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We all know people who are frustrated in their job search because they’ve sent out hundreds of resumes, without getting one acknowledgment, let alone an interview. In fact, you may be enduring this type of job hunting bad luck yourself. It’s important to step back from your job search and look at the situation candidly. It’s not bad luck, it’s bad strategy. Or worse, no strategy.
You’ll continue to suffer through your job search until you realize you must make a plan and focus on what is most impactful and “cost-effective” in order to get results. Sending out resumes in response to ads online, in the newspaper classifieds, or on job boards is usually not cost- or time-effective. While you don’t want to overlook these techniques, you shouldn’t spend much time or rely on them as your only technique. Many times the ads are placed, even though someone has already been informally chosen for the position, to fulfill equal work opportunity requirements. You need to become that in-the-know person who’s chosen before the ad goes up.
So how should you begin your new job search? Your new job hunting strategy should be both more specific and more personal. First, think about a company or sector you’re experienced in and enjoy. Think first about things like, “who do I know that works there, or used to? Who do I know that knows someone who works there or used to? What do I know about the company?” You’re tailoring your search to specific companies and you’ll have a slightly different approach to each. Once you learn more about the targeted companies, you’ll be able to align your resume and skills to match. Yes, this will take more time per contact than just blanketing the market with copies of your generic resume. It’s also more effective. Your ROI for time spent will be exponentially better than blanket resume-sending.
Why is a new job hunting strategy necessary?
Unless you have very specialized, hard-to-replicate knowledge, education or training, most employers would rather hire people they know. Failing that, they’d rather hire someone that their neighbor’s friend knows. Any connection is better than none. Why?
It’s about trust. Put yourself in the place of the hiring manager or business owner. Wouldn’t you rather hire someone you know is responsible, and can be counted on to get the work done? Wouldn’t you rather hire someone who gets along well with others? These and other basic trust and dependability questions would go through your mind, if you were on the other side of the job interview. Hiring someone you know (or someone that you are somehow connected with) is a shortcut to getting these basic yet important personal qualities and work characteristics.
You’d be surprised how many job hunting interviewees (in general) do not have those basic essentials for success in any workplace. If the boss hires someone they don’t know at all, they may find out the person is undependable (or worse) a couple months after hiring them. They the employer would have to put up with the bad behavior, counsel the employee and hope they perform better– or fire them. Firing is time-consuming and expensive for a business, as is renewing the job search and training a new employee. Employers will go to any lengths to avoid this time and money waste.
If you went to Harvard, you may deserve top consideration for a position, but your education/school may not even be noticed (your resume may never reach the hiring manager’s desk) if someone hasn’t vouched for you. Of course, part of an Ivy-League education is networking. It’s all but impossible to come out of Harvard or another world-renowned school, without some important connections in your chosen field. The rest of us have to make our own high-level connections. What are the best ways to do this?
Why traditional job search methods fail
- Tons of competition – In the age of the Internet, there aren’t a lot of secrets. Everyone sees the same job ads.
- Advertised jobs are often those that are difficult to fill for various reasons – HR people cast a wide net to show the company that they’re trying.
- Advertised jobs are often low-paying positions – In-the-know job seekers or those seeking internal promotions have already filled mid- to high-level jobs.
- Employers tend to hire people who are recommended vs. those who respond to ads — to avoid costly hiring mistakes.
- Employers find advertising creates a lot of extra work — including lots of administrative time screening responses, taking calls, interviewing strangers.
- Most jobs are filled before ads are even needed — they’re filled by trusted insiders, like you!
Specific job search techniques that work now
Open up: Being very open in your job search helps. Let everyone know you are job hunting. There’s no longer any stigma to changing jobs more often than in the past. It’s normal to spend more time between jobs. People are naturally wired to want to help, even if you don’t specifically ask. The world has become more social. Social connections have gained value. You should ask for help from those you feel comfortable with, but it’s not worth ruining a relationship over.
Research: Besides getting info from company insiders (or former insiders) go online to find out all about the companies you may be targeting. Any insight about the company’s mission, business model or workplace culture will help. Make sure the information you dig up is accurate and not just gossip. Don’t depend solely on Internet research. Vet the info with first-person accounts from people you know whenever possible. If you find out the company is phasing out hardware, don’t spend time in your interview touting your hardware acumen. If you find out a lot about the company and are able to demonstrate a bit of this in your interview, you’ll stand out. A common interview question is “why would you like to work for our company?” This is a great place to display your knowledge, which shows you take initiative and are looking for a career, not just a job.
Social media: Of course, networking in your online “neighborhood” can be a big help. Your cousin (or Facebook friend, former co-worker, schoolmate) may know someone they went to high school with years ago who is hiring for just the position you need. You’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll be received if you are a known quantity to the interviewer.
Join social groups (online and in-person networks) that deal with your industry: Locate some online industry forums where interesting conversations about the state of the industry and new developments are going on.
Look for “elite” job ads: Job ads on membership sites and job openings posted on industry forums will be visible to a smaller crowd of candidates. You’ll be able to more easily see what (or who) your connections are. Part of your job search strategy is to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond.
Build your own brand: As you become comfortable, participate in discussions, answer questions – you’re building a reputation for yourself online. (This should be happening whether you’re job hunting or not.) How can you fail to get work if you are well-known in your industry or a local version thereof? If you have time, start your own blog. This can be a double-edged sword if you express controversial opinions about your industry. Some people become thought-leaders this way while others can end up un-hirable. (Although some use this as a springboard to go into business for themselves.) Think before you post or comment online, but definitely do get involved at the level you have time for and are comfortable with while job hunting.
Volunteer or “consult”: You’ll be gaining new skills, wider experience and adding to your resume, even when you’re “out of work.” Don’t even characterize this period as being merely “unemployed” to your prospective employers. The latter sounds passive. You want to be seen as positive, energetic and full of new ideas, because you are.
Attend industry conferences, events and meet-ups: You’ll gain more insight and make more connections. Now that you have a job hunting strategy and are reaching out, your job search will become much less frustrating and isolating– it can even be fun!
Questions? Ask away. Do you have a new job search technique that’s worked well? Share it below!
Download a PDF copy of this article, The Truth About Job Hunting Lessons Learned from the Trenches on scribd.