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How to hook 'em with your application

Blake Andrews with Verizon, left, visits with prospective

Blake Andrews with Verizon, left, visits with prospective employees during a job fair, in San Antonio. Employers advertised more jobs in September than at any other point in the past three years, a hopeful sign that job market is slowly improving. (Oct. 4, 2011) Credit: AP

When you're ready for a new job, you buy the thickest job search book at Borders, find a cover letter and resume that look good to you, tailor them to your personal information, and, voila, you're ready to start your job search. Your cover letter sounds professional, there are no typos in your resume and you have all the skills required for the position. But you're not getting any interviews.

Job seekers are shooting themselves in the feet all because they're not giving just a small amount of extra effort. Create a connection between you and the job, company, industry or leadership, and you increase your chances of an interview and an offer.

As you begin your research on a prospective employer, keep an eye out for any clues that could lead to a personal connection with someone in the company.

If the company's Internet site contains executive biographies, read them carefully for any possible connections. Weave this information into your cover letter and send it to the executive with whom you found a connection. Send a second letter to the human resources contact.

Perhaps you've unknowingly volunteered side by side with someone from the company you're targeting. Check out information about any foundations the company may have or corporate sponsored charity. Call the head of community relations to see if you can make a connection. He or she may be willing to get your resume to the right person.

Check out trade publications and press release archives. Who are the company's major suppliers and clients? Perhaps you've worked for one of them as an employee or intern, done freelance work for one of their divisions or know someone who works for one of their clients.

You also can use this same process to identify connections between your previous employers and those you are targeting. One person who applied to Loyola University in Chicago cited her work experience in Catholic higher education as well as her knowledge of the Jesuit mission from attending Loyola New Orleans.

Have you attended seminars or industry events that featured the CEO or another top-level executive of a company that you are targeting for employment? Include a sentence or two about something he or she said during the speech in your cover letter.

Are you a member of the same professional organization as the hiring manager? Use this information to demonstrate that you know the business and already have a connection to the company. Include a statement about the benefits of the organization in your contact letter.

Have you worked for a competitor of the prospective employer? More than likely you have great industry contacts and understand the challenges in the industry. This is a distinct advantage that can spell success for you.

Your hook to the prospective employer can reap rewards ranging from winning an interview to receiving a job offer. The key is finding your hook and using it in your contact with the prospective employer.

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