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Responding to Multiple and Confidential Job Listings

Responding to Multiple and Confidential Job Listings By Taunee Besson, CMF, CareerCast.com Senior Columnist

Q: When searching for jobs, I often find that I qualify for more than one opening at a company. Is sending the same resume for each position OK? Also, sometimes employers don't identify themselves in ads, so I can't do research on the company. Why are they being so secretive?

A: Often job seekers notice a company is advertising more than one job opening that fits their qualifications. They send only one resume, assuming recruiters will pass it around to decide which position is the best fit. In fact, this doesn't generally happen. If one screener rejects your resume, it's unlikely another will take a look at it. If you're applying for three jobs at the same company, send three resumes, but tailor each resume to each specific job.

The Blind Ad Rationale

Companies sometimes choose to run an anonymous job ad using a P.O. Box for responses because:

  • The person currently in the position doesn't know they're about to be replaced.
  • The HR department doesn't want to get slammed with phone calls from unqualified candidates.
  • An executive search firm is looking for potential candidates, and screening responses before presenting any to its client company.
  • A search firm or corporation is testing to survey available candidates for positions similar to the one described - meaning this is a bogus ad.

The Solution

If the P.O. Box is privately-owned by a newspaper or online career center, you're out of luck. You'll just have to tailor your resume and cover letter to the job, and hope for a reply.

If it's a federal P.O. Box, however, you can sometimes get the name of the company using it if you approach a postal employee and ask nicely. Once you know the company, you can usually identify the head of HR. And while that person might not be the one recruiting for your particular job, your perseverance and ingenuity may earn you a recommendation to the appropriate individual. At least you'll stand out from the crowd in a positive, proactive way.

The Ultimate Solution

Any career planner will tell you that responding to employment ads is only one way to use valuable job search time. If you want to maximize your job seeking effort, it's important to spend much of your day networking with professionals, colleagues and friends, too. Networking can be a great resource for finding out about positions and landing offers, and it has the added advantage of giving you greater control over your job search. Rather than just waiting for a response from employers and recruiters, initiating and following up on personal contacts will help you take charge of your job search, as well as cut your wondering time to a minimum.

Having said that, online job ads still can be a great resource, but only IF you focus on job listings that include an employer and preferably, a contact person. That way you can research the organization and tailor your resume and the first paragraph of your cover letter to showcase your specific interest in the company.

Why should you push to learn as much as possible about a company before answering their job ad? Because using an individual's name gets your cover letter off to a much better start than, "To Whom It May Concern" or "Dear Sir or Madam." And, you're able to call or email this person to check in on what's happening with your resume, instead of sitting around hoping for a call from Mr. or Ms. Anonymous.


Responding to Multiple and Confidential Job Listings Senior Columnist Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979 that works with individual and corporate clients in career transition, job search, executive coaching, talent management and small business issues. She is an award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and a best-selling author of the Wall Street Journal's books on resumes and cover letters. Her articles on a variety of career issues have appeared on numerous career/job websites and trade and business journals. Ms. Besson has been quoted numerous times in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money, and a number of other websites and publications.

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