You see a job advertisement online, and it suits you to a T. You could do the job with one hand tied behind your back, you'd enjoy the work, and it's at a company you've always admired.
And, as it turns out, the company is located just down the street from you. Although the post directs you to upload your resume, why not take a trip over to the company's office, ask for the corporate recruiter, and hand them the resume?
It'd be great! Why wouldn't they want to meet you? You'd be a perfect fit for the job, and they'd know—on the spot, no less!—that they could end the search right here and now!
Unfortunately, things are a bit more complicated. Showing up unannounced with your resume could cause you more harm than help.
In the days before everybody had email and the internet (think: the 1990s), if you were interested in a job you saw in the newspaper (!) you'd print up a resume and a cover letter on nice stationery and drop it in the mail. That meant that from the day a job was posted to receiving the first resume, it was usually a few days before a recruiter would get anything in the mail. So, if you showed up with a resume the day a job opening was published in the paper, there was the possibility the recruiter and the hiring manager were itching to get the job filled. It showed that you were a motivated job seeker with spunk.
In fact, this was how my wife snagged her first job when we moved to Miami. An editor and a journalist, she ran in to drop off a resume to a magazine publisher that was preparing to open up a new editor's job. She gave them the resume, they handed it to the publisher, and within a few days she had an interview and then a job offer. She spent the next nine years at that magazine.
It doesn't work that way anymore. Generally speaking, it is now not considered a welcome gesture for a job seeker to drop off a resume at an employer for a professional-level role.
What's changed? Basically, the entire recruitment and hiring process. This shift was enabled by two factors:
- First, email. This change allowed job seekers to send a resume to somebody at a company instantaneously. The person receiving the email could check out the applications at their convenience, but still much more quickly than a resume sent by traditional mail.
- Second, online job applications. This started with job boards like TheJobNetwork or LinkedIn, but grew into several other job portals. Then applicant tracking systems (ATS's) came along. These are software applications recruiters use to collect, sort, and process resumes; once these systems were implemented, they also enabled companies to build out their own job pages on their websites, where they could collect resumes directly through their system.
As these systems arose, many companies got rid of "employment centers" where they would take walk-in applications of job seekers. Some companies still operate walk-in employment centers, but they're primarily directed at finding manual or hourly labor, where job seekers wouldn't traditionally have a resume they could email (if the employer does run one of these, by all means feel free to stop by).
Here are of the main three reasons why it’s a bad idea for a job seeker to drop off a resume:
- The recruiter's job is now database and systems driven. They're managing massive amounts of data—it's not unusual for a recruiter to collect thousands of resumes through their ATS, which assists them in prioritizing job seekers based upon fit. Since the process is all digital, presenting a paper resume (without uploading it into the system first) is presents an inconvenience that needs to be scanned, entered, and prioritized.
- It's an interruption for the recruiter. A recruiter's day is typically filled with candidate sourcing activities, phone screens, in-person interviews, meetings with hiring managers, strategic projects, and other activities. In other words, they're really, really busy. And here's the conundrum; companies and recruiters are very sensitive to the customer experience for job applicants. They want the employer to be perceived as an employer of choice, and so while it may disrupt the recruiter's day to drop what they are doing and meet candidates who show up unannounced, they may still greet them in order to provide a positive experience so no one feels snubbed by the company. But, the recruiter may actually resent it, hurting your chances in the long run.
- Showing up is outside the process the company asked you to follow. Employers like to hire people who demonstrate a propensity for following directions. It's highly likely the employer asked job seekers to apply online; conversely, it's highly unlikely they asked job seekers to show up unannounced. It's a strike against your ability to follow directions from Day 1.
What should you do if you feel you're the perfect candidate and you want to make a positive impression and stand out?
- Apply online first—promptly. Yes, it's a pain, but go online to the company's website, upload your resume, fill out those boxes, and respond however the online job ad requires. Doing as you’re asked shows you respect the company's processes—and their employees’ time. Besides, the company representatives will likely send you back to this step at some point anyway, so why not get ahead of it?
- Reach out to an appropriate contact online. There is nothing wrong with finding the recruiter or hiring manager and sending them a brief note via email or through LinkedIn. A well-placed, well-timed note (indicating that you've already applied online, of course) can often elicit a positive response from the recipient if you're a good fit. And they can review it and respond to it on their own time, rather than when you show up.
- Leverage your network. Do you know somebody who works at the company? Ask them to put in a good word and route your resume on your behalf. They may have the inside track on the opportunity, and a respected referral source is usually held in high regard by a human resources department.
One more thing: Should you feel vitally compelled to drop off a resume at that company, just leave it with the front desk. Don't ask for the recruiter to come out and meet you. They'll get the resume anyway—the receptionist will give it to them.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies LLC, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. He is a Human Resources professional and staffing expert with almost two decades of in-house corporate HR and staffing firm experience, and is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC).
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