Most people spend a majority of their time searching and pursuing job postings online and in newspapers. What they often don’t realize is that they are spending the majority of their time in the “4th Stage” of a Job Opening, and so are arriving to the party at the same time as most everyone else!
As the excellent graphic to the left by J. Michael Farr in The Very Quick Job Search shows, employers are open to hearing of a good candidate to fill a need long before they decide to post an ad. In fact, by the time an ad is actually placed, they may have multiple candidates they are already considering! People that came from personal acquaintances, referrals, recruiters, or other sources.
Posting your resume on a job board or spending hours scouring those job boards for appropriate opportunities, at best gets you considered along with potentially hundreds of others doing the same thing. In order to beat the competition to the table, you have to enter at an earlier stage.
In order to do that, you must be pursuing companies before you know of a need. It’s critical to create your list of “target companies”, find multiple contacts in each one to build relationships with, and keep yourself in the forefront so that you come to mind when an opportunity arises. Don’t ‘stalk’ them, but be ‘Pleasantly Persistent’. Do this with as many companies as you can! The more relationships you develop, the greater your chances of getting an opportunity sooner.
Is this more work than scanning hundreds of ads? Yes. Is it more effective? Infinitely! Is it outside of your comfort zone? Probably, however, you have to decide what’s more important… operating within your comfort zone, or getting a job!
So how do you find companies and contacts at those companies? LinkedIn is an extremely powerful tool for this. Do searches of people in your geographic area and with titles that you are interested in pursuing. Look at the results. At what companies do those people work? That is the beginning of your target list! Search for people by company name at each of those companies and you can create a list of potential contacts. Call those companies, ask for those individuals, and you begin building your relationships!
Recently, someone in one of my Job Search classes heard about a company he became interested in, and that there potentially was an opening coming up that fit his background. Through LinkedIn and personal networking he found and contacted 5 different people at the organization. The first 4 people he talked to each told him there were no opportunities. Most people would have stopped pursuing a company long before they even got to the 4th “No”. The 5th person he contacted, however, said there may be a position and invited him in for a meeting. Several interviews, and six weeks later, he started his new position at that company! He was the only candidate throughout the process and an ad was never placed. Targeting a company rather than an ad works!
Here are some tips:
- Write scripts for yourself! You will be much more effective than ‘Winging It’.
- Alternate phone calls and emails – mix up how you connect with them.
- Be brief and substantive – concisely tell them how you can be of value to them.
- Stay focused on how you fill their needs, not on what you want.
- Be respectful of their time – always ask “Do you have a minute, or did I catch you at a bad time?”
- Let them know you are specifically interested in their company and are trying to build relationships.
Don’t ignore the posted ads and job boards, however, that should be a small part of your job search efforts and not how you’re spending a majority of your time. If you only do the same thing 90% of other job seekers are doing (responding to ads and waiting for a call), you will always be competing with that same crowd of other candidates. In order to reduce the competition, you must be considered at an earlier stage of a job opening!