is it more effective to introduce myself to a company with a cold email rather than apply for a specific opening?

A reader writes:

I am working with a career counseling service that is giving me all kinds of resume and job seeking advice. I told them the kind of job/company I want to work for, and there are two main employers that fit the criteria in my area. Both employers have recently posted the exact job I’m looking for, but the listings were only up for a few days each time and I missed the window because this career counseling service and I are still fixing my resume. They suggested that I do a “direct outreach” to these companies instead of waiting for another posted job opening. They want me to send my resume and an introduce myself/indicate my interest over email.

The person giving this advice told me this is often more effective than replying to job listings. Is that true? It feels presumptuous to me but I haven’t been actively job seeking in years so I don’t know what the norm is. If it matters, my resume is not one that these employers would fall all over themselves to hire. (It’s not bad, but these jobs would be an industry switch for me so I know I’ll have to be a knock out an interviewer to land this job.)

More effective? No, absolutely not. Does it occasionally work? Sure, on occasion. But I’m really suspicious of any career counseling service that tells you it’s more effective, because that’s not true.

My theory about places that advise this is that they want to be able to suggest strategies other than “respond to job postings” so that you and they feel like they’re earning their fee, and so they’ve come up with this, even though it’s not very good.

Particularly if you’re targeting large companies, employers are going to want you to funnel your application through their regular application process at a time when they have openings, not randomly send it in when they don’t.

And it’s especially not going to be more effective when your application isn’t an unusually strong one. It’s one thing if you can make personal contact with a hiring manager (generally not HR) when you have a strong enough background that they’ll be truly excited to get you in their hiring pipeline. But if you don’t — and it sounds like you don’t — then they’re going to be neutral to mildly annoyed. If you’re not a very strong candidate, there’s not really anything for them to say or do if you randomly email them and announce you’re interested in working for them in the future.

For what it’s worth, so far this career counseling service has given you bad advice on this and caused you to miss more than one window for applying for jobs you really wanted. I would proceed with caution with them.

{ 206 comments… read them below }

  1. PhillyKate*

    I had a career counseling place tell me that too when I got laid off in Jan! Send cold emails or blindly look up emails and pass along your resume.

    Needless to say, I did not get my current job by doing that.

    1. DecorativeCacti*

      I am going to a local jobs group and they give a lot of gumption advice as well as spout the “80% of jobs are never posted” line. I keep going because I get practice answering interview questions and they have good contacts.

      I’m just building my network and ignoring the bad advice (last week they said don’t apply to a job you find online but instead go on LinkedIn and find someone who works at the company and send them a message saying you want to work there).

      1. Lance*

        You should ask them what they expect to happen after you’ve done such a thing. If it’s anything but ‘the person’s not likely to take you seriously, and at best tell you to use the actual application process’, you’d know better than ever that they’re really reaching with this ‘advice’ of theirs.

      2. Snarkus Aurelius*

        This happened to me. You know what I did? Rerouted to HR who then rerouted back to the online application process. (There’s no way I’m getting in the middle of someone else’s hiring process.)

        The circle of stupidity was complete!

      3. Specialk9*

        If that doesn’t work, find the store of the husband of someone who works there, and hand him your resume. Get mad if he gives you any guff.


      4. Bea*

        This made me flinch. We had that letter a little bit ago where these psychopaths stalked employees of her company trying to go around the traditional hiring path.

        Don’t just go to employees LinkedIn how about find where their kids go to school and swoop in on them when they’re picking the kids from school next time! Jeezus.

        1. DecorativeCacti*

          Yeah, their advice up to a certain point was good but…

          I mean, it’s great to see if you have a contact inside the company already, but trying to subvert the process is sketchy. The people who run it are high-level executives who got their starting jobs 30 years ago and are now at the point that they may get all their leads through word of mouth. Mid-level bank jobs don’t work that way.

      5. E.*

        Argh, I’ve heard the “80% of jobs are never posted” thing so many times! Where did that even come from??

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          I think it might be an institution speaking for itself and/or something about a particular field.

          This certainly isn’t universally true, but I know in academia, it is somewhat common for places to know who they want to hire before they post the ad. It can be one person or they have a few people in mind. They technically make an ad and might distribute it for legal reasons, but your chances are slim to none.

        2. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

          I’m always suspicious of that. Ultimately, I think it comes from surveys done by recruiting companies among companies they are recruiting for… aka, they may not be posting jobs because they pay a recruiting company to find their hires, and then the recruiting companies claim that those jobs were filled without being posted. Totally recursive!

          Everywhere I’ve worked – from smaller nonprofits to a reasonably big media company – filled the vast majority of their jobs from postings. Even if they ended up hiring someone they already knew/recruited, the jobs are almost always posted externally and applicants reviewed and interviewed.

      6. Zennish*

        My instant response whenever this happens is to ignore the message and not consider the person further. I mean, we have a very simple and explicit application process (go to this website, fill out a short app, attach resume, done). I generally assume that if a candidate can’t color within the lines while applying, that they are going to have a difficult time taking direction as an employee. I may be alone on that, but I doubt it.


  2. MuseumChick*

    My advice is to stop using this company. They sound like they really don’t know what they are doing. I’m guessing you are paying them to “fix” your resume? Most of these services give horrible advice and simply suck a lot of money out of you.

    By cold emailing them you are more likely to come off as someone who 1) Doesn’t read instructions/follow directions 2) Doesn’t understand professional work norms.

    For the record I have seen this work once but there were are number of strange circumstance involved and it was for an internship not a permeate position.

    1. Squeeble*

      Yeah, I think one of the reasons this advice is so popular is because even though it’s not going to work the vast majority of the time, it’s worked just enough times that people treat it like a secret weapon for getting hired. It turns into “you might as well try, you never know what can happen!” and…yeah, that’s technically true, but it doesn’t make it good advice.

      1. Antilles*

        Yeah, I think one of the reasons this advice is so popular is because even though it’s not going to work the vast majority of the time, it’s worked just enough times that people treat it like a secret weapon for getting hired.
        I mentioned this a few weeks back, but I’m pretty sure a big part of the reason people treat it like a secret weapon is success is much more visible than failures. Therefore, the perceived ‘hit rate’ on this strategy seems way higher than the actual success rate.
        >The rare times this sort of bold gumption strategy works, it’ll be memorable – the hiring manager straight up tells you that he appreciated your bold directness and probably would have lost you in the shuffle otherwise. This makes the success seem like it can be attributed exclusively to your bold strategy.
        >However, the (much more frequent) times when this strategy backfires are basically invisible – the hiring manager who quietly removed you from consideration because he thinks you can’t follow directions, the company who only hires from their application pool and ignores your direct emails, etc. So while your bold strategy is actually hurting you here, you don’t even realize it.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s too bad we couldn’t rate the strategies like you can rate the effectiveness of an online coupon code.

    2. I was a Jimless Pam*

      I’m a museum person too, and we do frequently find work for interns who send us resumes cold. It’s much easier to help figure out how to sync your interests with our needs when a line doesn’t need to be added into the budget…

      In an online group I’m in for museum professionals, this question recently came up, and I think the advice was sound: if you send out your resume cold, it’s just going to get filed away. If you feel like you need to try any tactic at all, an informational interview is the way to go so they have a face for a name. I was fortunate to have an informational interview set up for me recently by a really generous professor, so I’m hoping that advice holds true!

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Missing the application window because they are still fixing her resume rung alarm bells with me. That should have been an “Ooh, it’s Monday, they have a great job opening, let’s make sure we’re ready to send this off by Wednesday” response. I don’t think OP has the sort of resume that takes weeks to precision tune.

      1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        Yes, that bothered me as well. When I was in school we were given resume advice at the job centre. It took just two days for the office to get me a working resume. The first day they showed me the best format to use for my skill set. The second day they edited my resume and it’s been good ever since.

  3. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I’m sorry. The advice to reach out directly just caused me to have rearview visions for a moment there.

    No. It’s not more effective. Apply to the job postings. That’s what they’re for. The cover letter is where you indicate your interest and enthusiasm.

