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April 9, 2015 10:37 AM EDT

One of life’s greatest pains is when you apply for a job while simultaneously realizing that your odds of getting that job are equal to winning the lottery by picking up rubbed-off tickets from the sidewalk. Prayer feels a lot more practical.

After you hit apply, here’s what happens: you become a number in an often vast and opaque database. The applicant databases of large companies might even contain millions of candidates. The chances of your resume ever seeing the light of day and getting noticed by a corporate recruiter are slim. So that feels like where your story ends.

If you’re lucky, someone is monitoring that database in between their coffee breaks. They might look at the new resumes that came in or use “smart” software to find resumes that match the assortment of keywords in the job description. Your experience, tenure and achievements are often not seen, much less considered. When it comes to job search, it’s like the old saying goes: “It’s better to be lucky than good.”

But if you have a few extra minutes, you can act like a recruiting pro and be smarter and more proactive about your job search. As the founder and CEO of, I can help offer some insider insight. Here are four things to do AFTER applying:

  1. Study the job description. Most of these jobs are posted by busy people using stock templates given to them by HR organizations, or as parts of bundles that their companies pay for. So look for words that stick out — words that would never be part of a template. These are the parts added by the job poster to make the stock description look a little prettier.
  2. Grab unique phrases. Search for out-of-place words. Look for company-specific projects, technology terms unique to the company, descriptions of individual teams, mentions of particular products, etc. Forget “software engineer” and “design and development.” Hunt for phrases like “part of our e-platform component group,” “FIDO method” and “works with our Wind II series engineers.” Find anything that pinpoints the actual team inside the company to which you are applying.
  3. Find the team on LinkedIn. Unique phrases in hand, head on over to LinkedIn and do an advanced people search. Enter the company you’re looking for in the company field. Then in the keywords field, enter those unique phrases with quotations around them, like “e-platform component group” from our example above. In the title field, experiment with queries — like Manager OR Director OR VP OR Vice — to find key managers. This helps you pinpoint the exact team of people that are hiring for the position. Think about the org chart: who’s hiring? It’s your job to find them.
  4. Contact the managers. You might find 10 people who seem to be working on that project team — this is where you can pick how aggressive to be. You can contact the management of that team (or reach out to a peer in the group), describe your background and make your pitch. If you’re reaching out to a non-management employee, you might reference the exact job that you’re interested in and ask if they know who manages the hiring for the position. Include any descriptive internal tracking numbers that they used in the job description.

These are the kind of common sense techniques professional recruiters use to land new clients and find candidates for jobs. They work for job seekers too — good luck out there!

Miles Jennings is the founder and CEO of, the next generation of recruiting.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

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