We’ve all done it – submitted job applications on mega-job database sites. And, I’ll bet you didn’t get responses from many, if any, of them. But don’t feel too down on yourself because your overall chance of getting a job through them is reported to be around 3%. Hmmm. Now is it dawning on you why you haven’t heard back from most of those applications? Yeah, that’s a pretty dismal average.
So, instead of continuing to focus your resources on such a low-yield possibility, it’s time to improve your chances of snagging that role for which you know you’d be a great fit and want. But how? Switch to a job search strategy that 1) decreases your competition for the position, and 2) improves your odds of standing out and being seen by those in hiring positions. Keep reading to learn step-by-step instructions for creating this type of strategy and to find out why it works.
The idea behind this approach is to place yourself where the least number of other applicants are. Most candidates will apply through large job databases that use an automated system to screen them. Your application will first be reviewed by a computer algorithm that has been programmed to look for certain keywords or phrases. That means you will likely be screened out before a person ever sees your information.
Also, this approach, detailed further below, focuses on developing genuine relationships with people so you may help each other with your career aspirations. Many roles are filled without being advertised because of personal connections and referrals, especially those that require more skills and performance outcomes.
Applying these ideas to an actionable strategy will move you away from a huge ocean of applicants to a small pond, which allows you to stand out and be noticed more easily.
Now that you understand the basis of this strategy, let’s see if you have the prerequisites to make it work successfully.
First, you need to have already identified the skills you enjoy using AND which you are good at performing. Please don’t waste your and others’ time by gunning for roles you know you wouldn’t enjoy doing for a reasonable period of time or don’t have the skills to perform well.
Second, this process takes both dedicated time and concentrated effort. This isn’t a top-secret trick that magically swoops you up to the front of the hiring line. It takes commitment on your part to give the process adequate time and attention to be successful.
Okay, now to the down and dirty absolutely what-you-need-to-know job search strategy!
Make a list of companies that use the skills you possess.
Instead of “spraying and praying”, narrow in on those organizations that currently use, or will need in the near future, the skill base you have. How many should you have on your list? That will depend on how much time you have to devote to this process. Keep in mind you want to expand your reach as much as possible while at the same time being able to work with that list consistently over time.
Connect with people.
There are three types of circles to tap in making these connections – your local community, your professional community, and your LinkedIn community. If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, it’s time to set one up and concentrate your connection requests on those who work for companies on your list or who work in similar roles elsewhere. Click for tips on setting up or maximizing your profile.
Connect with people in these circles, and find out about their careers, needs, things that might be helpful to them. The key here is noticing the emphasis on them in the previous sentence, not on you. Then as you cultivate your relationship with them, let them know through casual conversation what you’re looking for, and the companies you feel will be a great match (i.e., those on your list). They may work for one of these companies, have connections with professional colleagues in those companies, or they may know somebody who does.
Provide value to your connections.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience or not, but it’s not uncommon for even those you have the closest relationship with to tell you they will be glad to help you however they can only to not come through when you subsequently ask for their help. What a let-down! Bottom line: reciprocity is key. Understand the kinds of things that will help your connections and go out of your way to provide something of value to them. Doing this in an unsolicited way creates a natural human desire to reciprocate, and it shows you are genuinely interested in them, not solely in what you can get out of the connection.
Ask them for an informational interview.
Especially with connections who are in a job role that you desire, ask if they are willing to do an informational interview with you so you can find out more about their background, their journey in getting that role, and other insights about what they think you might need to do to prepare yourself to get a similar role. It doesn’t need to be a long conversation and can be done in-person or via technology. Be flexible and make it as easy as possible for them to do this for you.
Request insight about an opening and/or ask for a recommendation.
The best-case scenario is you have developed a good relationship with someone in the same company as the role you’re eyeing. Let them know about it, ask them if they have specific insight regarding the role, and in a no-pressure context, ask if they will be willing to recommend you or at least pass your resume’ along to the hiring manager.
If they aren’t in the same company but have expertise in that industry, that will also be helpful. They may have a connection to someone in that company or be willing to recommend you, based on their professional background.
Companies are typically grateful to have employees who make referrals because it can save them an incredible amount of time and money in finding the right person for the role. Some companies, like MAU, for example, give monetary bonuses for referring someone who ends up being hired.
That’s it in a nutshell! A book could be dedicated to this strategy, so I encourage you to research each of these steps on your own to uncover even more helpful subtleties to refine your approach.
Commit to implementing this strategy, stay organized with how you carry it out, and it should greatly improve your chances of a successful job search. And remember - once you land the role you’ve been wanting, please give back by helping someone else along the way.
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