Great Resumes Fast » Job Search » HIDDEN JOB MARKET SECRETS: How to Be the ONLY Person Applying for the Job

In my last article I discussed the frustration and stress that job seekers feel as a result of tunnel vision in their job search. Many of you are finding yourselves trapped in the job board rut and unsure of where to turn. “Staggering” is the best way to describe the amount of time dedicated to it over all other methods of job searching (some studies suggest that many people spend 92%-96% of their time searching on job boards). I believe the appeal to utilize job boards is twofold.


First, it’s really easy to hop online and see what’s out there. It’s even remarkably effortless to click “send” or “apply” and feel like we’ve actually accomplished something and made strides in our job search efforts today. The second reason using a job board is more appealing than other search methods is because you can actually see the position—it’s right there in front of you, and in some way, it makes it more real. We know there’s an opening there that we can apply to. The really huge dilemma with both of these very appealing reasons to use job boards is simply this: everyone else. Everyone else becomes your biggest challenge to landing that new opening you spotted. Some even get e-mail alerts of the new openings and they probably saw it first. Everyone else can click apply or send just as easily—and everyone else sees the position. Just. Like. You.


But what if you could apply for positions that no one else knows about? What if YOU were the only person applying for the job—and there was absolutely no competition whatsoever? Wouldn’t you prefer those odds?


Let me share a brief story from my own personal experience about what I’m referring to. Several … yes, several years ago, after I had stayed home with my daughter for her first year I decided I was ready to head back to the working world. I started applying to all sorts of staffing, recruiting, and HR positions that I saw online and on job boards. I applied to everything! I probably submitted 50 applications online within one week. But what I also did was look up every single staffing agency within a 30-mile radius of my house. That’s how far I was willing to commute—so that’s how far I decided to look!

I used the phone book and the Internet and pulled up about 35 agencies within that driving distance. I mailed each one of them a copy of my resume and cover letter. From that mailing, which took me only about two hours to complete (printing, stuffing, labeling, and mailing), I received five phone calls. I completed two phone interviews and three in-person interviews. Two offers later, the position I accepted was an employment manager role heading a new account with a global device manufacturer. The position was created exclusively for me. I never would have had the opportunity had I not completed the mailing.

Of all the interviews I had, none of the positions had been advertised. They’d all been internal openings that only the branch manager or business owner knew about. In other words, they were hidden.


Given my story I just shared about mailing my resume and cover letter out to staffing agencies, does that method seem impossible? Not to me; it seems almost too easy. The great part about it is that so few people are using the method, your visibility increases 100-fold. Even if someone else completed a mailing and was looking for the exact same position you were (highly unlikely) your competition wouldn’t be HUNDREDS—it’d be one. Isn’t that encouraging? Using a direct mail job search method isn’t impossible—and it’s very simple. In fact, I’ll give you some tips to get you started.


1. First, and probably the most obvious, make sure your resume and cover letter are top-notch. You want to make an outstanding first impression. Take the time to address your cover letter to the actual person who will be reading it. Thanks to the Internet, decision makers are a little easier to locate these days. A simple Google search, company website review, or LinkedIn profile search can turn up a decision maker’s name. Do your best to have a name, and address your cover letter to that person; make sure your envelope is addressed to that person as well.

2. Locate organizations you want to work for. Commonly referred to as targeting. You want to target organizations that would hire someone with your expertise. For me, it was simple because, before having my daughter, I had been in staffing—and I knew I wanted to return to that field. I knew I wanted a recruitment role with an agency, so that was what I targeted. What you need to do is find companies within an acceptable driving distance that are in your field of interest. The great thing is, if you’re an outside salesperson you’re not confined by industry. The same could be true for other fields like IT for example. Many companies have IT staff; you don’t necessarily have to live near IBM or Microsoft. Find as many companies as you can, and get their mailing addresses.

3. Now that you have the decision maker’s name and the company’s mailing address, hand-address the envelope. There are a couple of ways you can do your mailing. You could use address labels and nice business ivory envelopes; or you could even slide the envelopes through an inkjet printer. Very classy presentation, but also looks a lot like business mail or junk mail. If you really want them to open the letter hand-address the envelope. Want to up the ante? Try one of these tips:

– Mail your resume and cover letter in a card-sized envelope. Who doesn’t like getting a card or thank-you letter in the mail? Curiosity will cause them to open it.

– Put it in a large orange mailer envelope. Again, curiosity on your side because they’ll surely want to know who could be sending them something that’s hand addressed!

– If you really want their attention, use a priority mail envelope. Your resume wouldn’t be folded, so it would be a clean presentation. And again, I think this really capitalizes on the person’s curiosity—and simultaneously makes the documents inside the priority mail very important to open as soon as possible.

4. Once you’ve mailed your documents, be prepared for phone interviews. Depending on how many you send out, you can expect about a 10%-20% response rate depending on your area of expertise. Maybe even greater if your resume and cover letter are really sharp and attention-getting and your cover letter includes a PS. That really speaks to the value you can offer their organization.



I highly recommend utilizing some means of tracking so you know where you’ve sent your documents. This is important for two reasons. First, when you get the call you certainly don’t want to say, “and who are you again and what company are you with?” That doesn’t bode well for you at all. They’re going to assume you’re extremely interested in working with them since you’ve taken the extra step to find a name and mail them your resume. When they call, you want to say, “Yes, thank you so much for calling. I was hoping to hear from you.” Secondly, you certainly don’t want to duplicate your efforts. So let’s say one week you mailed your documents to 100 companies within a 15-mile radius, and the second week you expanded your search to companies within a 30-mile radius. You want to track who you’re sending your information to so you don’t accidentally send it to them twice. Not that sending it to them twice would be the worst thing in the world—but you want to make a great impression.

Use an Excel spreadsheet. Or I’ve heard is pretty great and easy to use; plus Jason Alba is a really nice guy. No, I don’t receive any compensation for recommending the site. I just believe in paying it forward when someone takes great care and puts other people’s needs first.


When the phone rings—and it will—be ready to confidently communicate to the decision maker on the other end of the line the value you offer them. Use examples of how you’ve solved problems for others, delivered measurable results from taking X, Y, or Z action. Be ready to answer the question: Why do we NEED you over someone else? Because ultimately that’s what they’re trying to ascertain. Are you the best person for the position and company? Of course you are! And don’t hesitate to tell them why.

And that, my friends, is how you can place yourself in the position of being the only one to apply. You’re applying to jobs that are hidden—that either aren’t created yet or that no one else knows about yet. The beauty is that you’re reaching the decision maker before they have to take the dreadful action of posting it online and fielding the massive amount of responses. Like I stated in my first article, given the opportunity to avoid the unmanageable influx of applicants and forego the deluge, most people will choose to do just that. That’s why most positions (80% or better) are filled through referrals. They would rather ask around and receive a recommendation from someone than have to wade through hundreds of people they don’t know and can’t tell apart.

I encourage you to take a step of faith and give direct mail a try.

PS. Let’s connect! I’d love to connect on LinkedIn. Feel free to send me an invitation here

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About the author

Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast

Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.

What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.

You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!

I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!

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