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You Can't Get a Job By Applying For It

by Peter Weddle

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Peter Weddle

Peter Weddle is a recruiter, HR consultant and business CEO turned author and commentator. Described by The Washington Post as '... a man filled with ingenious ideas,'...

Picture the scene: you're cruising through your favorite job boards on the Internet and come across a great job for which you are perfectly qualified. So, what do you do? You whip out your trusty resume and apply for that gem, right? Wrong. The key to landing a new or better job in today's economy is to campaign for it.

While consumer optimism appears to be up, the job market remains as difficult and competitive as ever. Many job ads continue to attract dozens and sometimes even hundreds of applications. Some are from those who are actively in transition, while others are now being submitted by people who already have a job but are looking for something better.

The crowds make it tough even to get noticed, let alone seriously considered by recruiters. According to urban legend, that's because they're lazy, inefficient or both. And, in the vast majority of cases, that's a bum rap. Thanks to the notion of "doing more with less" among many employers, there are now so few recruiters that each one is handling 50 or more open positions. They have too many resumes to review, too many candidates to interview and too little time to do either in the way they would like.

Simply applying for a job, therefore, is woefully inadequate, at least if your goal is to get hired. The more effective course is to see your quest for an opening as an election campaign. There can only be one winner at the polls, so your job is to ensure that the "voters" - the recruiter, hiring manager and anyone else who will have a say in the decision - pull the lever next to your name.

What does such a campaign entail? While there are a wide range of possible tactics, the three most important are:
  • Identifying and connecting with your career constituencies;
  • Developing and delivering a compelling stump speech; and
  • Saturating the media with messages you approve.
Let's look at each of them briefly.

Identifying and Connecting With Your Career Constituencies

It's critical to have your core constituencies in your corner for the campaign, so the first step is to go through all of your past and present contacts, connections, friends and followers and identify any who currently work for the organization that posted the opening. These include but are not limited to previous coworkers, bosses and college and graduate school classmates as well as those individuals with whom you've worked (or are working) on special committees, task forces and projects. They are people you know and who know you. If you can't find at least one and preferably several such contacts, move beyond your core to your supplemental constituencies. These include people you don't know (and probably don't know you) but with whom you share an affinity of some kind. They include but are not limited to fellow members of a professional society, fellow graduates of an academic institution, or individuals who previously worked for an employer for which you also worked. Once these constituents are identified, reach out to and communicate with each of them, using your stump speech as the basis for your message.

Developing and Delivering a Compelling Stump Speech

Your stump speech is neither your resume nor your brand. It is, instead, a carefully crafted statement that integrates aspects of both the description of the opening in which you're interested and one or more key elements of the employment brand of the organization where the job is located AND matching aspects of your qualifications and experience. You use it to position yourself as an organization's dream candidate. For example, if its opening is for a senior marketing manager with experience in the high tech industry and the employer is one that prides itself on a collegial working environment, your stump speech might be as follows: "I'm a team player with a 15-year track record of success leading innovative marketing organizations in the high tech industry." Once that statement is set, you should use it on the stump continuously. It should be the basis for every communication you have with your core and supplemental constituencies and with the organization's recruiters and hiring managers. It is the signature rationale for your candidacy - why they should "vote" for you over all other candidates. The final step, then, is to make sure they do.

Saturating the Media With Messages You Approve

Thanks to the widespread visibility and easy access of Facebook and LinkedIn, an employer's voters are now likely to use those and other social media sites to evaluate employment candidates. It's critical, therefore, that you be present on such sites and that you make the best possible impression. Begin by removing any leisure time images or statements that might tarnish your standing as a professional in the workplace. Then, post a complete description of your work record and accomplishments and keep it up-to-date. Next, take advantage of LinkedIn's new Endorsements feature so friends and colleagues can attest to your qualifications, especially those listed for the opening in which you're interested. And finally, look for an online discussion forum or blog in your field where the participants include employees of the company to which you've applied. Given how long it takes to fill an opening these days, you may have enough time to influence the voters by making regular contributions that demonstrate your expertise.

In the past, you could actually land a job by applying for it. Today, you can't. The job market now resembles a fiercely competitive election, so the only way to capture a job is to campaign for it and to wage that campaign more effectively than others in the race.

Thanks for reading,
Visit me at
Peter Weddle is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including A Multitude of Hope: A Novel About Rediscovering the American Dream, The Success Matrix: Wisdom from the Web on How to Get Hired & Not Be Fired, WEDDLE's 2011/12 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet, The Career Activist Republic, and The Career Fitness Workbook: How to Find, Win & Hold Onto the Job of Your Dreams Get them at and today.


