Monday, February 9, 2009

The Most Potent Strategy for Finding a Job

For all but very high-level positions, this strategy is the most potent: Send a brief but compelling email to 50 potential employers who are NOT advertising a job you're interested in but who have the power to hire you for a position you'd accept. Follow up with a phone call one day later. For lower-level jobs, the most potent variation on this theme is to simply walk in and pitch the employer.

Why is that strategy so potent?

A job opening is born when an employer has a need but doesn't realize it. If the employer receives your email/phone call or drop-in visit at that point and you help him realize he has an important unmet need that you could fill, he might hire you then and there, without your having to compete with a zillion applicants.

If the employer receives your email when she realizes there's a need but hasn't had time to fill it, you could be perceived as manna from heaven and again get hired with minimal competition.

If the employer receives your email when he's just told insiders about the job, again, your competition is not enormous.

Disproportionately, job openings get advertised when they require rare skills or are so bad that no insider wants to take it or recommend it to their friends. In either case, such jobs are less likely to be better for you than the jobs you could be offered if you contact the employer earlier in a job opening's lifespan.


Brian said...

Creative idea, I tend to agree with that logic, and I'll recommend this idea to some people I know that are in the job market.

Grace said...

I had a student who was adamant that she was doing an active job search by sending out numerous resumes to internet job sites. However, after weeks of doing this, she had no call-backs, and I told her the proof was in the pudding. I reminded her your "baby on the doorstep" analogy and the power of direct contact with employers. Then she spent a mere 5 hours phoning/meeting employers and got 3 interviews. She was so surprised, and a little humbled. It is all about being human and building relationships.

Anonymous said...

I shall keep this in mind in future job searches. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I definately agree with you on this. However, I have such a fear doing this. Just the thought of cold contacting makes me nervous. I am a recent college grad and am looking for an entry level job in advertising or marketing in the Chicago area. I guess my question is what do I say? Everytime I think about calling I get like a mind block as to what to say when I call. I've really been trying to get over this fear because I know it is an effective job search technique, but my fear gets in the way alot. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


icantfindajob said...

Great advice! Might I also add that showing up in person makes a stronger impression than just an email. Most emails go straight to the recycle bin. But an in-person visit makes you memorable.

Ray said...

Here's 3 job sites from's top ten job sites- (professional networking) (aggregated listings) (matches jobs based on your skills)

good luck to those looking.

Marty Nemko said...


Write a script. Practice paraphrasing it.

And remember that even if you are tongue-tied, it's okay. It can even be endearing. Worst case, you blow it with that employer. There always are others.

QuestingElf said...

I like this idea a lot, to cold call and start something with an employer that never existed. Actually it's far more engaging to me than networking. I've never understood why networking gets so much fanfare when employers proclaim they want self-starter self-motivated types. Your approach here showcases that, that rather than wait to be introduced, the active job seeker demonstrates he's ready to talk serious business. I wish more employers, however, were receptive to this because when I've tried this, I've seen many are too shocked with what to do with such enthusiasm (especially if the employer themselves never did much to obtain a job.)

sylvester said...

That's a great idea, actively advertising our skills rather than waiting for the post, especially if your educated and have great experience. my field of work is shrinking though and i might need to make a perminant move the other end of the country to stay within my field would it be better to retrain? I'm looking for work and am being helped by a recruitment website called recruitment revolution and they are really helping to build my confidence with great advise on finding work, taking my previous experience and making it work over a range of areas to maximise the chance of finding something sooner rather than later.

Marty Nemko said...

Sylvester, I was not writing about taking out ads for yourself but that's not a bad idea. By the way, be sure to check your spelling when writing job applications.

Barbara said...

I liked your article. My husband has been job searching since October. He has a unique set of skills. He is an airline pilot and also a very talented computer network engineer. We live near Atlanta. Unfortunately, his computer people network is relatively small. How do you find names of companies, their emails or phone numbers? I made this exact suggestion because the online applications is getting us nowhere. I made him go to a Chamber of Commerce event; the topic of the day was employment in technology. Lloyd got the speakers business card but the person did not give any concrete suggestions.


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