    Between this and making you miss windows, these are some SERIOUS yellow flags (maybe orange…). I’d proceed with caution. And strongly side eye the rest of the advice they give you.

  4. Eric*

    Disclaimer: not a hiring manager.

    I get people cold-emailing me asking if I can help them get an interview at my company (or just an interview at all because they went to the same college as me), and it kinda bugs me. Maybe I’m just grouchy but it always reads as “I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, but I still want you to take a big step out of your way for me, a completely unknown quantity.”

    I think the best way to do “direct outreach” to people who are hiring or might know someone who’s hiring is through building your network at industry related events like meetups and conferences. I’ve gotten a couple jobs through that! It’s much slower to organically build your reputation/network this way, but it means that people know and like you. They have a face, a voice, and interests to attach to your name.

    I know it sounds mean, but the idea of cold emailing people at a company you want to work for feels like a desperation move, and people can smell the desperation.

    1. Lynca*

      This. I get people cold emailing me about opportunities where I work when I am not involved with hiring or the interning process. It really bugs me for people I don’t even know wanting me to help them when I completely can’t and wouldn’t have any reason to in the first place!

      1. Eric*

        Yeah! Again, organically building a network is the right way to do this. I’ve recommended people in my network (again, not LinkedIn but folks who’ve built relationships with me) to places I’ve worked at/knew were hiring because I could vouch for them.

        That type of relationship allows the recommending person to contact HR/recruiting/a hiring manager and say “this acquaintance of mine is looking for a job. Her background is nontraditional, but I’ve known her for about a year and a half, and over that time I’ve gotten to know what her skill set to vouch for her.”

      2. Amber T*

        I legit laugh when I get random messages on LinkedIn asking to connect or to get a foot in the door at my company. If you understood *anything* about how my job, company, or industry operates, you wouldn’t be reaching out to someone in my position randomly, so you’re just showing me you don’t understand anything.

        I feel like if this works 1/100 times, cool. But you’re going to raise yellow or red flags at waaaay more of these places, and ultimately would do more harm in the long run.

    2. Naptime Enthusiast*

      If this makes you grouchy then consider me Oscar the Grouch because that would annoy the crap out of me too. I had one strange LinkedIn message from a random contact asking me “how I found my passion” and how she should find hers too. I stopped accepting requests from people I don’t know after that.

      I’ve had friends reach out on behalf of their mentees or students and ask me if I can talk to them. I’m happy to do that in that specific scenario, because my friend has good judgment about who is actually looking for advice and guidance versus who is trying to use contacts as rungs on a ladder.

      1. Delightful Daisy*

        I actually deleted my LinkedIn account because I got tired of receiving requests from strangers with a very remote connection based on my position. I haven’t looked back either. The time for boldness and gumption is not when you’re trying to get your foot in the door but once you’ve already been invited in.

    3. CAinUK*

      +1 for being grouchy. So much so that I’ve written an email response, once, that said:

      “Hi there. I can’t refer you or take time to discuss the position with you, since I do not know you. I highly recommend applying through normal channels, and not reaching out to people on LinkedIn at our organization. This kind of “pitch” actually undermines any likelihood we’d refer you in the future.”

      50/50 that you get pushback so might not be worth poking the desperate bears. But sometimes satisfying/helpful.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        I’ll say something to this effect to potential interns in the hopes that they are still young and malleable enough to learn.

      2. Eric*

        I like that phrasing. I usually ignore them, but I’m used to the pushback, because my industry and location has more openings than candidates, making recruiters here very persistent.

        And it’d be useful because sometimes I don’t do hard “no”s well, meaning practice. Thanks!

  5. a name*

    The reason companies use that awful hiring software is for EEO compliance. We just had a meeting at my work about managers who were hiring outside the software, and then faced a discrimination complaint…which was impossible to prove either way because they hadn’t been following protocol in accepting resumes, interviewing, and onboarding! That person was in trouble.

    When you ask someone to go around a process, you are asking them to put their job on the line for you, a stranger.

    It’s risky to even speak to someone who hasn’t applied formally because of EEO, even if they’re asking a basic question like, “Do I need to swim to teach swim lessons?” Or “Do you drug test?”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m going to disagree with that last paragraph. It sounds like your company is on the warpath about this right now because they had a complaint, but it’s generally not going to be risky to answer questions like “do I need qualification X to do job Y?” outside the formal application process.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But it could be risky if you then go on to say something that sounds discriminatory, of course, which may be why they’re looking to exercise more control over everything hiring-related right now! Sometimes people say things without realizing they could be problematic.

        1. hbc*

          Yeah, “use your judgment” works well for people who have judgment. The rule becomes “no interactions beyond the approved structure” when you’ve got the guy who doesn’t get why it’s a problem that he only asked the one black interviewee how she feels about slavery.


          1. Drive like you stole it*

            Or when you have a manager dismissing applications without looking at more than the name because “we don’t need more Shaniquas working here.”

            Spoiler: no one employed or applying was literally named Shaniqua.

          2. Mad Baggins*

            asfd;sah what. Not only is that super awful in so many ways words cannot describe, but what could possibly be the goal of such a question?! “Not a fan.” Great, glad we know that now!!

            1. Cornflower Blue*

              +1 because WHAT context could possibly make that appropriate?! If you’re running a Civil War era museum and want to make sure the white guys you get aren’t Confederate-flag-toting racists, sure, but a black lady? Like. I don’t think that’s the demographic we need to worry about bringing back slavery here.

          3. hbc*

            I feel compelled to add that we actually hired her, and I think the goal of the comment was supposed to be whether she could talk about a sensitive subject with relative objectivity. But that compulsion is probably because the place is/was a house of gaslighting bees, rather than believing that it mitigates the behavior.

  6. mc_hammer*

    In both my undergrad and graduate days the career counseling center told me this and I still don’t understand why. I was instructed to go to as many business in the Philadelphia area that I could and drop off my resume with the front desk or volunteer my services for free until they liked me enough to hire me. (BAD ADVICE)

    I tried going to offices once and it was embarrassing. The receptionist (if there is one) typically had no idea who to pass your resume on to/didn’t want to get involved and if you send “cold” emails out you almost never get a response (I did receive an out of office if that counts).

    My advice to you is to apply for other jobs and maybe use another service for resume review if you don’t feel confident with what you have. I am also skeptical that only 2 companies in your area offer jobs that you would fit. When trying to break into any field you may not get your dream job right off the bat but you will get experience that will help prepare you for when the dream job becomes available. You may also find you really like doing something else.

    1. MissMaple*

      Oof, my husband messaged me yesterday with second-hand embarrassment for someone who walked into the receptionist while he and about a dozen others were in a training in the conference room that faces the entrance. The person was dressed as if for an interview but wanted to hand his resume directly to HR because he applied two weeks ago and hadn’t heard anything. To make it even worse, these are the technical offices; HR, who receives applications, is clear across town.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Also, how long does it take these people to do a resume review? So long that jobs are being delisted before they’re done? This sounds unhelpful.

    3. Julia*

      There are fields where job openings are extremely rare depending on tbe area. My specialty is Japan(ese) and Berlin, my hometown, has nothing, whereas smaller German towns have tons of jobs.

  7. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Yes, you should absolutely blast your resume to everyone whose email address you can get and randomly connect with people on LinkedIn with no explanation whatsoever.

    And then track down their spouses, go to their public places of work, and ask them to pass along your resume too.

    [don’t do any of this]

  8. Ah Non*

    I’m in a class (for college credit) that says to do this. The text alleges that a large number of jobs are never posted, so that you should email to ask for an interview.

    The class is fine overall but this advice is highly suspect.

    1. k.k*

      Such terrible advice. In my experience, the only times jobs aren’t posted publicly is when they have someone in mind or want an internal candidate. In which case, a random cold email is the last thing they’re looking for.

      1. Ah Non*

        I completely agree. I also work in an industry where jobs have to be posted even if they have an internal candidate in mind.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        I’m converting from temporary to permanent at my current job and one step of the conversion process is that they have to post the job and I have to fill out the online application for it. But they are 100% hiring me. That’s just how HR works. So this is a job that doesn’t exist for anyone BUT me and it’s being posted anyway.

