This post comes from Victoria Hudson.
T.S. Eliot’s beleaguered J. Alfred Prufrock laments that his life is measured out in coffee spoons. His disillusionment reminds me of the online job hunting experience. Search … click … repeat.
At least Prufrock had a cup of joe to show for it. There’s nothing more disheartening than submitting dozens of resumes, only to hear the same thing over and over, which is to say, nothing.
So why are you being ignored? The Wall Street Journal points to a report by CEB that says, “Companies received an average of 383 applications for every job opening they advertised in 2013.”
That’s a whole lot of clicks.
In an attempt to thwart the competition, some job seekers have responded with over-the-top schemes. You may have heard about the applicant who delivered his resume via stuffed carrier pigeon. Other job seekers have rented billboards. One woman even mailed her shoe to a prospective employer (to get her “foot in the door”).
These outrageous plots sometimes work, but they are no substitute for the hard-and-fast rules of job seeking, such as doing your research, networking and reaching out to multiple employers.
That being said, it’s sometimes necessary to step outside your comfort zone in today’s crowded job market. So how do you stand out among the masses?
Here are seven unconventional methods that are sure to get you noticed:
1. Advertise on social media
Beyond the obvious networking on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, blogs are a great way to showcase certain skill sets. Barry Deutsch of Impact Hiring Solutions told Monster.com, “A blog is a tremendous opportunity to share what you do.” He said recruiters do online searches on prospective candidates, and that an online presence can help applicants develop a brand identity.
Leaving comments on a prospective employer’s blog is also a great way to grab a hiring manager’s attention. Career Musings writer Daisy Wright shared the story of an enterprising young man who wanted to work for Microsoft. For two years, he was stymied by the online application process. That’s when he got the idea to begin commenting on Microsoft’s blogs – on any topic within his area of expertise.
Wright said that “very soon he was contacted by a Microsoft recruiter, and within 10 days of the contact, he had landed his dream job.”
Twitter enables you to connect with potential employers who may share an interest in what you do. Tweeting allows you to reach out to a broad range of prospects and interact with them in a variety of ways.
Social media allows applicants to peek inside a company’s internal workings, which can prove to be an invaluable tool. Just be aware that companies may be following your online activity as well; don’t post anything online you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see.
2. Create your own job
Scrolling through dozens of job sites is not only time-consuming, it’s inefficient. If you’re still searching for your dream job, here’s a novel idea: Why not create your own?
Teri Hockett, chief executive of women’s career site What’s for Work?, told Forbes she recommends studying your industry and targeting the companies you’d like to work for. “Then figure out their challenges though relationships or public information. With this, you can craft a solution for them that you can share directly or publicly through a blog.” She said the idea is to offer up a no-strings-attached solution.
In the best-case scenario, this approach allows you to carve out your own niche. But if a job isn’t forthcoming, this kind of goodwill helps to establish a rapport with an employer, giving you name recognition and a reference when applying for a position when it does become available.
Another tactic that falls under this category is to anticipate an opening. Many industry-specific publications, blogs and even local newspapers publish new hires, new departments, or plans for some kind of restructuring within an organization. A new hire in one organization means a departure elsewhere. So rather than wait for an advertised position, seek them out first. I know someone who nabbed a great job this way, and all it took was a little foresight and some good investigative work.
3. Bypass HR
By making your case directly to the hiring manager, or asking for someone within the organization to pass along your materials, you are ensuring that someone (with a heartbeat) is looking at your resume.
A little detective work goes a long way here. If the hiring manager is not listed, there are usually ways to find them. A colleague of mine became an expert at this. The company’s email extension is usually listed in the job advertisement, and many companies use the same format for email addresses (John Doe at XYZ Company might be “[email protected]” for example. Once you figure out the hiring manager’s name, you apply this same format and email extension).
She would then scour the company’s website for a staff list or a list of department heads. If that didn’t produce results, she would pore through association newsletters, blogs, PDF reports – anything that might give up a name. Sometimes a good old-fashioned phone call did the trick. This “backstage” access not only got her foot in the door, it gave her a leg up on the competition. She landed a great job several months later.