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Reply paulus said...
wow-what a load of B-school type crap.
My friends, family and cohorts can give me endorsements on facebook and linkedin. SO can my local drug dealer who can attest that I am timely in my payments . . . .. I say ya gets what yer paid fer: if you rely on tweety/twittery.socailly media sites for the meat of your decision, you will get frineds of frineds and not necessarily the ebst of the best. Good luck to ya!

01/22/2013 02:47 PM

Reply paulus said...
and that is imho the kind of stuph ur likely to get

01/22/2013 02:48 PM

Reply Bill said...
Thanks for turning everybody into a politician and a campaigner, a great way to enslave a nation.

I guess at this point it's either start your own business or bend over.

01/23/2013 11:51 AM

Reply Vincenzo said...
Indeed. This represents the corporatization of higher education at it's finest. Are we teachers or political campaigners? For some time now, trying to get a job in higher education feels much less like an interview process, and much more like something out of "American Idol". We are professionals, not performers. This corporate nonsense needs to be eliminated from higher education entirely.

01/23/2013 01:14 PM

Reply Karen said...
I agree. Higher ed wants you to do a song and dance for even entry-level part-time positions. I have 7 years experience in the field and I was asked to do a 15 minute presentation, answer a practice email and demonstrate my microsoft office skills in the interview for a part-time entry level position. My resume and references show I can do the job and I had a good reason for transitioning to part-time (I am already doing a similar job) so either you like my personality and want to work with me or you don't. Why do we jump through all these hoops (with eanred master's degrees) for salary that is less tha $40,000? In the corporate world I have friends who interview for 1 hour and get six figure salaries. It's out of control in higher ed. Enough already. If I was applying to be a dean or VP then I could understand the extra tasks.

01/23/2013 03:34 PM

Reply InstructorPayan said...
Don't be so hard on yourselves this is the new reality with 23 million un or underemployed Americans time to devise new strategies to stay employable. With online education emerging to reorganize a sclerotic higher ed bureaucracy you better have a social media campaign look at Barack Obama if social media and data gained him a second term then maybe that same approach will get you the job.

01/23/2013 09:13 PM

Reply Jon said...
Why is this on This is generic and doesn't apply pretty much all to academia, which follows it own set of norms, which vary by field.

01/23/2013 09:25 PM

Reply Vincenzo said...
High unemployment is no excuse for this strategy. The corporatization of America created the situation of 23 million people being unemployed. Online education is no excuse either, nor will it reorganize bureaucracy. If anything, higher education will become increasingly bureaucratic. Social media is a nice thing, but it, too, is no excuse for being forced into "campaigning" for teaching positions (full or part-time). Yes it worked for Barack Obama, but get real here - we are NOT applying to be the President of The United States. We ARE applying to be teachers and educators. It is high time that we start to demand to be treated as such.

01/24/2013 02:52 PM

Reply Natalie said...
I love how one strategy is to waste your time on social media websites when the institution I work for specifically says not to look at social media unless it directly related to the position (ex. a social media coordinator). What a waste of time. No recruiter with little time and too much work is going to waste time looking at everyone's Facebook and LinkdIn pages. Also, in searches done by Student Affairs professionals they barely have time to read the resumes and cover letters because of the sheer number.

My best advice? Only apply for jobs and schools you are actually qualified for and/or interested in moving to/working at. This way the search committee won't have to spend so much time weeding out severely under qualified candidates or waste time interviewing people who would never take the job and can spend more time reading all your submissions.

01/25/2013 12:10 AM

Reply Michelle said...
I so hear you.

When you're confronted with a kid who's 25 and headed for a six-figure job with a bank with only a weak BS in Business (and a well-connected cousin higher up on the food chain!), and you cannot get a silly, entry-level call center managerial position at same said different bank because you are "over-qualified" (despite having managerial experience in addition to that "unfortunate" Master's degree you decided to "just pick up" during the previous recession)---well, you know there's a small problem somewhere...

I mean, we don't need maturity and a strong resistance to financial chicanery among our banking professionals, do we? ;)

Our country, indeed our world, is in very, very deep trouble. Our leaderships; priorities and goals round the globe are quite askew with sobriety.

01/25/2013 01:52 AM

Reply Michelle said...
Apologies for the accidental semi-colon; it's very late where I am...

01/25/2013 01:54 AM

Reply Luisana Santana said...
People! The clear message of this article is to MARKET yourself. Are you sending out a resume? Then, yeah it will fall in an inbox full of resumes from people who want your same position. The author is telling you that it won't be read if it doesn't catch anyone's eyes. You are competing against 100s of job seekers and you have to top it up a notch or two. Market yourself and he gives out ideas on how to. Doesn't mean you have to follow along that path, it just means that you DO NEED to GET YOUR NAME OUT THERE. The country is in trouble, hiring managers are not fair, and if you don't have an idea to start a business (or the money) then you are completely screwed. You must send out that resume or otherwise be broke, hungry, and homeless. Why are you guys whining for?

