afford to lose money by leaving the position open until some hidden candidate shows up. There are cases, however, where a manager knows a position will be vacant because of a future firing or promotion and cannot advertise yet. Further, the company may be anticipating a staff increase because of an upcoming contract award or projected branch opening. In those cases, you could be given first consideration if your resume is already on hand. To get your resume into the hands of managers who know they'll have an opening to fill, use a technique called networking. First, call or write everyone you know in the private sector who is working in your industry. Be sure to include any associates with whom you served on active duty. Ask them to float your resume through their company. Don't feel you are imposing on these people because you may be doing them a favor: many companies pay a bounty to employees who refer a qualified candidate who gets hired. (It's a lot cheaper to pay a bonus to an employee than to pay a large agency fee.) Also, your former buddy or shipmate might be in a management position now and would be eager to hire someone he or she can count on. Next, if you operate, repair, or maintain some specific type of equipment in the military, write to the manufacturer and include your resume. Explain that you have been working on their equipment for years and know as much about it as they do. Tell them how they can benefit from your services in manufacturing, customer service, maintenance, or sales.
Finally, don't forget companies that appealed to you during your research. If a company looks good to you because it has great benefits, close proximity to your choice of locations, or some other attraction, don't wait for a position vacancy to appear. Write to the company and tell them what attracted you. A well-stated reason could be an indicator of future loyalty to that company.
The cover letter or letter of transmittal can be your number one prospecting tool because it gives you a way to put your thoughts into the mind of a prospective employer. Be careful of the term cover letter, for it can imply a generic type of letter that is preprinted and used for every opportunity you pursue. All you do is date it and sign it. Further, most cover letters look pretty much the same to human resources types, and, if noticed at all, they get only a cursory glance. On the other hand, a letter of transmittal is used to transmit your resume for a specific purpose. It is individually drafted and typed, and uses original and unique wording that directly relates to the position or situation. It avoids old worn-out phrases like the plague. It's not easy to create a new letter every time you go after a vacancy, but in order to find meaningful employment, you're going to have to work a little bit harder.
If you've written, formatted, produced, and reproduced a wonderful resume, then you should pay as much care and attention to the letter of transmittal that carries your resume to an employer. After all, it really makes no sense to send a well-dressed resume to its destination in an old, banged-up jalopy. No, your resume should arrive in a limousine, with a letter of transmittal that conveys the same professional traits you've touted in your resume.
Letters to employers should use effective selling techniques to attain the goal of getting an interview. There are four major steps that must be taken in order to sell a product: attention, interest, desire, and action, or AIDA. Simply explained and applied to your marketing plan, they work out like this:
- You have to get the attention of potential employers. The best way to do that is to put a solid, well-prepared resume in their hands.
- Interest must be created by showing the employer you are qualified and have something to offer the company in the way of training or experience.
- The employer must have the desire to talk to you because your qualifications are more closely aligned with their needs than other candidates'.
- The employer must be encouraged to take the action you want. In this case the action is to call you for an interview.
Ending Your Letter
Do not end your letter stuffily, like this; "Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter. Anticipating your reply, I am. Sincerely yours, Justinius Regal." Instead, end crisply, like this: "Thank you for your time. Sincerely yours, Justinius Regal." When you sign your name, make your signature bold and assertive. Don't scratch in a tiny little signature the employer can hardly read. And use a fountain pen or one of those modern roller pens to sign your letters. Do not use a ballpoint. Dark blue or black ink is preferred.