Nowadays, most of the work I do involves helping recruiters and hiring managers find and hire perfect people for imperfect jobs. In the manual I give them I also provide a bunch of countermeasures for candidates to use whenever they meet interviewers who don’t follow the steps I recommend. Some of these are highlighted below.
Job Hunting Tip #1: don’t apply directly to any job posting. The only exception to this rule is if you’re a perfect fit based on the skills, experiences and titles listed on the job description. If you’re not a perfect, you shouldn’t spend more than 20% of your time applying to jobs. However, if you think you can do the job, even if you’re not a perfect match on the requirements listed, there are many things you can do to get an interview. Here are my favorites:
- Use the Backdoor. Once you know the job title and location, look on LinkedIn or use Google to find the name of the hiring manager or department head. If this doesn’t work, call and ask someone in some other function who’s the VP of the department. The big idea: use the job posting as a lead to work rather than an application button to press.
- Get More Referrals. Getting a referral from someone in the company is the best way to get an interview. It’s even better if the referral will give you a personal recommendation. If you’re serious about getting a better job, networking to get referrals should represent 50% or more of your job hunting efforts. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to triple the size of your network in a few weeks.
- Be Different. I had one candidate prepare a competitive analysis for a product marketing position in the telecommunications industry. He sent it to the VP who routed it to the Director. He told me he got an interview as a result.
- Check the Postings for Similar Jobs. If the company is hiring for similar jobs, you’ll minimize your chance of being considered for the others if you apply directly to one. In your email to the department head, mention that you’ve noticed that the company is looking to fill a number of related positions and you wonder who’s handling all of the requisitions.
- Prove You’re a Contender. Put a short statement in your email describing some major accomplishment that clearly reveals you’re qualified for the job. Include a link to a video or website that further validates your abilities in this area. Examples: this could be a product you worked on, a sample of your work, a credible public recommendation you received, or a demo you prepared.
- Use Higher Authority. In your email state you’re also sending your resume (or alternate proof of ability) to others in the company. Names names and include titles. People will be reluctant to ignore your request if your proof of ability is credible and the people you’re also contacting are more senior to the person. Just imagine how they’d feel if you got hired by another company, or if the person with more authority asks why your email was ignored.
- Become a Passive Candidate. Correct or not, passive candidates are more desirable than active candidates. So in your emails mention that an associate sent you a link to the public job description, and since you’re not actively looking, you’d like to learn more before you became a serious candidate. You’ll still need to prove you’re a viable prospect to get noticed, but being harder to get makes you more desirable.
- Prepare a Prezi (or video) Resume. Prezis are no more than PowerPoints with better zooming and transitions, but they’re a great alternative to the traditional resume. You can use these as one measure of proof of ability by highlighting some of your major relevant accomplishments. Here’s a sample of a Prezi I did for a course for job-seekers. This segment helps them better understand what recruiters do. (Here’s the full online video program covering all aspects of job hunting including preparing for the interview you’ll get by following these steps.
- Customize Your Emails. Don’t send generic template emails. Instead do some research about the company and include some of this information in your emails. For example, describe how your technical skills could impact products the company is developing or improve some process they’re upgrading.
- Reduce Their Risk. There is a big risk when hiring someone for a full-time role, especially if you’re not a perfect match. One way for a job-seeker to minimize the company risk is to offer to work on a contract or consulting basis until you can prove you’re capable of handling the job and working with the people involved. Just making the offer can change how you’re perceived as a candidate.
- Take Smaller Steps. It’s much easier to arrange an exploratory phone conversation with a hiring manager than arranging a formal onsite interview. I wrote a post a few weeks ago on how to slow down the process as a means to open up more opportunities.
- All of the Above and More Below. Don’t give up even if these don’t work. The key is the need to be different to get noticed, and once noticed, prove you can do the work even if your skills and experiences aren’t a perfect match. Here’s how I suggest interviewers make the switch from making the assessment on skills and performance to performance and potential. It offers a similar framework for job-seekers.
Even if you are a perfect fit for some job posting, I’d still suggest you follow these same rules. Aside from winding up with more interviews, you’ll also likely to find one that offers a real career move, not just another job. It all starts by being different.
Lou Adler (@LouA) is the CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring. He’s also a regular columnist for Inc. Magazine and BusinessInsider. His latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013), provides hands-on advice for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters on how to find the best job and hire the best people.