01/27/2013 03:51 PM

Reply Guy Fawkes said...
Do you really want to accept the lie that you don't have a job because U aren't trying hard enough? Are U being squeezed by paying off student loans and finding enough part-time jobs to pay those loans? Throw a monkey wrench into the system and get a good job overseas. Close your U.S. bank accounts, build your own social network in your own country, and default on your student loans. The $$ you save on loans can pay for your retirement. Just stay outta the U.S. or get a passport fm a different country.

01/27/2013 06:27 PM

Reply stc said...
This addresses the problem in our country with the networking or nepotism. I have not a friend at institution X, so job Y is out for me. And people wonder why higher ed has issues, it's because we're obtaining someone spoken for by another professional that may not be good at their own job and we do not practice true diversity, which includes diversity of being an outsider. "Oh, you like that person" as discussed over beers at a conference, I guess we'll look at them over another person who has nobody on their behalf to have a beer with at that conference because the candidate and their supervisor are both back on campus due to a travel freeze.

01/29/2013 12:58 PM

Reply amale said...
The entire US educational system has become a business, with students acting like consumers; they pay their money and they want a passing grade. American academia does not want great teachers; they want obedient teachers who do whatever it takes to make students happy, even if it goes against good teaching standards. College administrators hire adjunct faculty so they do not have to pay a fair wage or provide benefits. This all goes back to the bottom line and the consumer mentality, which is ruining our educational system--is it any wonder other countries have superior student outcomes? Wake up America, and give the education system an overhaul!

01/30/2013 07:11 PM

Reply David Roberson said...
Some of Weddle's advice about campaigning for a job makes sense. But I was dismayed by attention-getting comments such as "In the past, you could actually land a job by applying for it. Today, you can't." Just yesterday a new media relations manager began work at our university. I found this person pretty much the classical way -- we advertised the position, he applied for it, I interviewed him and a couple of other leading candidates, we checked his references, and we hired him. Thinking back upon it, I hired two other people in the past year. We advertised, they applied (I met one candidate at a conference and encouraged her to apply she did), we interviewed the top candidates, identified the best ones, checked references, and hired them. So, when I read Weddle's sweeping statements about how traditional hiring practices aren't used at all, and I know from my own experience that such statements are wrong, it doesn't inspire much confidence that he knows what he's writing about. More facts, less hyperbole, Mr. Weddle.

01/30/2013 08:06 PM

Reply Jean-Marie said...
Quite. I was wondering the same thing.

01/30/2013 08:34 PM

Reply Mary Rasp said...
Hello Everyone. Like many folks seeking a new job in academia, I would like to experience the hiring system as more in line with my view of accepted norms in the field of Education rather than in the halls of corporate America. However, that wish is not getting me a job - and I need a job. I may not like everything about the current direction of Higher Education, but I am going to work within the context of current realities by networking and marketing myself to get a new job. Peter Weddle gives some great methods (and there are more valid methods) to go about those tasks in order to get a job in Higher Education, which is what I want and need.

01/30/2013 08:36 PM

Reply Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious said...
Too tired to read all of the above at the moment, but generally lovin' the calling out of the corporate crapola!

01/30/2013 08:46 PM

Reply Saiida M. Stoakley said...
I think there is a new way to get a job, don't know if this is it, but I think the main message is networking and marketing yourself.

01/30/2013 09:31 PM

Reply Anthony Stone said...
I agree with Weddle's ideas because I think job-seeking has become global because of the internet. No longer do we compete with regional job-seekers where advertised positions were found in the local print newspaper. We compete with EVERYONE who has an internet connection and is looking for work. That is a pretty big pool of applicants. I see a lot of job openings in HR as of late so I can assume safely that the amount of competitors is making it difficult for HR managers to go through the many applications. That being said, I do agree that our education system s more congruent to consumerism these days. If this is the reality, then we have choices. We can adapt to the environment, we can complain and quit looking for work, or we can find a solution that will allow us to pursue a position in education that has a high degree of integrity that we believe the profession once had. As always, the choice of what we do next is ours alone. And marketing yourself to gain a more favorable rung on the ladder of job-seeking isn't a bad idea.

01/30/2013 10:14 PM

Reply peasy said...
Man. Thanks for the tip. Maybe someday I can get a job writing hogwash like you.