      3. selena81*

        ..the only times jobs aren’t posted publicly is when they have someone in mind or want an internal candidate..

        exactly this! if a job is never posted it’s not because they want to hand it to the random kid that cold-called them 2 months ago, but because they already are well acquainted with the guy they want to hire.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      That’s ridiculous.

      Also, even if you set aside any basis in reality, it doesn’t even make consistent sense. “Most jobs aren’t posted for Joe Public to apply — so if you apply anyway, you’ll be what they’re looking for!” ??? If they aren’t open to applications…. then…. they probably are not interested in your application….

    3. hbc*

      This comes back to the classic question of whether you really want to work at a place where this is successful. Cool, the person running your payroll is the lucky person who was hoping for a web design job but dropped an email while the boss was musing, “Maybe I should get some help with the money side of things.”

    4. LBK*

      I always felt like that “X% of jobs are never posted” thing is such a misinterpretation/misrepresentation of what probably started out as a real statistic. If a job isn’t being posted publicly, it’s usually because it’s effectively already filled, not because there’s some secret network you have to be a part of in order to find out about the opening.

      My last job was never posted before I got it, but that’s because my boss at the time also managed the other position and already knew I was the right person for it, so he just moved me into it (I had been the backup for the person who had the job before me for years). But there was no way anyone else could’ve gotten the job, because the only reason it wasn’t posted publicly is that I already had it. It would’ve been futile for someone to try to finagle their way into that “unlisted” role.

      1. voposama*

        The company I’m at currently has three openings. Only one is posted. Why? Because our first go-to to find candidates is our own network. That has given us a strong pipeline of candidates so we haven’t felt the need to put it online where we would just be wasting someone’s time (mine) going through applications.

        1. LBK*

          Right – you don’t get these unlisted jobs by blindly sending in your resume to companies where you have no connections. If you’re not hearing about the job, odds are you’re not going to get it.

    5. ExcelJedi*

      I feel like the only way that statistic about jobs not being posted could possibly have any merit is if it’s an old one from before the internet. Like, maybe 80% of corporate jobs were not put in the classified sections of local newspapers, but recruitment was a whole different game back then.

      (Disclaimer: as a millennial, I have no idea how people found jobs before the internet.)

      1. a name*

        They found jobs by blind-sending resumes and cover letters in the mail, walking into businesses dressed up with their resume in hand, and reading the classified ads and mailing resumes and a cover letter as an application.

        My dad still tells me to do this. It was his go to advice when I’d graduated college into the recession. I didn’t have a good job not because the economy crashed, but because I was looking for listings on the internet, and I’d have had a better one if I’d bought a newspaper and mailed paper resumes!

      2. Alienor*

        I graduated from college just as the internet was becoming a thing (1996) and I got my first “real” job by seeing an ad in the newspaper and mailing in a paper resume. At the time, classified ads were the source for a whole host of things–if you were looking for a job or an apartment to rent or a used car to buy, you got the newspaper, combed through it and circled all the ads that looked good to call. I don’t miss doing that one bit. :)

        1. AcademiaNut*

          And newsletters for professional organizations, for more specialized, geographically diffuse jobs (this was how it was done in my field). And recruiters or hiring agencies who received both job applications and postings, and matched up candidates for interviews.

          Plus, the whole drop off your resume, cold-call/write to see if they’re hiring things *was* a legitimate strategy before the internet! It’s quite possibly how your grandfather (or parents) got jobs. It’s just not useful now, when there are easier, less disruptive ways to do it.

          I’d actually be interested to see statistics about the numbers of applicants per job before and after internet applications. I suspect that before, the number of applicants per job was smaller, as finding and applying was more harder and more time consuming (particularly before work processors or even photocopiers). We see the same thing with university applications back when you had to write for an application package from each school and mail it back.

          My field is small enough to have a central repository for all job postings in North America. The main difference was that it moved from being paper (and mailing in applications) to being internet (and mailing in applications) to fully on-line systems.

        2. Lurker*

          I can relate. After college graduation (1997), I knew I wanted to move to Big City (which was about 8 hours from where I grew up). I went to the public library where I lived and looked for jobs in the classifieds of the Big City Newspaper. Then I went to my mom’s office and faxed my cover letter and resume to them. I knew I was moving in the fall regardless and had planned a trip to Big City to find an apartment, roommate, job, etc. so in my cover letter I put that I would be in Big City from x – y and available to interview. Looking back it seems so quaint.

        3. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I graduated from college in 1999 and I remember having to fax my resume places. I was lucky that I had a parent who worked somewhere with a fax machine and would do it for me.

        4. selena81*

          my sister got a job from seeing an ad.
          the job was delivering newspapers.

          she got a job online.
          the job was computer helpdesk.

          i wonder what the future will bring.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        I just read through the classified ads in our local Sunday paper. You can still see job postings there from the big companies (Amazon, Microsoft, T Mobile) – MS lists a website to apply through, but Amazon’s listings specifically state to mail the application to the (postal) address given and reference the ad number (I assume so they can track the effectiveness of paper ads).

        Also college class of ’96, and I remember sitting in the university career center, looking through binders of letters from companies advertising internships, which students applied to by postal mail. The only other option I recall was attending the career fairs on campus and dropping resumes at every booth that sounded reasonable. I don’t miss it either.

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      I hate that they keep using that statistic, if it’s even real , as an excuse to give this bad advice.
      If it’s not posted to the public, it’s for good reason. Like they’re probably going to find someone internally, or their current employees are usually awesome at referring people they know. Repeat: people they know. Not randos that reach out bia email or internet.

    7. AL*

      I think the only time this works in reality is when you sort-of already have a connection at the company, and your email just triggers an “aha! I forgot about Joe Smith!” moment.

      FWIW, I got many of my current gigs this way, but I’m an independent consultant, so…

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        This has worked for me.

        In academia, which I know is its own beast, if there’s good reason to anticipate a job being created (particularly a highly skilled one), it’s okay to reach out to the person in charge and ask about it. It borders more of an informational interview than anything.

  9. Snarkus Aurelius*

    How long does it take to fix a resume? In my mind, a couple of hours, but that’s it. It won’t take so much time such that you’ll miss a deadline. (!)

    Honestly, this counseling service sounds predatory and dishonest.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        I’d think that if there’s an ideal job posting, this service would make the OP’s resume a top priority instead is just missing the deadline altogether.

        This reminds me of when I worked in health care. My boss didn’t want to invest in any prevention programs and wouldn’t hire prevention experts because it was more profitable to treat people after something bad happens.

        It’s to this counseling services’ benefit to keep the OP unemployed for as long as possible.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Right?! I’m thinking there was no sense of urgency on their part, and then when Op pointed out she missed both companies’ windows, they were like “oopsies, just cold contact them instead “.

        2. selena81*

          reminds me of pick-up artists: i think they deliberately give terrible dating advise (‘be bold: tell a hot chick she is ugly’) just so these lonesome kids keep paying for webinars and such.
          (a lot of their customers just need a reality-check: if you weight 300 pounds and make 15k a year then supermodels are way outside your league)

      2. Naptime Enthusiast*

        That stuck out to me too, OP I think this company is taking advantage of you but I can’t figure out what they’re getting out of it unless you’re paying them by the hour.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Yup. I was revising my resume about two years ago. I was getting stuck and really frustrated so I finally asked a really good friend who is good at stuff like this to help me. Took her maybe an hour. She is in my field and knew exactly what I was looking for, plus we are such good friends she was really familiar with my work experience.

    2. ThatGirl*

      When I rebuilt mine, it took a couple days, but that was mostly because of back and forths over email. The actual working time was maybe 5-6 hours total, and now that I have it in a nice format, I could revamp it with new jobs etc in an hour or so.

    3. Kathleen_A*

      The response of a good company to a job posting that was a good fit for their client would be to rush, rush, rush to get that resume finished! I mean, jeez, it’s not as though the window of opportunity was only an hour. Surely each of those jobs was posted for at least a few days, so there’s no reason why the OP should have lost out on not one but *two* opportunities.

      I’m mad on your behalf, OP.

