‘Mass Customize’ Your Job Search

Mass customization allows you to send volumes of documents in a
manageable and efficient way, while still giving recipients the feel of
customized communication.

By William Drawbridge | November 2008


By utilizing a direct marketing technique called "mass
customization," a job seeker can send out volumes of documents to
prospective employers without having to hand-tailor each one
individually.

While attending job fairs and career
expos, I have heard numerous speakers, career coaches, headhunters and
other experts advise job candidates consistently to customize their
resumes, cover letters, follow-up letters and pretty much everything
else, for each particular job opportunity.

This is
excellent advice if you’re sending out two or three resumes a week.
Most job seekers, however, are trying for a bit more coverage than
that. To customize each document while trying to achieve a mass mailing
is neither practical nor manageable. It also raises the risk that a
candidate’s documents will contain mistakes that cause doors to slam
shut.

Instead of hand-tailoring every document, I
recommend that job seekers mirror a direct marketing strategy known as "mass customization." Mass customization allows a candidate to send out
volumes of documents in a manageable and efficient way, while still
giving the recipient the feel of a customized communication. Applying
the strategy requires three basic steps.

Product Development

Marketers
are charged with bringing something new to market or extending the life
cycle of a mature product. To do so, we hone in on the product’s
"differential" – the unique aspects that make the product stand out.
Job seekers often fail to do this. Knowing what unique qualities you
bring to any position – your differential – enables you to talk about
yourself in a way that the recipient will see as unique. You will also
be able to align your differential with your primary target
opportunities, which also gives the feel of a customized communication.

Market Research

For
any marketer, the primary target is the group that is absolutely
looking to buy what you are selling, is willing to pay for it, and
meets your individual criteria for a good customer. Mass customization
requires as much in-depth knowledge of your primary target as possible.
The knowledge is gained through research that occurs at the same time
you work through your differential.

Start by creating
needs and wants criteria. "Needs" criteria are things you have to have
from a job. "Wants" criteria could be quality of life items – commute
time, gym membership, etc. When creating these criteria, be as specific
as possible and order them by importance. Needs will always be above
wants. Keep listing criteria until you can’t possibly list anything
else.

When you have a complete list, take it to
market. You will most assuredly have to eliminate some criteria once
you probe the market and try to expand your segment. As you do so, you
will see what you are giving up and what you can realistically expect
in your next position.

While conducting market
research and working to increase your primary target segment, you will
also see how to best communicate your differentials in a way that is
important to your primary segment.

Creating Marketing Collateral

The
final piece is creating your marketing collateral. A key thing to
remember is that every piece of collateral you create is for the
recipient, not for you. Knowing both your differential and the business
needs of your primary target, it is your responsibility to prioritize
and present the information in a way that best meets the needs of the
majority of primary target employers. Correctly applied, this strategy
yields communications that are easily managed, only need very minor
editing for each opportunity and will feel to the recipient as though
you are directing the communications solely at them.

There
are other tricks you can use that will help make a recipient feel
you’ve gone to great lengths to prepare documents just for them.
Include the company name and the person’s name within the body of the
letter, which can be done with a simple merge document. Use bullets to
make rearranging information or substituting information easy. And,
develop templates that allow you to follow up quickly depending on the
response, or non-response, to your mailing.

Mass
customization is a widely used marketing strategy because it works.
Looking for a job is a full-time job. There’s no need to put in
frustrating overtime – until you’re getting paid for it.

William Drawbridge is director of marketing and development for the New York Society of Security Analysts.

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