01/30/2013 10:20 PM

Reply Dr. Amy Eisenberg said...
Dear fellow colleagues,

Be safe and well in your search.

I accepted an Agricultural Researcher position at the College of Micronesia that was posted on I was attacked at the College of Micronesia on April 27, 2011 by a large intemperate woman whose husband (my former supervisor) and she have been misappropriating USDA monies and supplies at the College of Micronesia.

I reported this to the USDA and, etc. Corruption is institutionalized at the College of Micronesia, Pohnpei.

01/31/2013 01:11 AM

Reply FabAndFired said...
I worked in Higher Ed for over 15 years, at 3 different institutions. I got each job (student affairs admin) by APPLYING, and being the BEST candidate! Cronyism, racism, and politics ONLY came to play when I was not granted tenure. The new Dean gave my position to two of his little friends. The landscape is indeed changing. Good luck to all the qualified applicants competing with this corruption. I'll be quietly enjoying drama free employment, at my new job, that I got by APPLYING for and being the BEST candidate.

01/31/2013 06:41 AM

Reply Doris said...
ouch, you are right

01/31/2013 12:53 PM

Reply Theresa said...
I agree, I was beginning to think that I am the only person that feels likes this.
I have a wealth of experience, education and wisdom to offer that is dormant because I'm not "connected". I may be the best candidate for positions but I do not get the opportunity to truly present myself to the hiring professionals. I have been informed that many position postings are devised for a specific person and that a person that does not have all of the qualifications will be hired because the hiring person/s are familiar, like or are comfortable with them. I sometimes feel that objectivity is not possible. It is Who you know not What you know. I have a corporate background and thought that the academic arena would be more objective; seeing that they are the advocates for knowledge and learning, but it's more of the same. I am hopeful that there are still some people that value education and learning enough to select people that are best prepared to facilitate learning to the identified group. Oh well, I've vented, now back to resumes and cover letters.

01/31/2013 01:26 PM

Reply Mark said...
Enough with the cynicism about Corporate Practices.

Why, when I worked at Always Cutting Someone we had a motto: You can't spell FUNCTIONALIZATION without FUN! (also, FU...)

Seriously, corporate practices will SAVE all our jobs, just hang in there until we are a third world country, and Indonesia will be outsourcing LOTS of jobs here!

02/08/2013 08:02 AM

Reply StillCrazy said...
I have chaired more search committees than I can remember and hired literally hundreds of faculty staff through over 30 years in higher education. Yes, competition is far greater now, but the "hiring system" at nearly all colleges is still fairly conservative and traditional. Marketing one's self in the business sense is not yet widespread in academia from what I've seen.

Guess what? Applicants with the "right connections" have always had an advantage. That's nothing new. BUT, highly qualified people still get hired based upon their qualifications and not slick marketing or connections. Stay true to your values and put forth your most positive attributes and you WILL get hired. I'm still a bit of an optimist even after all of these years.

02/10/2013 09:06 PM

Reply JBergland said...
I read this article, and the comments, yesterday and just had to response myself. The core idea of the article is making sure you are doing everything possible when applying for a position. The author chosen to use some 'political framework' to provide some examples... which I think is pretty fitting given the recent Fall elections and the political gridlock taking place in Washington. Now, if anyone doesn't have the critical thinking skills to be able to read through an article and be able to sort through what might be some of the main takeaways, I think that is pretty unfortunate. What is even more unfortunate is the lack of understanding that many of these same 'political skills' are important to be success in almost any position in higher educations. To be clear, you don't need to sell-out, “bend over” or become an elected official in order to understand importance politics in the work enviroment.

Good luck to all with your efforts...


02/12/2013 08:37 AM

Reply Guy Fawkes said...
@Stillcrazy: Keep your Pollyanna cr@p to yourself. Higher Education is dying off because because administrators are PARASITES who feed off the labor of part-time educators. There is no hope and you will not get that full-time job in academia. Throw a monkey wrench into the system and default on your student loans. Go to a foreign country and rebuild your lives. Get a foreign passport and tell Uncle Sam to SHOVE IT!

02/14/2013 05:22 AM

Reply J Combs said...
Imagine that. Another self-promoting, self-appointed-expert encouraging others to become self-promoting, self-aggrandizing job seekers. And we wonder why undergraduates think they'll be making $100,000 a year when they finish their degrees.

I get the feeling that these so called experts would be too busy--with real work--to write such drivel if they knew half as much as they claim to know.

03/08/2013 01:45 AM

Reply Thomas Stewart said...
OK, I would have to agree with JBergland. The author of this article is making a good analogy to strengthen job seekers mental framework. His basic premise is that you can't just click apply now and expect to get a job in today's job market. He concludes from this premise the idea that you have to become your own advocate and sell yourself to the few "voters" in order to even likely be noticed. I don't think that the author is attempting to support the dogma of corporate higher education.

