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I have a couple friends who have been un- or under-employed for most of the past three years. In conversations and email with others in similar circumstances and with those who have found good jobs, I've arrived at a belief or understanding about the job search process in general and online job boards specifically.
Want Ads and Job Boards Are the Least Effective Method of Finding Work!
Okay, I'm lying! Not about my conclusion. I'm lying that I arrived at it recently. The conversations and email correspondence about looking for and finding meaningful work have been going on since the dotcom bust of the early 2000s. And perhaps longer than that.
My message on this particular topic has not changed and it is confirmed almost weekly through email with readers of my book and those who seek my advice on their career and their job searches.
If you want to find work more quickly, reduce the competition, and have greater leverage in the area of compensation, you need to get to the employers before they place the ads.
The Employer's Perspective
The first place to start is to understand the employer's perspective. This is not my opinion. I'm going to share with you what I learned when I was employing people, and what hundreds of other employers have shared with me and in numerous interviews before me.
A Want Ad or Job Posting Is the Last Resort and Most Frightening Place Employers Look for Talent
Think about it.
By the time employers post a want ad, they've gone through a number of other avenues to find the talent they want. How do employers prefer to find talent?
- Promote from within: Somebody inside the company. They know this person, know that they have the necessary skills, and they know the company culture and business.
- Somebody they know personally: They know of someone at another company. They know this person and know they have the necessary skills.
- A personal referral: They know the person referring the prospect and have confidence in the source of the referral.
- An employee referral: A known talent or resource refers somebody. They have confidence that the individual referring the prospect would only refer somebody that would make them look good.
After all the above methods are exhausted, when employers are now both frustrated and desperate to find a resource, they go to the open market and create a want ad or job posting.
When they do so, they realize that they will receive hundreds of applicants. They will have to review resumes, schedule first interviews, second interviews, and maybe more. They will have to do background checks and call references.
Their human resources and departmental managers will be taken off projects during this time. The hiring process, particularly through want ads and job boards, is costly both in time and money.
And yet, this is where most job seekers start their search.
In doing so, the job seeker is in competition with the greatest number of prospects and has the least amount of leverage in the process. It is much more difficult to differentiate yourself when you are lumped into such a large pool.
Meet the Prospective Employer at a More Preferred Point
The goal then should be to meet employers at a different point—somewhere earlier in the hunt for talent.
Anecdotal Example: The drummer for my band is also a machinist. He had been out of work for several weeks when he decided to simply start contacting machine shops in the area. A couple of days after starting this search, he received a call from a shop he'd sent his resume to just an hour or so prior. They called him in for an interview later that day and he was hired.
He's been there several months, loves the owner, his co-workers, and the training he is receiving. I asked him how many other people they interviewed before hiring him. His answer: "None. They had only started talking about hiring somebody new."
His competition was non-existent in this case. Just by chance, his resume came across someone's desk as they were beginning to talk about hiring someone.
The entire hiring process was less painful and time-consuming for both the employer and the employee. It was a win-win.
Keeping this in mind, let's talk about some ways that you can put yourself in a similar situation.
The first and most simple way to find the best opportunities is through effective networking. The sad truth is that when we are gainfully employed, this is the thing we neglect to do most often because we don't feel the need and we are, quite frankly, busy working.
Do not fall into this trap. Networking is a talent and it is work. But hopefully, it can be a talent and work that is enjoyable.
I don't mean to suggest you should be attending mixers and employment support groups while you are employed. Networking does not take place only at networking events. In fact, networking is something we are doing all the time, whether we choose to recognize it or not.
Networking is simply being aware of, and contributing to, the relationships around us. Whether through social media, direct connections with family or friends, professional peers, or any other acquaintances.
Notice that I mention awareness and contributing. In other articles, in my book, and in my blog, I mention my mantra, "Be Proactive! Be Positive! Add Value! Share Opportunity!"
One of the most effective ways for you to become a better networker, is the last phrase of that mantra..."Share Opportunity!" We hear about opportunities that do not match our skills or desires all the time. Be aware of these opportunities and be ready to share them with your network.
Rather than reach out to our "network" when we need to find work—a sort of desperate cry—if we have been actively sharing opportunities through our network, our request is viewed in a much different light. There will have been people who have benefited from our awareness and will be much more likely to keep us in mind and refer us into their network.
Contact Prospective Employers Before They Are Hiring
Another way to find jobs outside of want ads, and one of the most effective, is to contact employers before they ever post a job. Being more proactive, as in the previous example, gives you a great feeling of being in control of your situation. This helps your overall attitude while you look for work.
It is as if, with the advent of the Internet and online job boards, we have been trained that all opportunities and jobs are found through those means. That is simply not the case.
I will admit that many larger employers make this almost impossible. For them, networking is your key through their doors. But there are still many midsize and small companies, great opportunities in their own right, that you can directly reach out to.
I believe that you are viewed more favorably by most companies if you are proactive and reach out to them. I will go even further and suggest that personally visiting a company to drop off a generic cover letter and your resume is an excellent way to find opportunities.
Walk in the door, speak to somebody, and find out who you can follow up with. There are many business owners and managers who appreciate the direct and aggressive nature of doing exactly that.
There are several benefits to this approach.
First, you get to see inside the company first hand. Appearances can tell us something. A nice lobby, decent furniture/equipment, a friendly demeanor to those you meet... These can all be good indications of what the culture and work environment is like.
Second, you can choose where you work. I've always used this method for both finding employment and in my consulting. When I had an office in Southern California, I had several client companies within 2-3 square blocks of my company. Why? That is where I lived and wanted to work. I have no desire to win work an hour or a day's flight away. I simply focused on visiting every company in my direct geographic area often.
Third, you will find career coincidences. What is a career coincidence? That is the magical moment that happens when you drop off a resume on the same day that the business ownership or management had a conversation about hiring somebody just like you! Over time, if you visit enough companies, you are bound to have a "coincidence" or two. I put coincidence in quotes there because it is purely a matter of numbers.
Give It a Try
There are some who are intimidated by this type of direct approach. My advice: Try it first. You can be professional and direct.
Simply print some resumes and a cover letter and visit a few local businesses. Walk through the door and introduce yourself. You can say something very simple like this:
"Hello. My name is ________. I am a computer professional and am introducing myself to some local companies to find job opportunities. May I drop my resume with you? And who might I follow up with?"
That's it! Get a card and name if they offer it. If not, leave your information and move on. I would bet that a smile and professional demeanor will go a long way to helping you make some valuable connections.
Want ads and job boards are not the only place to find work and could be hindering you from finding the job you really want.