    4. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

      Yeah, I know my mom used a service like that (and got a job using her new resume) and it only took maybe a few days? Maybe a little longer to communicate with the service about what she wanted, but this seems like the company LW is using is dragging their feet doing nothing AND giving bad advice on top of that.

    5. Kate*

      I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they thought the job posting would be up for more than a few days, but after they missed the first one, there are no excuses for missing the second one. I made a career change a few years ago that required I switch my very field-specific CV to a resume tailored for a completely different field, and it still only took me a few hours (maybe a day if you count sending it out to a friend for feedback). Better to send an imperfect resume than to miss the posting completely.

      1. Lance*

        That last point is very much a key thing for me. OP, if you ever see a job posting like that again, take what you have of your resume, clean it up as much as you’re able (perhaps with some help from a friend/colleague/whathaveyou)… and send it in. Don’t wait, because you never know how long these postings will even be up.

    6. Artemesia*

      Yes. This made me really sad for the OP. She knows where she wants to work and yet she misses several application deadlines with jobs she might possibly get while someone fiddles with her resume. She should read up on AAM about resumes, spend this evening getting hers in order and apply to the very next job that opens up at these companies. She should already have her basic cover letter in hand because she knows she wants to work there and why and she had some reason to think her career switch makes sense given her background — so say it and submit it.

      To miss an opportunity while getting bad advice is awful. Drop these clowns and start aggressively applying to openings that make sense. You can revise the resume as you go if it isn’t perfect the first time; but slightly less than perfect and actually applying beats waiting around and then cold calling. As everyone has said — if you are the genius with the precise high powered skill they are waiting for, a cold call might work. I know a couple of people who have sold themselves that way. But with a not quite fit resume and a desire to break into a new field, a cold call will look totally out of touch.

    7. CityMouse*

      I basically redid my sister’s resume from scratch. It took two hours over the phone.

    8. Antilles*

      +1. I was going to literally ask the *exact* same thing.
      It’s a 1 to 2 page document which is mostly composed of bulleted lists or short paragraphs. It’s not like you’re asking them to review a technical treatise on a niche subject or a similarly dense document; it’s a pretty basic thing they’re doing here. The fact that it’s taken so long that they’ve somehow missed two opportunities is seriously concerning.

    9. LBK*

      Yeah, even if you take a few days of back and forth to tweak minor things, it should still be in good enough shape to submit after the first major overhaul.

    10. Mad Baggins*

      I spent weeks on a resume…in a foreign language with completely different style conventions. The English one was done in a day.

  10. sap*

    Is this a career counseling service that’s free to you?

    If not, I think you need a different service. When I’ve used a recruiter before, it took about 24 hours to tailor my resume with them, and *I* wasn’t even the person paying them. Someone YOU’RE paying should be working harder for you than several days to get your resume into shape–it shouldn’t take more than 1-2 days, even if it’s completely terrible when they get it.

    1. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Agree with this. I lucked into an amazing external recruiter that specializes in my field and we had a 30 minute meet up and chatted about what I was looking for and what I would be open to and then she started sending me postings they had that fit. If one wasn’t a 100% match there was a great blerb about why she sent it (above normal pay, lots of WFH flexibility, perfect location and people but slightly different scope of work, etc…) and she also sent along some great resume and cover letter tweaks within a couple of hours of when I sent them to her (always asking me for approval of the changes she made). She sent me over a dozen great postings, I liked 3 of them and had an interview for 2 of them within a few days and an offer within my range, in the location I wanted within 3 weeks of meeting her for the first time. Been here 5.5 years.

      I know that isn’t normal but I referred a friend to her and they agreed with my assessment of her skills and knowledge of the field. Both of us would go back to her in a heartbeat if we were in the market again.

      1. selena81*

        Please continue spreading the word to everyone in your surroundings. All of us honest jobseekers profit when the bad recruiters are weeded out.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I wonder if it’s one of those mandatory things that you have to do when you’re on unemployment. I had to sit through one of those sessions a couple of years ago and I was like “this is utter bull” because I’d done hiring. But in order to qualify for my unemployment payments, it was a requirement.

      1. Artemesia*

        You may have to do this but it doesn’t stop you from revising your own resume and applying to jobs on your own.

        1. sap*

          Yeah–if that’s what this is, LW is better off sending their resume with their own elbow grease before job postings disappear. A lot of their advice is probably quite helpful, but unemployment counselors are usually serving a lot of clients at once, and you can’t rely on them to timely fix your resume if there’s only a short window to apply.

        2. sap*

          Plus (I recently had to take an unpaid administrative leave while my company put ADA compliance together for me and my state allows UI claims in those circumstances), you usually have to certify that you’re applying for work for any period you collect unemployment (which meant I was applying for jobs I didn’t want), and so it’s *really* not in LW’s interests to delay applications if this is actually an unemployment counseling thing!

    3. KH*

      Depending on how difficult the screening/interviewing is for your industry and how good your job seeking skills currently are, it could take a lot more time to rewrite a resume.

      Writing a resume is easy, but it won’t do any good if the person behind the resume is not prepared to speak to it. A shining resume will get you call-back, but you need to internalize everything that went into turning around the resume. This part can take time for some people. Otherwise, it looks like you paid the smart neighbor kid to do your homework.

  11. Karen*

    My field (actuarial) might be the minority, but entry level applicants are often advised to cold email companies and…it’s actually good advice. Many companies get so many applications that job openings don’t ever get posted. I can see how that’s not great advice for other professions though.

    1. fposte*

      Below in the thread somebody mentions that in their field the invitation to cold email (is it completely cold then or just cool?) is posted on the website. Is this stated publicly anywhere in yours, or is it just one of those things that people know?

      1. sap*

        I know in my field, a lot of firms don’t post openings and just list the hiring partner’s email. You can usually tell from the websites–youll go to “careers” and it will have “x office, contact y person” or something.

      2. Karen*

        No, its’s not stated publicly anywhere. It’s just something that’s recommended on forums and that companies encourage candidates to do. I’m in North America though, so it might not be typical elsewhere.

    2. Helena*

      Yeah it is very much field-dependent.

      My husband (IT contractor) has never formally applied for a job or had a proper in-person interview. He got his first job via a family friend who was hiring, and for every job after that he has just sent in his CV asking to be put on their approved contractor list, and most places tend to offer him work. Spent a couple of years as a department head, which he was hired to from a contractor position. Back to contracting now since we moved cities. He’s being in the industry for 15 years, never unemployed, earns over market rate.

      That wouldn’t work in my field (medicine), but it works for him.

    3. selena81*

      depends on the country i suppose: over here actuarial jobs go through a few specialized websites (that also have related data-analysis jobs)

  12. Colin*

    Any time I have tried to make an in-person connection for a new position – as both an external and an internal candidate – I’ve been met with some variation on “watch the job board for postings”.

    At many large companies, the hiring manager is also not even a part of the talent acquisition process. TA identifies and screens candidates, the hiring manager will do an interview, and then it goes back to TA for negotiation, making an offer and onboarding.

    1. Colin*

      (That is to say that the hiring manager does not even have the power to offer a job to someone, that power lies exclusively with TA, which requires you to be going through their process.)

      1. DQ*

        I feel compelled to clarify this a bit. I am a hiring Director at one of these large companies. The hiring manager 100% makes the decision about who to hire and what salary to offer (within the organization’s hiring guidelines). TA is just responsible for the communication and coordination. Even when they’re negotiating, they’re clearing everything with the hiring manager. Just didn’t want anyone to think that it’s TA telling the manager who to hire. It’s the other way around.

    2. Antilles*

      At many large companies, the hiring manager is also not even a part of the talent acquisition process.
      Even if they are, they usually don’t want to (or can’t!) short-circuit the process for anybody who asks. The whole reason I *have* an application form and written submission process is so that I can keep things organized by having people go through that; you trying to circumvent that by sending me stuff directly is not being helpful.

  13. ThatGirl*

    Ugggh this is reminding me of last summer. I was laid off last March and was given “outplacement services” and spent most of the spring into summer going to weekly networking meetings, getting pep talks etc.

