Nearly everyone dreams about a job that would feed the soul while paying the bills.
But what if your dream company never seems to be hiring? What if every time you log onto its career page, a blank screen stares back at you?
Ivan Misner, a pioneer in the field of networking and founder of the personal business referral organization BNI, says not to be deterred. “If it’s a successful business, they are going to have jobs,” he says. For the past 30-plus years, Misner has helped people land those unadvertised jobs. He says the process requires time and effort but is completely doable.
Here’s how to land a job even if the company isn’t hiring.
Clean up your social media
This should go without saying regardless of whether you are undertaking a traditional job search or looking for an unadvertised position. Scrub social media accounts of questionable behavior and double-check your friends’ photos to see where you are tagged.
“Drunken debauchery is never good to see on social media,” says Misner, who recalls seeing one person’s Facebook page so peppered with “F words” that he couldn’t imagine who would want to hire the individual in question. “Is this the kind of behavior [they want] brought into the workplace?”
Skip the HR department, and network instead
The human resources department may seem like the logical place to pitch yourself to a company, but Misner says to think again. “HR is constantly bombarded,” he explains.
Rather than pitching yourself to the hiring manager, a better strategy is to network and find a personal connection within the company. Even someone who works at the firm in a different capacity can make introductions and open doors that lead to your dream job.
Start networking with friends, then move to acquaintances
In today’s online world, not all friendships are created equal. Misner says job seekers should begin by talking to family and friends with whom they have an active relationship. After making those connections, move on to the Facebook friends you haven’t seen in years or LinkedIn acquaintances that have been long dormant.
For maximum effectiveness, Misner recommends making a personal contact with each individual. “I don’t recommend spamming someone with an email,” he says. Pick up the phone or invite the person out to coffee or lunch instead.
What’s more, don’t assume someone can’t help you if they work for a different company or in another industry. Misner points to the theory of “Dunbar’s number,” named for anthropologist Robin Dunbar. According to Dunbar, people can comfortably maintain up to 150 social relationships. That means networking with one person has a reach far beyond that single individual. “If I’m talking to one person, I’m actually talking to 150 people,” Misner says.
Attend industry events with networking potential
Sometimes personal connections will only get you so far. Attending industry events such as conferences and expos is another way to meet those who can help get your foot in the front door at a dream company. “You go to wherever they are, whenever possible,” Misner says of finding those with the right business connections.
Once you find someone who works for the company, ditch the elevator pitch. Instead, comment on what a fantastic company it is and ask if the person would know how someone interested could get a job there. Then, listen to the answer. “Shut up and don’t sell,” Misner says. At this point in the game, you’re gathering information for your next move. “Networking is more about farming than hunting,” according to Misner.
Do your homework
As you circulate through these networking events, speak the language of the participants. “When you’re talking to somebody, if you use their lingo, that has you stand out,” Misner says.
Not only should you research the company and industry trends, but you also should have a good grasp on the background of anyone from the company you’ll be contacting directly. Likewise, do your homework on anyone who will be interviewing you.
Read their online bios, check out their LinkedIn pages and understand which professional experiences brought them to their current position. Not only is having this knowledge a good way to show you’re serious about the position, but you also may find some shared interests and background that can be helpful in furthering your conversation.
Clearly articulate what you can offer the company
Misner says the No. 1 mistake people make is coming across as desperate. “Desperation is not referable,” he says. “You have to go into it with confidence.”
Understand the company’s needs and be ready to explain why you can fill them. This is especially important if you’re told that a firm is not currently hiring. Your follow-up can then be to ask, “Do you have anyone who can do X?” If the answer is no, fill them in on your specialty. This approach doesn’t mean a job will magically materialize for you, but it could keep you at the forefront of an employer’s mind when it is time to hire.
Offer to do a working interview
When you finally make the right connections and get called in for the job interview, Misner suggests offering to a do a working interview instead. “Do something they need to have done for the day,” he explains. “It’s a great technique to use. It shows interest.”
Although not an option at all companies, a working interview can be a win-win. An employer gets to see you in action, and you have a chance to test the waters at the firm. If feasible, Misner says, extending a working interview over a few days can provide an excellent test run of a position before committing to a job.
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