When it comes to the application process for a new job, a major source of frustration is the web-based application tool. Your resume is customized and chock full of action verbs with quantifiable achievements, you’ve styled it for maximum readability, and now a web site is asking you to take a number and submit the whole thing in plain text. You might not even be asked to upload a cover letter. All of your hard work, only to be known as “applicant #247” while a computer decides if you’re worth a second look.

This is where so many people go horribly wrong. Reduced to a number, they opt to play the odds. They submit their applications to tens, or even hundreds of sites (Yes, I’ve seen it happen!), hoping for a couple of callbacks. If you’re cringing at the very thought of this approach, I’m here to brighten your day: There is, indeed, a better method.

“Social engineering” is a term you might start seeing more and more in news articles, usually in conjunction with criminals manipulating customer service reps into giving up your personal information. But for our purposes, social engineering refers to using publicly available resources (like Google) to de-mystify the organizational structure and contact information of a prospective company. Something I’m always suggesting to clients is to find the name of a recruiter at the company. It doesn’t have to be the recruiter for a particular job entry, just find ANYONE in recruiting. Now figure out their email address with a little Google-fu, and send them a polite note introducing yourself and asking them to forward your info to the correct recruiter. You’d be surprised how often a personal introduction is well-received. I’ve personally used this many times to completely skip the online application process. Where other people are crossing their fingers as they hit the “submit” button, I’m already a front-runner because I took initiative and stepped outside of my comfort zone.

There are plenty of reasons why you might not have tried this approach. Maybe you don’t like going against the herd. Maybe you didn’t know you were allowed to break the rules a little to get noticed. Or maybe this approach never crossed your mind. But I’m here to tell you it works, and as long as your cover letter and initial email are respectful and to the point, you should be well-received by any recruiter. Remember, their job is not to tell you no — it’s to tell someone yes. If you’re a great fit for the job, a recruiter is your best friend. Now get out there and get noticed!

Featured Photo by Tianyi Ma on Unsplash