That being said I would still have to agree with Karen when she says, "Why do we jump through all these hoops". With years of experience and earned degree with seemingly unimportant GPA's we are asked behavioral interview questions, which most often have no relevance to the position we are applying. We are asked to sit through 2 hour group interviews at the convenience of the company to interview as many people as possible for a couple of jobs, which at first glance, seem to have already been filled by the people the interviewer already knows in the room. I have felt like just the guy there to make it look like they made an effort to interview other people, on many occasions.

04/05/2013 02:42 PM

Reply John said...
I recently applied for a position in Higher Education (local community college) and wondered why the application asked if I have relatives that work for the institution, a quick check of most recent year book was very telling--it appears that a large number of the faculty and support staff are related. Who says nepotism is dead?

05/04/2013 03:08 PM

Reply corporateacademia said...
You've got to be ******* kidding me.

05/14/2013 01:23 PM

Reply TomasB said...
The situation is the same in the Europe. Have found many interesting texts about the situation blaming everything including automation of the deselecting of candidates brought by great new software and everything else. The simple truth is there is not enough of jobs by my opinion, even if we all are related. Current situation forces people to create jobs instead of applying for them. Start new business if you can. :)

05/17/2013 06:30 PM

Reply Hire Ed Jobs said...
I applied for 6 different positions at 6 different institutions just today. The webforms used by each institution were quite similar, yet I had to retype my data for each one. If they are all using the same client software, why can't it be centralized?

07/04/2013 08:41 PM

Reply Frustrated said...
This is needless to say a sad reality these days. I have applied for several thousand jobs since I graduated from college two years ago. The results? I landed an on call position with the state and I only get twenty five hours a week if I am lucky. Looks like I am going to be semi retired instead or make my own job!!

11/21/2013 08:18 PM

Reply Megan said...

05/10/2014 09:15 AM

Reply Kate said...
Underemployment in university settings seems to be the new thing. Unfortunately, if you try to transition into the corporate world you have to start back at an entry-level position again and be guess what... underemployed! But at least at a university you get public service loan forgiveness...

05/10/2014 09:24 AM

Reply NotAchanceInHell said...
Pretty much the same story as everyone else. I had a job at a local community college right after my defense and the first day of work I show up and they tell me that in fact they no longer need my services. They hire me again for a job the next quarter but were nice enough to give me a little more notice before letting me go.

Been applying for everything non-stop and don't even get a rejection notice. Nothing, not even for part-time community college positions in the middle of nowhere. I didn't realize the job market was this tight. Can't collect unemployment despite teaching all through grad school because the University in the state I'm in is exempt from paying unemployment since I was a student at the time.

ANY office job I apply for is pointless, never hear back from them, because I don't have 5 years experience in filing, organizing, etc. At this point I'm applying for cashier and cart wrangler positions at Goodwill, Target, etc, and I'll feel grateful if I get those.

Pretty much on the verge of giving up. Hopefully I'll get something before I'm homeless in a few months. Every single person I know from grad school regrets getting a Phd, what a waste of time.

07/22/2014 08:28 PM

Reply Whereismyjob? said...
I've been looking around on and off for a year and am still having a tough time landing something. I've scored some great interviews at big schools but nothing came through. What I find unfair is that many big schools have internal candidates already lined up for more senior positions and don't tell "outsider" candidates during an interview that the job has already been selected for somebody else. Hiring practices are SOOOOO archaic and unfair at big institutions that I'm wondering why I even bother to continue to sad reality is. Schools need to be open to outside perspective and experience!

11/19/2014 05:51 PM

Reply T Rex said...
I totally agree with you, Jon.

11/21/2014 02:39 AM

Reply S.Fulton aka Sheilah said...
I hope your situation has improved. I am in the grassroots of starting my own journal- online magazine in field of health and wellness. Specifically: Prevention of obesity through plant based diet. I need others who can write scholarly articles - my magazine more scientific based than merely demonstrating how to exercise etc. I cannot pay writers at this time and I am very particular on style of writing. Having said that I did not mean to mention all this to sound as if I could offer others a paid position :) Instead it is to inform and collaborate with educated people. I hold a MBA in Health Care Management and taught college courses a short while until now hear you need PhD and working towards it yet - I am focusing most on paid writing assignments and as mentioned starting my own business. Corporate America has too much drama- so I create my own business ( hope no drama :) thank you and hope u are doing better with job situation :)

01/11/2015 11:44 PM