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Responding to Ads

Q: I understand that the self-initiated job search is the most effective means of finding employment. However, how much time and effort should be devoted to responding to classified advertising? What's the best way to respond to ads? Is it better to omit a resume even though it's requested? What's the best way to discuss salary history?

A: You're correct in assuming that a self-initiated job search (finding a job through contacts) is the best way to look for a new position. In fact, its overall success rate usually is very high. Want ads, on the other hand, yield jobs for a much smaller percentage of the people using them. Keep that in mind when trying to decide how much time to give them.

Consider, too, that want ads represent 10% to 15% of all available jobs and tend to cluster in areas such as sales, secretarial, accounting, engineering, nursing and programming, where applicant supply is less than demand. If you are looking for some­ thing a little different or want to change careers, you probably won't find what you're looking for in an ad. But don't avoid them entirely. They obviously work for some people.

Respond to an ad by supplying what it requests. If you're asked to send a resume with salary history, do it or risk being round-filed. Other approaches such as cleverly written broadcast letters probably won't get you far. If you choose to play the want-ad game, you must follow the rules set by employers.

Be sure to put together a resume and cover letter tailored as much as possible to the listed job. If the ad mentions specific qualifications and duties, try to show how your background and experience pertain to them. Sending the same resume to everyone is unlikely to get you many replies. People who receive a stack of resumes choose only the most pertinent. They aren't interested in reading between the lines to spot potential talent.

You can try omitting salary history by stating that compensation is negotiable, if you are willing to risk it. However, you may be eliminated for not giving the information requested.

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