    I will say that the resume help was pretty valuable and helpful. And I have to give them SOME credit because I did get my current job after networking with a guy who had gone through the same program and gotten hired here, and he helped me get an interview.

    But… I described it regularly as really just being pep talks for executives/white collar workers who’ve been laid off so they don’t go jump off a bridge, and there was indeed a fair amount of Gumption!-adjacent advice. Such as the oft-repeated baloney about “hidden job markets” and so forth. Sure, networking can be very helpful, but making a pest of yourself is NOT.

    1. Anon Laid-Off Person*

      My outplacement service was useless to me. The counselor guy had very little experience in my field, and it was obvious. He thought it was VERY important that I feature my college name at the top of my resume, even though it was a good-but-not-great school, whereas my law school was top notch and I was looking for another attorney job. Why would I feature my BA instead of my more impressive JD? I don’t know, but he was insistent on that. He also raised the idea of wearing the company’s colors to the job interview so that way “you already look like you’re a part of their team!” Gag me. I never went back for more of his advice. And I’m sure my old firm paid at least a couple grand for that service :-(

      1. Anon Laid-Off Person*

        Oh, plus I already had several years of work experience. So why feature the college above that? Bizarre.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        My outplacement service sent me only jobs I had found days earlier with my very basic daily linkedin and indeed searches, and did a “rewrite” of my resume that was clearly by a non-native English speaker with no knowledge of my field — it was riddled with grammatical errors and misused technical terms, which was especially galling in the bit where it promoted my communication skills and attention to detail. They also wrote me a cover letter that read like the “before” letter in one of the “I fixed my horrible cover letter!” posts here (also with grammatical errors and misuse of technical terms).

        I also had a “career counselor” who talked to me for 30 minutes a week and mostly scolded me because I wasn’t adding enough strangers/joining enough groups on linkedin.

        They were paid for by the employer who laid me off but I “fired” them like 3 weeks into the 12 weeks my employer paid for and emailed my ex-employer to let them know they were wasting their money.

        1. ThatGirl*

          The one I was sent to was decent — it’s owned by Manpower — but there are a lot of bad ones for sure.

          1. CCV*

            Does their name rhyme with Smite Management? That’s very much market-specific. The one where I live is HORRIBLE.

            1. CCV*

              Like, after a mass layoff (700+ people) our local office instructed the displaced people to hint or outright say they’d been fired. Because a layoff that large absolutely didn’t make the papers…

              1. ThatGirl*

                See, that’s bewildering, because to me “fired” is much worse than being laid off — it sounds more like you did something wrong, whereas people understand layoffs.

                But the local one I went to was a constant stream of layoffs from Nokia, IBM and Motorola so….

            2. ThatGirl*

              Yes, it was – I’m in the Chicago area and while I didn’t love everything, some of the advice was decent. I did have pretty good luck with the resume service.

        2. Anon Laid-Off Person*

          Yes, my guy gave a big push for connecting with strangers and joining groups on LinkedIn, plus soliciting colleagues to review me on LinkedIn.

      3. Artemesia*

        When my department and several others all got layed off in a merger, we had professional outplacement help too. There we were with PhDs and years of experience and miserable filling out daisies from ‘What color is your parachute’ led by 20 somethings who had absolutely zero idea of how people like us might possibly get an actual job. I am surprised the experience didn’t actually lead to a few people jumping off bridges.

      4. sap*

        That is just so weird.

        It isn’t excused by him not having knowledge of the legal marked either, too. Nobody tells you to put your high school above your college even if you went to Andover, and nobody tells you to put something you did at least 4 years ago above the stuff you did last month. Weird.

  14. The New Wanderer*

    Some companies that use this cold-email generic application process will say so on their careers page. I’ve seen a number of tech companies (usually ones that are expanding fast) state that if you don’t see a specific position that fits but you want to be considered anyway, go ahead and send a resume. I have no idea if it’s worthwhile or ever results in anything – it might if they see your skillset and figure out how they want to add it to their staff. But at least you know it would be welcome there.

    1. Weyrwoman*

      When I’ve seen those kinds of tech companies, it’s been because they know they will have/need openings in the near future, and would like to have a pre-vetted pool to run through before they make an official posting.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, or they’re still figuring out what some of the positions will even be and hiring someone into them for the first time, as opposed to filling a job that already existed and someone’s just being replaced, which is obviously much easier to write a job posting for.

    2. EAB*

      It’s called a talent network — those resumes automatically go into the sourcing pool of their applicant tracking system. It’s definitely a worthwhile thing, and recruiters pay solid money to source and contact those candidates.

      Plus, those talent networks send out automated emails to candidates to tell you about newly posted positions that might be a good fit. That’s their real value to candidates, because then you can apply for the job which fits you well.

      However, anyone using a talent network like that generally has a highly automated process, and the TN will be visible on their website. There’s a low chance that their HR person or hiring manager is going to manually upload a candidate resume received over email.

      (Source: I work in HCM software)

  15. Knitting Cat Lady*

    When I applied to the company I still work for I replied to two adds in their online portal.

    One was an add for a specific job.

    The other was: ‘We are currently hiring lots of people. We need these skills… If you want us to consider your resume for future job openings reply to this add.’ Better formulated, of course!

    I was invited for an interview based on the second application. Mainly due to my rather esoteric combination of skills. Namely FORTRAN programming and nuclear physics.

    So, unless an employer has a specific place that says ‘Send resumes to be considered for future job openings here’ don’t cold email them.

    1. Weyrwoman*

      That’s an awesome combo of skills and I wish I was you right now because you sound pretty cool.

  16. sfigato*

    I’ve been working for 25+ years, and I have gotten all but 4 or 5 of those jobs through applying for them. (The others were entry level retail things where someone knew me and asked me to work there – the kinds of positions where the biggest qualification was not being a flake).

    There may be some fields where this isn’t the case: creative fields, or positions where being a known quantity is more important than being a rando off the street, or small companies where the head likes to hire from his/her gut vs. going through any rigorous process. But most places post for jobs and then hire based on applications.

    And most places I’ve worked didn’t have a way to deal with cold emails. The management wasn’t just sitting around waiting for amazing people to come to them. especially not more entry-level/less specialized folk.

    My career advice: Buy allison’s book “How to Get a Job.” It helped me get my current position.

  17. I'm the OP*

    Thanks for all your great advice so far! Just to clarify – the career counseling service is not free (technically) – it’s a whopping $2,000. BUT I got reimbursed for it by my husband’s company, so it’s free to me. The reason it took a while to redo my resume is that I haven’t updated it in about 10 years, and in that time I’ve been in special circumstances: 1) self-employed in a way that is not easy to describe and 2) a “trailing spouse” living overseas doing volunteer work (this is why I got reimbursed). So I wanted professional help to word all that well. But now I’m questioning even that. The service also advised me to have a plain looking resume due to technology that scans it. They told me software can’t read PDFs that are “highly formatted” (e.g. use text boxes, 2 columns). The resume I designed is very modern looking, with “highly formatted no no’s.” I’m currently in marketing so I feel that having a modern-looking, well-designed resume is important, but of course I need software to be able to read my resume. Are they correct that plain looking resumes are the only ones that can be read by these resume scanning programs? Thank you for your help!

    1. Nanani*

      I actually know a thing or two about that!

      The problem with PDF-reading programs (especially the ones that treat your PDF as an image and try to read the text that way) isn’t necessarily that they can’t read your formatting at all, but that they won’t read it correctly.
      For example, multiple columns could get read as one resulting in gibberish that goes “words from column 1” “words from column 2” “more words from column 1” and so on, or unusual fonts could cause a word to be misread as something else, and so on.
      You have no idea from the outside whether a PDF-reading program is being used, and if so, how good it is, so it’s best to not risk it and keep it simple.

      Plus, a plain, easy to read resume is good for human eyes as well as machine ones!

      1. I’m the OP*

        Thank you! My modern 2-column version is WAY easier for human eyes to scan/read, so that’s too bad computers might mess it up. I guess I’ll keep both versions.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Keep both! Take the fancier one to the interview. I generally hand over a clean copy of my interview just after we both sit down, because whatever they have in front of them is probably a bad copy, crooked on the page, whatever. (If you want, you can point out that it’s not only your resume, it’s also a writing/layout sample.)

