People always ask me how they can stand out in a huge crowd of candidates.

Photo by SC Fiasco

Generally, my answer is, Be really qualified for the job. Everyone

hates that answer, because they want me to give them a trick or a tip

or some little thing they can do to control the outcome. Unfortunately,

being the most qualified candidate is really the only way to make sure

you're the one they call (unless you're related to the boss, or willing

to be a total weenie).

This is especially frustrating at the beginning of the hiring process,

when you know there are hundreds of candidates applying. You worry that

even though you ARE qualified, they might not read your resume closely

enough to see it. You worry that the HR person won't know enough about

the job to know whether you're qualified or not. You're worried about

whether your resumes has enough keywords to even be seen in a search of

their database. You want to call to follow up, but you know you


So try this:

Put a hard copy of your resume and your cover letter in an envelope,

and mail it to the hiring manager. Don't send it to HR. Use your

network, Google, LinkedIn, etc. to find out who the hiring manager is,

and mail it old-school.

In doing this, you're insuring that the person who is actually in

charge of this opening will see your resume.  Usually they are screened

by HR, so you're making sure you at least get through that part. 

There's no guarantee that that will mean you get a call, but it's


You don't need fancy resume paper; just regular printer paper is fine. 

If you don't have a printer that does envelopes, it's fine to

hand-address it (in fact, I'm more likely to open a hand-addressed

envelope first).  Whatever you do, don't use those goofy portfolios or

fancy folders-those are annoying and wasteful and often cannot be

recycled.  You're going for simple here, not flashy.

You should write a special cover letter for this, with an extra

paragraph that says something like, I applied through [whatever the ad

said to do] on [whatever date], but I wanted to get in touch with you

directly as well.  I'm very excited about the opportunity to work for

you at XYZ Company.

You should still apply through the method specified in the ad, because

people who can't follow directions don't get a call.  Mail the resume

AFTER you've done so.  Your goal is for the hiring manager to receive

your stuff, and then call the HR person and say, Hey, did you see this

Pat Gomez person?  We should call that one.  When that happens, you

want your resume to already be in that HR person's resume database.

Some people vary this a little by sending the packet via overnight

service.  If you're out-of-town and want to be sure it gets there

quickly, I can sort of see this...but when I get a FedEx package from

the same town as me, I think, Wow, dude, you just wasted $15. 

Wasteful spending is sort of out of style right now, so I'd stick to

the mail (with delivery confirmation, if you want to be sure it got


Oh, and so as to avoid making my Tales of the Cluefree list:

1. Use proper postage.  Don't send it postage-due.  The price of a

stamp just went up, and I always got postage-due stuff from candidates

right after that happened.

 2. Please don't use your current employer's letterhead envelopes with

a personal return-address label slapped over the logo.  It's tacky.  Go

to Walgreen's and spend the $1.99 on a box of white envelopes.  You

don't need fancy paper, but you do need paper that's not stolen.