4. Don’t apply right away
In a Forbes interview, First Job Out of College blogger Isa Adney said the worst thing you can do is apply for a job as soon as you see an opening. “Instead, research that company and the professionals who work there, and reach out to someone at the company before you apply for the job, letting them know you admire what they do and would love their advice,” she said.
She recommended starting a dialogue with them either over the phone, or via email. She added that candidates should not mention the job opening directly. “Most likely they will personally tell you about [it] and then you can ask them about getting your application and resume into the right hands.”
Most of us wouldn’t dream of showing up unprepared for an interview, so why not invest the same amount of time on the application process? Considering the volume of resumes and the methods in which they are sorted, dodging the robotic recruiting process is a crucial step to getting eyes on your resume. Many automated tracking systems rank applicants by keyword matches and other criteria.
5. Get face time
How many times have you heard someone say they aren’t good with names, but that they never forget a face? It’s much harder to ignore a name when you attach a face to it, which is why getting your face in front of a hiring manager is another important job hunting strategy.
A video resume enables candidates to get up close and personal with a recruiter by allowing them a face-to-face encounter and a platform in which to better demonstrate certain skill sets. This is especially helpful if you are applying for a job in an industry (like sales) where you are expected to lead daily work meetings, make client pitches, and facilitate other types of presentations.
With social media, this has become easier than ever. The Wall Street Journal says one resourceful candidate submitted a YouTube video presentation that landed him an internship with Facebook. He listed “five reasons the social network should hire him, including his passion for software code and a desire to make the world a better place.”
6. Feed them
This is one unconventional job search strategy that came up time and again in my research. And it makes perfect sense, actually. I mean, who doesn’t love food?
No office-related event is complete without the requisite tray of deli sandwiches and cookies. Business meetings are often hashed out over lunch, and any goodies left in the company kitchen, from leftover Halloween candy to day-old birthday cake, usually disappear in a matter of minutes.
Leslie Hall, co-founder of New York marketing agency ICED Media, told the Journal that following an interview, a candidate once “sent a thank-you note the next day — along with pizza for the whole office.” He was hired because, she said, it demonstrated that he knew how to get someone’s attention, which was a necessity for the position for which he was applying.
While this approach may satisfy your need to stand out, your resume and abilities should hold up on their own; otherwise it can look like a bribe. In the last example, the candidate was ultimately let go for poor performance, underscoring the fact that while gimmicks may get you there, they can’t keep you there.
7. Do a tryout
New grads often despair they can’t get a job for lack of experience, and that same experience only comes in the form of a job. Those changing career paths often run into the same Catch-22.
Several years ago, a friend of mine was trying to make the leap from cable news to Capitol Hill. He had no political background and few contacts on the Hill. In the span of 18 months, he interviewed with 13 congressional offices. We often joked that he was becoming “a professional interviewer.”
Though his news-producing experience certainly lent itself to the press jobs for which he was applying, he kept running into the same roadblocks: He didn’t have any experience writing press releases and speeches.
To remedy this, he contacted a candidate for a state legislature and volunteered to help on his campaign. Among other things, he wrote press releases and prepared talking points, both of which he used to build his portfolio. Once he demonstrated his ability to do the job, the interviews got easier, and ultimately he was hired. But it took some ingenuity to overcome a frustrating obstacle in a very competitive climate.
This may fall under the traditional wisdom of “doing your homework,” and in many ways it does. But by going a step further – offering to overcome a lack of experience by doing a tryout — can be beneficial to both candidate and employer. It allows a hiring manager to see what you are capable of, and at the same time, it gives the applicant valuable insight into the job.
With his stale outlook and social paralysis, Prufrock would probably never dream of turning his resume into a giant candy bar wrapper. But don’t let your next resume be his “etherized patient” either.
In today’s competitive climate, job seekers must strike a delicate balance: Sticking with the basic rules of job hunting while finding creative ways to successfully sell yourself to a potential employer (using all of the modern tools at your disposal). Stay true to your intentions and abilities, and you will – hopefully — find a job befitting the amount of time and effort you put into getting it.
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