Social Engineering the Job Search

June 10, 2009

While on twitter the other day, I came across a link to some career advice over on PR-Squared. The author writes a post deriding the declining quality of cover letters he sees and what he’d like to see in the letters he gets:

Y’know what’s been interesting? With the rise of Social Media, I’ve noticed subtle changes to the tone and quality of the cover letters that come over the transom.

We still get plenty of highly formal letters on heavy stock paper. But we also get informal cover letters that seek to echo the tenor and tone of a casual blog post.

Here’s my message to those folksy writers: that’s probably not gonna work out so well.

Of course, the author is completely right: if you are applying for a job to his company, you now know precisely how to write a cover letter to him. This is part of what Lee and I would call the “social engineering” part of the job search – you now know precisely what this company is looking for in terms of cover letters. And if you don’t follow the instructions, you deserve to get tossed out.

And that’s precisely what I want to point out – other organizations may look at those formally written cover letters as an anachronism. They may want their communications with their clients to contain personality. (Note – I’m entirely in agreement with other parts of the post, which I’ll talk about in a future entry).

The most important thing that you can do when writing to a potential employer is to be precisely what that employer wants. I can show a great example with the job ad that I recently wrote for Foreground. It’s pretty clear what I’m looking for when I say this at the bottom of the ad:

Do you think you have what it takes? Then we want to hear from you. Email us at – send us your resume, and tell us why you’re our ideal candidate.

Note: In case it isn’t clear, we’re not a cookie-cutter consulting firm. As such, don’t send us a cookie-cutter resume/cover letter – make it clear why you’re different and fit our company and what we’re looking to do.

Of course, less than 10% of the resumes we received were tailored in that way. We get stock cover letters. We get no cover letters. Anything other than that 10% gets tossed out because if the consultant can’t read the instructions, I doubt that they’re going to be good at meeting customer needs. (Aside: now I have told you how to get a job with me)

The point is simple: if a company is looking for something, give it to them. In order to do that, look for any information advantage you can find about what it is they’re looking for.

Posted by mmurray | Filed Under Advice 


2 Responses to “Social Engineering the Job Search”

  1. Security Briefing – June 11th : Liquidmatrix Security Digest on June 11th, 2009 8:29 am

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