Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Unsolicited Pitches May Not Be Worth the Time

Conventional wisdom is that a good way to get hired is to pitch the person with the power to hire you at a couple dozen target employers, whether or not an employer is listing a job opening. You simply call or email to say you'd like to meet with them or offer a proposal for what you could do for them, and then follow up diligently.

That has worked better for my clients in the past than it is working today. These days, I've had clients send compelling pitches to dozens of employers and get very few responses and the few that respond say no or give a meeting but it doesn't lead to a job.

Why is cold contact working less well today? I believe these factors are at play:
  • Bosses are busier than ever.
  • Hiring is slow overall in our jobless non-recovery. If an employer is going to hire, s/he'd rather hire a friend, someone referred by a friend or colleague, or cast a wide net and choose the best person among hundreds of applicants. It's cheap and easy to do so.
  • Affirmative action hiring procedures are being followed more strictly: employers are ever more often precluded from hiring the person s/he wants without going through a closely monitored hiring process involving many interviewers.
Those reasons are on top of the usual reasons that cold contact isn't a magic pill:
  • The employer believes that if a person is pitching himself, s/he can't be that good.
  • The employer believes s/he wouldn't be getting the best candidate because s/he's not picking from a broad range of people, as s/he would if s/he placed an online ad and/or emailed current employees to ask for recommended candidates.
These days, what's working best for my clients is getting a job through their existing personal network, not including LinkedIn--those connections are too tenuous. Usually, it takes too long to turn such connections into those that actually result in your getting an on-target job. And that assumes you're great at converting even 1 of 50 such people into such a powerful advocate--no mean task. Most job seekers would end up burning up too much of their job search energy on that and, before it paid off, would have become a bag lady.


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this post. Could you please clarify why you think using LinkedIn is tenous?

The approach I've been using is to use LinkedIn to find people who work at a company I'm interested in and that has a job opening that fits my background. I try to target a senior level person at the company. I then do a Web search for their email work address since they most likely aren't in my LinkedIn network. Once I find that, I email them directly, explaining my interest in the position at their company, my qualifications and I attach my resume. Often they send me an email back saying they have forwarded my resume to HR or, if I'm lucky, the hiring manager.

I've had one phone interview using this approach out of perhaps 20 attempts. I'm unsure if this is more activity than progress since I haven't been able to land a new job. However, at least I make contact with a real person rather than receiving an automated response.

Thank you again for your very helpful job-related blog entries.

Marty Nemko said...

Anonymous, you've used LinkedIn optimally and it hasn't resulted in a job. That's been the experience of most of my clients, which is why I've cooled off on LinkedIn. The most frequent way my clients in the last year or two have gotten jobs has been through their personal network.

Basil Fawlty said...

Since the "s/he" pronoun is transgender and unisex, should we just replace "s/he" with "it"?

Anonymous said...

I agree that LinkedIn connections are tenuous at best for most professions. The people I have known who find jobs through that network are usually in the software/hardware design professions.

Marty, what do you think about using twitter for job leads?

Marty Nemko said...

Yes, Twitter is, today, being used successfully by job searchers WHO ARE IDEATIONALLY FLUENT: whose tweeter-stream presents their endless good ideas OF THE TYPE THAT WOULD IMPRESS THEIR TARGET EMPLOYER.

Kathy Bornheimer said...

I agree with you on several issues, that education levels are overrated and cold calling doesn't work among them. I would like to qualify the use of LinkedIn. I teach my clientele how to use LinkedIn for research and developing plus nuturing personal relationships.
It can be done as long as people practice quality over quantity and reciprosity in their selections.

Anonymous said...

If you see an uptick in activity on this blog, it is because SmartBrief on your Career has highlighted it today, which led me here--and happy to be here!

Re: LinkedIn. I see your point, Marty, but we shouldn't just dismiss LinkedIn, and the logic that "you haven't gotten a job through LinkedIn, therefore it ain't that great" ain't that great, either.

It is important to realize that LinkedIn is not a job-seeking method, IT IS ONLY A TOOL, and it is one of the best tools a job-seeker has. Think of it as a tool that helps you build your personal network, like a hammer helps you build a house. You can't think of a hammer as being a killer method of finding a place to live; it is only a tool, but a great tool it is.

It all comes down to HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR TIME LOOKING FOR JOBS? Time is only thing any of us really has when you get right down to it, and it is a scarce resource. If you are spending all online looking for jobs, you are not spending your time well. You need to use your online time judiciously. There are huge time vacuums online, and you can let LinkedIn be one of them. Job sites and filling out Taleo applications are another. I try to limit my time with the job sites by only using alerts for that part of my job hunt. And even there I like to think of that as research into target companies rather than my ticket to a job.


Marty Nemko said...

Kathy, the problem is that, for job seekers, using Linked In (or ANY source of building a NEW network) to create and nurture a relationship, takes too long--At BEST (asssuming the person successfully created a relationship with that person) 's 6-12 months before the relationship is strong enough for a stranger is motivated to really stick their neck out to help a stranger land a good job AND, more important, just happens to have a good job to help the person land, AND, even more important, that job happens to be appropriate for the person, and even more important still, that he has the CLOUT to make that big a difference in helping the person to land the job. As the title of the post said, "unsolicited pitches may not be worth the TIME."

The jobseeker will likely be a bag lady by the time nurturing even 100 Linked In relationships pay off. And one would have to spend many hours a week doing that. It's better to use that time invoking one's existing network and answering ads WELL. Yes, if you make networking an ongoing part of your life, when you ARE employed, it can help. But for unemployed job seeker, it is not a time-effective way to land a job.

Marty Nemko said...

Anonymous of Oct 23 at 9:28. YES, using LinkedIn for abetting you response to an ad IS worth it. This post was about contacting employers who are NOT advertising a job.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't this cut against your "You U" Strategy? If strangers don't have the time to get to know you, where will they find the time to get to know you AND mentor you?

Marty Nemko said...

The time to develop relationships is when you ARE employed. Doing it while you're unemployed takes too much of your job search/time energy, relative to the likely benefit. As I wrote, I've found that my clients have only a certain amount of energy for their job search before they run out of gas. I try to husband that energy so they spend it as time-effectively as possible.


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