This week, I was inspired by a client to think about the value of research as a powerful element of job search strategy. After all, a resume does not work unless it reaches the correct people. We’ve said many times on this Blog that visiting job search Web sites and responding to postings is ineffective for most job-seekers. A more systematic, research based strategy is needed. The following four strategies should improve your job search results:
- Target a job you are qualified to fill,
- Identify employers that may have opportunities for you,
- Find contacts in those companies that will advocate for you, and
- Apply directly to your target employers.
Most of us do at least part of our job search by clicking out resumes and online applications to hundreds of employers through major job search sites. It’s quick and relatively painless. It also can yield zero results. Steve Dalton, in his book The 2-Hour Job Search says one of his MBA students once spent up to eight hours a day for her entire spring break sending out resumes on job sites without receiving any responses. He said his students have characterized job search sites as “black holes” for resumes, meaning the resumes go in and nothing comes out. The same thing has happened to some of my clients, leaving them frustrated after spending hours gathering information so I could put an effective resume together with them.
Your job search needs a more systematic strategy if this is your experience.
Target a job you are qualified to fill.
Many job-seekers I’ve spoken to appear to be unsuccessful because they apply for jobs that do not match their qualifications in the view of the prospective employer. We often feel well quailed for many jobs in our field. Then we are surprised when we do not even get a phone screening interview.
One reason this can happen is because you do not meet job requirements. Job seekers sometimes argue that employers do not always follow posted requirements. That is true.
The power of LinkedIn can help you validate whether or not an employer follows the posted requirements. For example, a client recently sent me a posting for a job that stated the applicant needed ten years of major gifts experience. My client lacked this specific experience, but she wondered whether the company only hired candidates with ten years of experience or whether they are more flexible.
I was curious about whether the company really filled “Director of Strategy” jobs with people that have ten years of major gift experience, so I searched for the company on LinkedIn, and found a connection that has the Director of Strategy job title there. Next, I opened the employee’s profile. The Director did have ten years of major gifts experience before she was hired. A single example, of course, does not prove that the employer always follows this hiring practice to the letter. It does suggest though that my client should not “get her hopes up.”
This posting was at a small company. A larger firm may have had dozens of consulting directors on LinkedIn so it may have been easier to assess whether the company hires only people having specific experience with more reliability. The point is that you can use LinkedIn to find out what credentials employees in your target job have at your target company.
There are other variables that impact whether you will be interviewed for a given job. Your chances of getting an interview should improve, if you apply for jobs that are filled with employees that have credentials similar to yours.
It is possible to land your target job, even if you are not qualified on paper. You will know how realistic your chances are to get the interview and the job if you do your research.
Identify employers that may have openings.
Another approach I’ve advocated for many years is to target specific employers. Among other things, you can:
- Make a list of relevant companies that have posted jobs in your field,
- Identify companies where alumni of your school or previous employers now work, and
- List “dream employers” where you would like to work.
Steve Dalton’s book suggests you develop a list of at least 40 target employers to make the pool of potential jobs deep enough. It also forces you to look beyond the obvious companies in your field, such as the most well-known accounting firms or big-box stores.
Job posting sites, such as Indeed.com can be helpful in determining what companies are hiring, even though it may not be productive to apply for jobs through the sites. Do a search by job title and add companies to your list that have posted jobs in your field.
Alumni contacts are extremely powerful, according to a recruiter I speak with regularly. He told me hiring managers are more likely to consider candidates if they went to the same school that they attended. Employees that are not hiring managers are more likely to speak with you about the company, and then refer you in.
Former coworkers may also refer you into companies. LinkedIn and other social media sites make it easy to keep in touch with former coworkers. It is also easier to locate colleagues you have not kept in touch with. Recently, a woman I worked with on a volunteer project nearly 25 years ago contacted me via LinkedIn to ask some LinkedIn profile questions after she was downsized last month.
Once you have identified companies where you have contacts, and companies that are posting relevant jobs, you may want to add companies you feel motivated to work at. You can pick companies you have always wanted to work for, or look at one of the best employer lists online, such as the Forbes List of World’s Best Employers. You’ll have a lot of competition, though, for companies considered “best employers,” or those that are very well known or admired.
Apply directly to companies.
There will be three important outcomes from making sure you qualify for the job you want and then developing a target company list. First, you will have more confidence that employers will consider you qualified for the jobs you are applying to fill. Next, you will be focusing on employers rather than postings at online job sites that may or may not be open. The most important outcome of your research is that you will be able to submit your resume directly on company employment sites. Even better, you will be directing your contact efforts to people that know you at target companies. Your resume will work harder for you because you are sending it out more strategically than other job-seekers.
Get your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile ready while you build your target lists. Contact us for a complimentary consultation to get started.
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