Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day 271: Carpet-bombing

How should one consider the "carpet-bomb" approach when looking for a new job?

An old friend of mine is a very successful ad salesman whose philosophy for success emphasizes the value of "carpet-bombing" potential clients. Carpet-bombing is a military strategy (also known as saturation bombing) that targets a particular area with a rain of bombs covering the area like a carpet. It's pretty brutish, but effective if you want to indiscriminately flatten a certain target. The drawback is it's a very unfocused approach -- but it's unfocused because everything in sight is the target.

Harris appropriated this idea for ad sales. His thinking was if you were working 10 potential clients and succeeded in getting half of them, you had five clients. But, you might only get one or two. And then you've spent a great deal of time with not a great return on your time investment.

But by carpet-bombing 50 clients, a 10-percent success rate yields the same ROI as getting half of the 10 you courted. For Harris, making lots of sales calls meant scoring lots of wins, and the percentage of success was less crucial.

It's a bottom-line approach. Results. My friend makes some pretty good money.

Using the carpet bomb approach in applying for jobs is going to be my strategy the next couple of days. Now, the drawback to this approach in applying for jobs is that you're less able to craft 10 highly specific cover letters on a given day. There simply isn't time. As in the case of recruiting sales, providing lots of customer service and attention is a time-consuming effort. The problem is if that effort doesn't pay off with the sale, you've spent a great deal of time and resources on a dry hole.

Generally, I think you should go that route anyway. A well-conceived cover letter and the due diligence of strong research on a company's corporate persona and how it fits with your job goals is really the best way to make a strong first impression.

Carpet-bombing is going to require more generic cover letters. It's going to be harder to stand out that way. It's got some risk. In warfare, everything is blown up. Sometimes, useful targets and non-military casualties are often wiped out. This is obviously not optimal. If you're one of 500 applicants for a job and your cover letter is too generic, you're going to be just another faceless applicant.

Is that worth the risk?

I'm not sure. But I'm frustrated and so I'm going to change some things up. More than likely what this means is in an ideal day, I'll find one or two great prospects, and spend the hours needed to craft very considered and focused approach that might land an interview.

But in addition to that, I'm going to find some second-tier possibilities that could work. For those, they'll get the quickie cover letter and a place in the waiting line. And maybe one of those will work.

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