Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Job Search is Like a Four-Cylinder Engine

A job search is like a four-cylinder engine. The more cylinders firing well, the faster you'll land a job.

Cylinder 1: Answering want ads wisely

Apply only for well-matched jobs.  It's obvious, but don't burn out your energy applying for jobs you're not well-qualified for. Thanks to the Net, most decent jobs get dozens if not hundreds of applicants. If the employer wanted to hire someone marginal, he would have hired his cousin Gomer.

Write a dump-resistant cover letter. Sure, large employers use computers to screen resumes but if you pass that screening, your cover letter matters. This structure will boost your odds of getting asked to interview:

Dear Job Dangler,

I was excited to see the ad for a (insert job title)  because I feel I’m a good fit for the position.

Here are the main requirements listed in your ad and how I meet each. (Do that, ideally, showing that your work was excellent.)

Of course there’s more to me than can be explained in a chart, and I'm excited about the prospect of working for you because (insert a reason), so I’m hoping to have the opportunity to meet with you.


Jane JobSeeker

The main reason that structure works well is that the employer, to winnow the pile of applicants, typically tells the admin, “I want to see only applicants that meet the qualifications." If  you state, point by point, how you meet the requirements, the admin is likely to put you forward.

The Put-Yourself-in-the-Employer's-Shoes Resume

Before writing each sentence, ask yourself, "Will this make the employer more likely to pick my resume from the pile?"

It's also helpful to include two or three 25-word PAR stories: PAR stands for Problem, Approach, Resolution: a problem you faced, the smart way you approached it, and its positive resolution.

Cylinder 2: Smart Networking

Make as long a list as you can (25 to 50 is good) of people who like you. Sure, ideally, they're in your field, but others can be helpful too--after all, people know other people. Next to each name, decide the wisest way to contact them: email, email invitation to coffee, invite to a party, whatever.

Use a five-second pitch. Not a 30-, a five. Why? If it's longer, they're more likely to forget what you're looking for, or you'll seem desperate.  Example: “I was a media strategist for the Big Whup Widget Co and I’ve topped out there, I’m looking for my next opportunity, something related to communications and with a social-responsibility component." That’s it:  what you’re looking for, why you’re looking if you're so good. If the person wants to know more, s/he'll ask. And each additional question increases the person's investment in you.

Add to your list of contacts by attending a meeting of a local chapter of your professional association, a workshop, or a conference of people in your field.

Show each contact your list of target employers (see below). If s/he knows someone with influence there, ask if s/he'd call be willing to set up a three-way meeting of introduction, ideally in-person, but skype or phone are okay. If not, ask if they'd call the person on your behalf or at least allow you to say they suggested you call.

Cylinder 3: Directly contact employers who are NOT advertising a job.

Make a list of 25-50 target employers, without regard to whether they're advertising a job. Whether or not your network gives you a contact there, use the call, email, call, call method to contact them:

Call:  After hours, leave a voicemail saying,  “I’m Harry Hotshot, I’m excited about the possibility of working for your company because _____. If you think we should talk to see how I might be able to help you or to offer advice on where I should turn, I’d love to hear from you. Here’s my phone number. I’ll be sending you my resume and a cover letter to reiterate this."

Email: As soon as you're off the phone, email a reiterating cover letter plus your resume.

Call: Seven days later, if you haven't heard from him, call again. Whether voice mail or the person, say something like, “Hi, this is Harry Hotshot. I called a week ago and haven’t heard from you. I'm assuming you're not interested but I know how things can fall between the cracks. So if you think we might get together to see how I might be of help to you or even to suggest where I might turn, I'd welcome hearing from you. Here's my number."

Call. Seven days later, if you still haven't heard from the employer, call again: “Hi this is Harry Hotshot again. I was reluctant to make this call because I don't want to be a pest, but I’m so intrigued about possibly working for you, I thought I’d call one more time. If you'd be willing to talk with me, I'd welcome it, but if not, I promise I won’t call you again. Here’s my phone number, and thanks a lot.”

That fourth phone call can make the difference---it shows you're unusually persistent, yet respectful.

Cylinder 4: Recruiters

If you are well-employed and looking to work for a competitor to your employer, contact recruiters. To find on-target ones, ask the human resources departments of target employers, "When you use a recruiter, who do you use?"

You'll note that I didn't include a "cylinder" for social media marketing---Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Other than using LinkedIn and Facebook to find names of people to put on your list of people to contact, my  clients haven't found social media marketing sufficiently helpful to justify the time, for example, in becoming active on LinkedIn groups, and certainly in Facebooking a lot.

Fire on at least three of the above four cylinders and, like many of my clients, you'll soon have reached your job search's finish line.

This article is adapted from a section from my book, How to Do Life: What they didn't teach you in school. 

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