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            2nd try, now that I’ve had lunch:
            > I generally hand over a clean copy of my *resume* just after we both sit down

    2. Blossom*

      I don’t know, but I would question how many companies actually use that kind of software. I suppose if you’re looking at common jobs in big multinationals, it might be relevant, but I’ve never encountered it in the mostly-mid-size organisations I’ve worked for. (I assume they’re talking about software that scans for particular keywords to filter out less relevant candidates?)

      1. Blossom*

        Ohhh… I just saw Nanani’s comment and that makes total sense. I have been asked to use Word instead of pdf before, purely for ease of transfer.

      2. EAB*

        Anyone using an ATS has resume-parsing software involved, which these days includes most mid-market companies and even small businesses. (There are a number of low-cost ATSes that focus specifically on being SaaS providers for the SMB market.)

        Commenters above are dead-on about any formatting being confusing. I recently messed this up by putting a sidebar with my skills — it parsed incorrectly in a bunch of ATSes. (Super embarrassing because I work in HCM software!)

    3. MissGirl*

      If you’re in marketing, you need a well-designed resume. Heck, I’d argue in any field, it can serve you well. Yes, the scanning may not work, but EVERY job I applied to had a system where you could cut and paste everything in so it didn’t matter. The hiring managers were all sent the actual PDF I uploaded by the system/recruiter. I had so many comments on my resume and how it stuck out from the crowd in a good way. I have a very high response rate.

      FYI: Even when I had a perfectly formatted plain resume , the systems still garbled it somewhat. I had to always adjust before submission, which is why I gave up on that ugly thing.

      1. MissGirl*

        Just make sure the text isn’t embedded in the PDF and you’ll be fine. This whole send a plain text resume needs to die a slow death.

    4. Weyrwoman*

      If you’re using multiple columns, I’d recommend looking into slick resumes that are single-column. There’s plenty of ways to make it easily readable to programs while still looking cool to human eyes.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Use the plain one for online submissions and take a hard copy of the modern one with you.

      1. MissGirl*

        Totally not necessary. If your PDF is readable (text can be scanned), the online systems have no trouble accessing it. I used a designed PDF and had no trouble. The better resume is what gets you in the door.

        1. I’m the OP*

          The text is still text. My only concern over it is a program interpreting it as “experience 1… degree/college… continuation of job experience” because of it combining 2 columns into one.

          1. MissGirl*

            When I applied to online portals, it showed you exactly how the text was automatically placed in each field. It requires a few minutes to paste in the right fields but it’s easily done. And as I mentioned above, even when I used a perfectly formatted plain-text resume, it still didn’t do it right. I had to fix it anyhow. You will see how well the online portal reads your resume before you submit it.

            I got interviews at large companies (100,000 people) and they had no trouble reading my resume.

            1. I’m the OP*

              Great!! Thanks so much. I did see the portal thing once so I know what you mean. Applying via Indeed (or similar) didn’t show anything so I wasn’t sure if it went through a scanner program after Indeed sent it, or just the PDF version.

  18. Winifred*

    I would be interested to hear from Alison if “hidden job markets” actually exist. I’ve been in the work world for 41 years and have seen this happen once: I worked in a managerially-dysfunctional major restaurant chain where people hired people they liked to work with them on pretend projects. So you could say those jobs were hidden.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I’d say it is true that some percentage of jobs are never posted, but mostly because they are going to go to someone who is already on the company’s radar – meaning somebody on the outside cold-emailing has even less of a chance than average at those jobs.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yep. I know someone who says he never hires anyone who’s *looking* for a job. He finds the person who’s already doing it well, and invites them to work for him. The fact that a job wasn’t advertised often means they aren’t interested in hiring anyone they haven’t already targeted.

    2. Kat Em*

      I’ve definitely gotten jobs that weren’t posted before, including my current one. But I got them through my network, not by spamming random companies. Most of the time it was an “Oh, you do XYZ? We’re going to be expanding that part of our business in the near future but haven’t started looking for people yet, can you send over some samples?” kind of situation.

    3. Umvue*

      The only time I’ve seen anything close to this, it was also because of a dysfunctional environment. Sometimes people who are bad at decisions like it when you reduce the amount of work (thought, planning, communication) normally required to make a hire. You probably do not want to work for these people.

    4. One legged stray cat*

      What I have seen in my job is that people have a tendency of being hired in five different ways. The first is through the standard posting of the job and then interviewing the applicants. The next is by recruiting internally. Third is by pulling from recommendations from staff/ hiring family members. The fourth is by hiring temp workers from an agency, seeing how they work out, and then hiring them for the job when the contract runs out. The fifth is hiring a recruiter to find someone to hire. This is often done with the assumption that people who are not looking for work are better catches then people who are. In reality this is rarely the case and they have gotten quite a few (expensive) duds through recruiters, but people like to believe in oversimplified stereotypes.

      Honestly, my company uses mostly the last three techniques in hireing and could easily follow the 80% percent rule, but in no way would cold sending a resume break into those “hidden” jobs. If you want to maximize your potential of getting a job in other ways than answering want adds, I would suggest setting up (if not done already) and maintaining a Linked In profile (how most lazy recruiters seem to find people to recommend), going to field related events and workshops to network with people in your field, and, if all else fails and it is available in your line of work, work as a temp for your line of work in the hopes that you get hired permanently or make connections to permanent work.

  19. I'm the OP*

    Oh and I definitely bought Allison’s book, and read everything on this site about how to write resumes and cover letters so I feel comfortable with the wording aspect. The career service was mostly in-line with this blog on that part at least.

  20. Mediamaven*

    I own a small business (under 20 employees), and cold emails actually resonate well with me. It makes me feel that they had a specific interest in my company and I’m actually very apt to interview them if the qualifications are there and we are hiring (which happens a lot even though we are small). I wouldn’t discount this process at all depending upon the industry and company size. Just another way to look at it!

    1. selena81*

      makes sense: if someone puts serious effort into applying to a small company (and it doesn’t come off as though they copy-pasted the same letter to 50 other small companies) then i can see why you’d be all ‘great, let me hear why you think you will be a good fit’.

      i hope you also have that on your website (something like ‘we often seek new employees, feel free to mail in’).

  21. W.R.*

    Transgression can be very dangerous in this context. Beware not to deviate too much from the norm. Advice that applies to many situations.

  22. JobinPolitics*

    On the last Friday Open Thread, a couple commentators suggested I reach out to different campaigns and connections via LinkedIn and other places to see about job opportunities.

    This has actually been moderately successful with several phone calls scheduled and offers to share my resume. Thanks for the advice!

    Although cold emails are mostly frowned upon, there are exceptions to the rule. Know the norms of your chosen field and good luck!

    1. grace*

      I saw your post! Congrats :) That’s awesome.

      And I was going to say that this is one of those fields that’s an exception, actually. Echoing the good luck OP – you’ll get there!

  23. sometimeswhy*

    I have had several cold outreaches for positions shortly after they closed with reasons why they couldn’t make the deadline or why they didn’t hear about the position (that was open for three full weeks and has a fully electronic application procedure) until after it closed.

    I have ignored all but one. That one reached out more than once, pretty aggressively, and I made note of their name so I don’t accidentally interview them.

    1. sometimeswhy*

      nb: My industry is pretty rule driven and deadlines and accuracy are important so one’s first impression being not meeting a deadline and asking for an exception? Is a pretty good screening tool.

  24. Lizard*

    I will say that I got my current job by just emailing the person in charge of the department that I wanted to work for and she sent my CV around to all the people she thought might be hiring, but there were a bunch of special circumstances in that case, specifically that jobs in my field don’t tend to be posted at all and networking is how everything gets done, and secondly, that I have a highly specific job–there are like 3000 of us in the whole country (which is why networking can be so successful).

    I agree with those who are side-eyeing the resume service. Their advice to cold-email companies who have actually posted and presumably filled the very jobs you’re interested in seems ill-thought-out. I worry that they’re filling your resume with the kind of dumb buzzwords that Alison rails against so often.

