I had the opportunity to speak with thought leader, recruiter and job seeker advocate Tom Bolt. Tom is one of the most thoughtful and informed people in the talent acquisition space. In this article, he shares advice to help job seekers, applicants, and candidates better navigate their journey to a more successful result.

Cyndy: Tom, thanks for sharing your advice with job seekers. Let’s get your thoughts on a situation that comes up a lot with recruiters. How can job seekers break free from the spray and pray mentality?

Tom: There is nothing wrong with using online applications to get into a company’s database, but as a single methodology of getting results, it can be limiting. The best way to get positive results is to think like “they” do. Try to understand the process and what’s happening. Picture this: a bombardment of self-serving electronic data crossing the recruiter or hiring manager threshold and forcing them to deal with an absurd volume of drivel to find a needle in a haystack. Is it any wonder that companies are gravitating toward electronic screening to reduce the candidate data to a manageable level? The solutions go against the pop culture of doing everything fast and easy online.

    1. Network – Don’t avoid applying through an ATS but do the necessary research to find out who the players are and reach out to them directly. The first rule of communication is to know your target audience and tailor the message so they will hear and understand you.
    2. Focus – Target what you want to do, know how you will get where you need to be, and constantly learn more about your goals and yourself. If you don’t know what you want, you will never convince anyone else to take you seriously.
    3. Listen – What are “they” saying to you? Don’t filter that message with what you want to hear, but honestly try to hear what they are saying about themselves and you. If you hear deafening silence, you’re doing it wrong.


Cyndy: Totally agree with this. Job seekers need to implement various techniques into the strategy and never rely on one methodology.

Cyndy: Let me ask you about your thoughts on ageism. It’s become quite a hot topic recently. What can older and experienced job seekers do to interview successfully?

Tom: There is a popular trend of advice to “neuter” the application to exclude anything that would identify someone as an older applicant. The bottom line is that if they would discriminate by age in getting in the door, you don’t want to work there anyway. Be yourself, but tailor your approach to show a progressive career building up to the position in question. Read between the lines. What do they need? Give evidence by stating accomplishments that you can perform the duties of the job.

    1. DON’T assume an attitude of superiority. It’s highly likely that senior job seekers will have to interview with younger, maybe even less experienced, managers. DO find how your talents can dovetail with their needs.
    2. DON’T be a know it all! DO ask intelligent questions that show interest in being a team player and learning from others.
    3. DON’T try to act younger than you are because that façade can crumble. DO represent yourself as a technically competent, up-to-date applicant that can hit the ground running.
    4. DON’T expect someone to connect your disjointed bullet points magically for you. This is especially true for career changes or stretch-job applications. Give them the path you want them to follow.


How can job seekers use technology to their advantage when applying for jobs and networking?

The key to success is in understanding how the technology works. The tech doesn’t hire people, people do. Where does that app or website send your resume?

    1. Find out how you can talk to a real human being, such as doing a web search of their organization or connecting with people on LinkedIn.
    2. Use absolutely every electronic platform that has proven track record, and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You must absolutely track and measure results to know which platform works best for you. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
    3. Explore new technology, but don’t be too quick to commit to giving your personal data to just anybody who claims to have a better way of doing things. Companies are rapidly adopting Artificial Intelligence to aid in business decisions, but you will be working for and with people. Never forget the people side of things.


What are two bits of advice you’d give to a new college grad looking for his/her first professional job?

    1. Differentiate yourself from other applicants. You must know that all new grads will have about the same resume, so make yours unique. The time to build this resume is not when you start looking for a job, but when you are stretching your muscles to get ready for the big jump out of academia. Do part-time work, internships, and volunteer work that demonstrate your ability to solve problems.
    2. Focusing on skills and experience is important, but as a new grad, there will be limited depth to your resume. Place additional emphasis on the three things that show you are a good prospect for the future as well as an entry-level employee: intelligence, work ethic, and passion. In every aspect of your employment conversations, display that you are smart, work hard and love what you do.



Tom is an HR professional who crossed over from engineering bringing a left-brain mentality with him. With experience in three Fortune 500 companies and a start-up, he has led efforts in workforce planning, labor relations, training, compensation, employee relations, and global staffing and recruitment, receiving both SPHR and GPHR certifications. In 1996 he founded Leute Management Services, a human capital management consulting firm, and today serves as its CEO.  He is an outspoken advocate for job seekers and writes about improving the quality of recruiting organizations and the candidate experience in his blog Make HR Happen. Follow him on Twitter at ID @TomBolt or @LeuteMgmt, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Photo courtesy of Jen Theodore.