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Stop spamming people with your resume

(MoneyWatch) I got an email on Friday. Subject line: IT JOB APPLICANT. I opened it. No text. Just 5 attachments containing a resume, cover letter and three letters of reference. It was sent to me and 14 other lucky recipients.

Because my whole career is based around helping other people with their careers, rather than hitting delete I replied:

I hope you sent this by mistake. This is not an effective way to find a job, at all.
People will treat this as spam and will not open your attachments. You need to apply to each company individually with an individual cover letter. Good luck.

She replied:

Thank you for the advice Suzanne, I am doing that also, using all resources that I have available.

I responded:

This method is not a good one. It is actually harmful. I know it's difficult to find a job. How's your networking going?

And she replied once more, explaining that she had been looking for a job in her field for some time, and had had no luck. Then this sentence:

Please tell my why do you think that distributing my resume in this manner is harmful? I do appreciate your feedback.

I do believe she is being sincere, and I know she's not the only person out there who is trying to find a job using the spam method of getting her resume out to as many people as possible. But the method of trawling the internet looking for remotely applicable email addresses and then blasting your resume will not help and could possible hurt.

Why? Let's assume (even though it is false) that I was actually looking for a new IT person. When I open this email and have nothing addressed to me, or my company, and 14 other names, I have every reason to believe the following:

-- This person did no research. She is not aware of what company I work for, what positions I have available and if she would be a good fit for the positions I do have.

-- This person does not want a specific job, she wants any job. On it's surface, that doesn't sound so bad. I mean, work is work, right? Well in the current market, I can afford to be picky with my IT folks and I want someone who really wants to be doing what I'm doing.

-- This person is sloppy in her approach to work. If you send out one email, copying 15 people so that we can all see each others' email addresses, she doesn't care about privacy or protocols or what have you. This is not what one needs in an IT person (or any person).

-- This person is lazy. It takes time and effort to research a company, find an applicable job, customize a cover letter and tweak a resume. It takes almost no time and effort to gather up as many email addresses as possible, paste them into one email and hit send.

Now, these are the thoughts that are running through the recipients' minds. But that's not the only place you miss out. Here are some other problems:

-- You've lost the chance for a real position. What if I was hiring for a position that you would be perfect for? The above black marks mean I'm not likely to even open the resume. And even if later you do apply properly, if I remember your name, you're most likely out.

-- You've lost the chance to network. In reality, I'm not hiring for anything right now. If you'd taken the time to figure that out and approached me anyway, with an explanation of what you are looking for, there's a possibility that I could point you in the right direction.

What to do instead?

-- Research, research, research. Take the time to look at companies and find positions that you are actually interested in. Figure out if the company is a potentially good match.

-- Network, network, network. You know people who know people. If you're not on LinkedIn, get on LinkedIn. Talk to actual humans at church, your kid's school, the grocery store and the beauty parlor. Let your college roommate know what you're doing.

-- Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer. You're an IT person, so help the school set up a database for PTA membership. Teach the neighborhood kids how to design a website to advertise their babysitting services. Ask the local homeless shelter if they would be interested in teaching people some basic computer skills. Why? It keeps your skills fresh, it helps other people, it gives you a reason to take a shower every day, and it will introduce you to new people (see above).

-- Customize, customize, customize. Every person who you contact deserves an individual email. Every position deserves a customized cover letter.

These things are much more helpful in conducting your job search. Don't give up, even though it's discouraging. Just work a little bit smarter in your job search.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your question to

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