  25. Queen of Cans & Jars*

    If I’m hiring for a position, I think the likelihood that I’ll remember to look at the random resume that I received 3 months ago out of the blue is slim to none.

  26. Lady Audley's Secret*

    First time commenter here!
    I work at a university career counseling centre, and when I’m discussing job searching, I usually divide the process into a) look for jobs (apply to specific positions) b) look for employers (figure out places where it might make sense for you to work and see if you have contacts/can set up informational interviews c) talk to people (networking, relationship building, etc. ) So, not quite the same advice but not too far off. My impression has been that if someone has a contact/referral, their resume stands a much higher chance of being looked at (esp. for entry level candidates). And that those conversations will provide insights into the industry/company that would help someone better tailor their application/target interview answers.
    So… is trying to talk to prospective employers always bad advice, especially for candidates who likely don’t want to rely on a resume alone to open doors?

    1. AnotherJill*

      I’ve been on both sides of this equation. I’ve been offered a position where my resume stayed in contention in part because of internal referrals and I have been on hiring committees where I looked maybe a little harder at resumes with internal referrals.

      But in all cases, these were referrals from colleagues where there were long standing histories. If someone only peripheral contact, I would not consider it relevant or valuable. For example, if an alumni said “I know a great person for your position” I would say “Great, have them submit an application”.

      And in many cases these days, companies are rely on software to support the hiring process. If you do not apply through the prescribed channel, you don’t get considered. So cold contacting a place because they have advertised a position is at best wasting your time and at worst getting you out of contention for not following the normal process.

      Networking can help, but not if it is blatantly used to try to get the equivalent of a phone interview outside of the process.

    2. the gold digger*

      b) look for employers (figure out places where it might make sense for you to work and see if you have contacts/can set up informational interviews

      I thought the sense on this blog was that trying to turn an informational interview into a job application was not well perceived.

      1. Snargulfuss*

        My sense is that an informational interview that is really just a disguise for a backdoor interview is looked down upon, but an informational interview in which the person has done their homework and comes with some specific questions to learn more about the company, industry, career path, etc. and is seeking to develop a network can be effective. Students and new grads, especially, have limited opportunities to organically grow their networks so sometimes reaching out to professions with the objective of asking for advice and gaining insight into the field or company is a good strategy.

        Others – please feel free to comment on how you perceive being contacted by people who are operating as I’ve described above. Is there is a distinction?

        1. AnotherJill*

          I’m not sure I see a distinction. Asking someone for an informational interview is a form of networking, but I’m not sure I see it the same as “developing” a network. A network that is ultimately going to be most helpful is one composed of people that are familiar with your work – just meeting someone to ask some questions may convey that you are capable of conversation, but doesn’t convey to me any knowledge about what kind of employee you would be. I can’t think of a situation where I would refer someone for a position just because I had a conversation with them.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You’re talking about networking and building relationships though, which is a whole different thing than just “send your resume in cold.”

  27. ArtK*

    Bad advice.
    Now I’m interested in what kind of editing/changing they’re doing to OP’s resume that they’ve missed two application windows. I certainly hope that OP isn’t paying by the hour! My advice: Even if the resume isn’t perfect apply anyway.

  28. Roker Moose*

    I recently read What Colour is Your Parachute? (updated in 2016) and I was shocked to see that the author is still telling people to reach out to companies, rather than waiting for specific openings.

    Maybe this career counselling service read it too— in the book he claims this method is the most effective in terms of securing employment.

    OP I agree with the other commenters her, this career service doesn’t seem to be worth what you’re paying for it. Good luck!

    1. Decima Dewey*

      What Color is Your Parachute? has been offering that same advice since the 1980s. I think that just change the year on the cover.

      I once worked for a company that actually did keep resumes of rejected applicants on file. Mind you, no one ever looked into the file folders, but they were kept on file.

  29. HRH The Duke of Coriander and Gomasio*

    Just apply. All of the jobs I’ve held have been through submitting my application online.

  30. MommyMD*

    Excellent advice from Alison that this career “service” seems just the opposite. You should have submitted a resume during the application window.

  31. Cute Li'l UFO*

    Not a hiring manager but I am a creative:

    This is bad advice. Sending in a letter of interest with my resume isn’t an abnormal thing to do but that was something I would do for say, smaller studios that either invite them or provide instructions on doing so. But again I think that this part is pretty industry-specific and mostly at smaller places of employment. It’s worked for some short term gigs but again, probably not something that would fly outside of design. Regardless of my industry (present and past) I defaulted to applying to specific jobs over a cold email.

    This place is giving terrible advice and they’ve caused you to miss out. I dropped a staffing agency (too late) for jerking me around.

  32. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    LW: Hi, take the resume you’ve completed so far and walk away. They are giving you bad, bad advice.
    I write resumes for friends and family. It takes three hours. If they are bringing you back for more than half an hour of edits, they are either inept or wasting your time/money.
    If you think your resume doesn’t show professional experience, multiply that by 10 and you’ll understand the reaction you’ll get to cold calling.

  33. CCV*

    I’ve tried to go through a so-called career counseling service – we’ll call them Left Mismanagement – while I re-enter the workforce. In addition to their making some VERY offensive and ignorant comments about depression, I have found their advice to be shit. Take a multi-month soul-searching journey, THEN start applying for jobs. Also, my so-called coach there made edits to my resume that reflected she had no friggin’ clue about my industry’s terminology, followed by a poorly-punctuated 2-page email blasting me over minor stylistic points.
    In short, remember these companies’ business depends on UNEMPLOYED people. The longer you stay unemployed, the more desperate you get and the more of their little extras – book clubs! personality tests! “opportunities” to apply for unpaid internships! – you put on your maxing-out card.
    Proceed with caution.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Hmm I went through the same program and I agree with some of what you say but I had a much better experience and coach than you, apparently.

      1. CCV*

        The “productivity group” at our local office is really more like a cult meeting (I once was taken to one on the worst date ever) than anything productive or valuable. Also, I understand that a handful of people enrolled have taken their own lives over the last few years. Rather than provide mental health hotlines or the tiniest fucking shred of compassion, they’re maligned. It’s disgusting.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Thinking back, they did downplay potential depression/mental health issues quite a bit; it was definitely framed as “yes this sucks and it’s hard but stay positive!!!!!” And they could definitely do a lot more on that front. But the groups I went to were more “support group” feel than cult.

          But… at the same time (as the wife of a mental health professional) while it’s tragic that people committed suicide, I am hesitant to give RM direct blame for that since things generally have to be pretty bad to drive people to that point.

  34. Millennial Lawyer*

    I am going to push back only slightly. I do happen to know someone who e-mailed someone directly because a job posting they were interested was taken down and they wanted to apply, and did get an interview. That said, he was qualified for the position, and referring to a specific job posting that hadn’t indicated a deadline, and it seems to be a norm in that industry. If it’s your dream job and there’s a specific job posting *that did not have a deadline* and you actually think you fit the qualifications, I don’t think you have anything to lose. Otherwise, I wouldn’t.

  35. Laura Cruz*

    How long does it honestly take to “fix” a resume?! “Here’s a template, here’s to phrase your accomplishments.” Boom, one night. Why should they take so long that you’re missing job postings?

    Get rid of these people, they sound like scam artists.

  36. NaoNao*

    Recently I went through a career “mini-crisis” and sought out some other resources, including “What Color is Your Parachute 2016” (the latest version I could get through the library), a very well known, time tested resource.
    Among the advice was the “at the end of the interview, literally ask for the job” (!!) and a stat that said like 65% of candidates got the job by doing that. For what job?!?!? Retail or service? Restaurant work?

    I feel like that would get me laughed out of any professional job interview, but somehow they’re still giving out that advice to job seekers in 2016!

    1. CCV*

      At the end of an interview, I’ve said something like, “Based on our conversation I feel like I’d enjoy working with you, and I’d love to move forward with the role if you’re interested also.” (if it was true, LOL).

      1. Star Nursery*

        I like this would wording. I think the point the book is making has a kernal of truth to it… It does help your chances to express and affirm your interest even more after hearing about the role and getting to leave more at the interview. It’s not helpful to be too aggressive though in most roles that would be a turnoff.

  37. Cowgirlinhiding*

    You should fire your career counselor and use this site to prepare your resume and get interviewing advice. It shouldn’t take longer than one hour to update a resume and to have missed windows for the perfect job… I’m sorry, they are holding you back. You can still send in your resume, they may have closed the job, but sometimes they don’t find what they are looking for in the resumes they received. Good luck with your job search.

  38. Rick Tq*

    I’m a senior solutions architect at work (server-grade computers, storage, backup, etc.) but I have the same first name as the founder and owner of my company. I’m not a manager at my job nor do I select new vendors, design sales campaigns, or work in HR (the last few pieces of junk mail I received).

    Every cold contact email I receive is marked as spam and the sender is blacklisted. If they are contacting me they don’t know how do basic research to prepare for their mail blast.

    You are getting very bad advice.

    1. ArtK*

      I feel you on that one. I don’t have the same name as the CEO, but I was listed on the public web site of my previous job. That one went out of business and the e-mail is now forwarded to me at my new job. My new job where I don’t have any authority to hire contract developers or testers, or to make decisions about cloud usage or any of that stuff. Unsolicited e-mails end up with either the sender or the sender’s domain blocked.
      The ones that bug me the most are the ones that say “Would next Tuesday at 2:00PM be a good time to call and talk about the service that we’re selling?” That assumption that I’m interested at all and am ready to schedule a call is very arrogant. I know it’s a current sales technique but I will *never* do business with someone who starts off that way, even if I’m interested in their service.

      1. Triple Anon*

        Exactly. It comes across as sketchy even if it’s just a well meaning person who got some bad advice.

      2. Polymer Phil*

        A dealership I bought a car from used to send me postcards saying “We’ve scheduled your next service for April 8th. Please call to confirm or reschedule.” I found it really presumptuous of them.

    2. Kelly L.*

      At one of my old jobs there was a vice president who had the same name as the institution, but completely by coincidence and spelled slightly differently. Let’s say we were working at Johnson College and his name was Joe Jonson. He got all this mail addressed to “Mr. Johnson College.” It broke people’s brains so thoroughly.

  39. Polymer Phil*

    Cold-calling/emailing companies that don’t have jobs posted can work if you’re in a specialized field. Both my current and last job came through carefully targeted cold contacts I made. I definitely would not recommend this strategy for a new graduate or an entry-level position.

  40. AB*

    I would have to disagree with many of the responses posted. Our most recent hire was an overseas traveller on a working holiday visa who cold called us. We had actually been contemplating hiring an extra person in a technical role and her phone call was timely. As she only had 3 months left on her visa but had the technical skills needed (chemical industry) we gave her the job for the remaining period of her visa. She was so great at her job that I spent 3 solid weeks filling in the Visa Sponsorship paperwork for her to be able to stay on. She was approved with 48 hours left on her visa. So in some case cold calling can work.

    1. Antilles*

      I don’t think most people are arguing that cold calling can Never Ever Ever work. Instead, it’s more about the fact that as a general rule, it’s not good practice. While there are certainly times when randomly calling companies does work, they’re far more the exception than the rule.
      There can certainly be factors making cold calling a viable strategy. In your example, the timeline was a killer – she had absolutely nothing to lose by trying it since the normal several weeks (month?) of lead time of typical application processes would have significantly cut into her remaining visa time.

    2. Madame X*

      This doesn’t conflict with what Allison stated. Cold calling can work on a *rare* occasion. For example, the situation you described is that a candidate with highly technical skills that are in demand cold call you at just the right time because the company you work for was looking to expand. She got very lucky, but that doesn’t mean that this method would work for most people most of the time. As another example, the job I’m currently working in right now, was looking for people in December. If I had applied in September, my application would likely have gotten rejected.

    3. Texan at Heart*

      I agree and would say it may be field specific. (I’m in early childhood education) There are some roles for which I’m always hiring (ex:substitute teachers). I’m also always thinking a year or two ahead, as our field often has people taking time away for family reasons. It can be incredibly difficult to find top quality candidates through any job posting, so I’m always excited to get good applications, regardless of the way they are submitted.

  41. JS*

    My first job out of college as a production assistant for a well known independent ad agency (before they were recently acquired) I got from sending in a cold email. They had a few listings but also an email for “general inquiry”. I made my resume and cover letter and tailored it to my interests and why I wanted to work for them. I was contacted and brought in for an interview. I only worked 6 months before I was laid-off due to budget cuts, but it was valuable experience!

    I wouldnt send through cold applications or contact unless there is an email or special application for that.

  42. PersephoneUnderground*

    My two cents- I think other commenters have mentioned this in passing, but I wanted to make it more clear. If a company wants general applications, they’ll make that clear somewhere. Tech companies or places that fancy themselves disruptors (or that are growing fast) may have a post under their careers portal with something like “We don’t need a formal application process, just tell us what you’re about and why you’re interested in us!” I have seen this- I think Google’s page has something to that effect of “just send us your resume here and we’ll see what we have”, for instance. If they don’t and appear to have only formal job postings under the careers part of their site- then follow their lead and apply for the specific job postings!

    ***My Bigger Point: Basically, in job searching you should take companies at their word as to what they want. 99% of the time what they ask for is what they want from applicants! They aren’t posting one way and then only giving interviews to the people who apply through the “secret” other method they actually wanted like a cold email- really! Anyone who tells you otherwise is usually selling something. (I’m summarizing a TON of Alison’s advice here, so all credit to her really for the conclusion above.)***

  43. Oxford Comma*

    Sending me a cold email tends to make me remember your name and not in a good way. I’m in Academia and we do things in very specific ways.

  44. Transgendered Panda*

    Popping in to say that I did get a job by sending a letter and resume to the president of the company, which was the only name I could find online. It turned out that they were looking for a manager with a specific skill base, and when mine arrived, I was essentially hired within 2 days of mailing.

    So, while it’s not at all the norm, it can happen.

  45. Safetykats*

    This strategy has worked for me exactly once – and only sort of. I have some pretty unique skills, and there was one specific company (smallish, privately owned) where I really wanted to work. I contacted someone who worked there – with whom I had previously worked – and they told me to send a resume. They shopped it around, and there was some interest. Six months later, when they were actually hiring, they called to ask if I would consider applying. I did, and ended up getting the position.

    Obviously this is practically the opposite of cold-calling a company where you know nobody, with a resume that’s not terrible targeted. And it barely worked – I was lucky they remembered me when they had a position. I would so not recommend this in any case where you don’t have a previous working relationship with the people you’re contacting, and a very strong resume.

    I would also NEVER recommend it when you “just missed” the window for applying. All that shows is that you’re disorganized, or chronically late, or can’t follow procedures, or that their job just wasn’t a priority. In other words, all by itself it can probably convince them it would be really inadvisable to hire you.

  46. SpaceNovice*

    I found a job by a mailed cover letter and resume in the 2000s. It worked because I was genuinely interested in what the company did, which my cover letter showed, and had a somewhat-related engineering degree. It wasn’t the first place that gave me an interview, either. The key is genuine interest: people want team players, and if you’re able to convey that you’re genuinely interested in the company, you usually get noticed. This isn’t just “you company is awesome” but finding the highlights of your research about the company that really jumped out about you as to why you wanted to work there. It’s also a sign that you’ve spent some time considering them and screen your potential employers.

    Also for your resume, the single best advice I’ve gotten: for each bullet point, summarize what you did, how you did it, and what the results were. It helps employers understand your thought process and how you achieve results without them having to do a lot of heavy mental lifting. Basically, it shows how you problem solve. After I did this, my resume and LinkedIn got far more responses, and all my jobs after have been through recruiters finding me in one fashion or another. It also helps to have industry keywords in your resume.

    (Mind you, I am in a technical field, so YMMV. I think I get bonus points for good formatting and grammar because people don’t expect software developers to know how to write.)

  47. Donatello*

    I totally have cold-emailed someone I found on LinkedIn before for potential referrals/introducing me to hiring managers. Needless to say, none of those email led to anything fruitful. I had more success from just applying online, which was how I landed my last and current job.

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