A job search is a marathon, not a sprint. No matter how qualified and talented you are, a job search takes time. Recruiting processes aren’t high-speed endeavors. In fact, it is a red flag to pay attention to if you move through a recruiting pipeline too quickly. That is not a good sign about the legitimacy of the organization that is rushing you through its hiring process.
Because a job search is typically a slow project and because feedback loops can be broken or nonexistent, you may not realize it quickly if your job search approach is sub-optimal.
If you run into brick walls on your job hunt, you may think there’s something wrong with your resume or your background when in fact, your resume and your background may be fantastic.
It may be the case that your that your job search strategy is broken — but if it is, how would you know?
There is no one to tell you. You can lob online applications into corporate and institutional recruiting portals for months and hear nothing back. You can’t tell on your own whether anyone even saw your application or not. Maybe they didn’t like your application, or maybe they never saw it to begin with.
Here are five job-search tactics that work very well, and five that fail completely.
Five Job Search Tactics That Work
These days you can’t go to the talent marketplace with the message “I have seven years of Marketing experience” or expect your list of Skills to impress a hiring manager. Every candidate who is competing with you for the same Marketing jobs will have the exact same list of skills that you have.
You have to go deeper and understand the Business Pain you solve for your employers. You have to know how your work has already made a difference to somebody’s bottom line, and your resume has to make that impact clear.
Every working person has the ability to solve a manager’s Business Pain, not just high-level executives. If you’re a customer service rep, you can use your resume and your LinkedIn profile to show that you solved tricky problems for high-volume customers who would have deserted your company to buy from a competitor if you hadn’t been on hand to save the day.
Your stories about your triumphs are called Dragon-Slaying Stories, and they will set you apart from other candidates from the beginning of your job search to the end. You will tell stories on job interviews and in your Pain Letters. You won’t brand yourself as just another generic job-hunting zombie, ever again!
Reaching Your Hiring Manager Directly
Your job search will be faster, more effective, and more fun when you reach out to your individual hiring managers directly with Pain Letters and your Human-Voiced Resume than it can ever be as long as you complete tedious online application forms and wait around to hear back from HR departments. HR departments don’t have any pain unless a job opening is in their own department.
They are working with many job openings at once and potentially hundreds of candidates. Who are you to them? You are no one, if we are honest. They can’t make themselves care about you the way a hiring manager in pain must care, because he or she won’t get a good night’s sleep until their job opening is filled and a brilliant value creator like you shows up to solve the manager’s pain.
Forget Black Hole automated recruiting sites and shift your job-search approach to direct contact with the people who have the pain and the authority to hire you and get some pain relief!
Using Three Or More Job Search Channels
The more job search channels you employ the more job-search activity you’ll generate. One good channel is networking. If you haven’t been an avid networker before, it’s never too late to start! You’ll begin your networking adventures by reconnecting with people you already know but haven’t seen in a while.
You’ll catch them up on your life and job search and hear about their life and career adventures, too.
As you become more comfortable networking, you’ll go to group networking events by yourself or with a friend for moral support. You’ll meet people at those events and if there’s a spark of rapport between you and them, you might invite them to get together with you for coffee. That’s how your network will grow.
Your muscles will grow at the same time. Your mojo will grow and you’ll feel more confident. At the same time, you’ll learn more and more about local employers and their business ups and downs — the very junctures where Business Pain is created and resolved.
Here are other, powerful job search channels to try:
• Your college alumni network
• Getting a consulting business card and letting your network know that you’re open to consulting gigs
• Taking on temporary and contract engagements
• Working with third-party recruiters you’ll find on LinkedIn
• Growing your visibility and credibility by blogging, podcasting and speaking in public
Shifting Your Focus From Job Ads To Target Employers
Job ads are one way to learn about a hiring manager who is experiencing Business Pain, but responding to job ads is not the whole job-search enchilada.
I recommend that you spend one-third of your available job search time and energy responding to job ads, one-third of it reaching out to target employers you have identified on your own (whether they have posted job ads or not) and the final one-third of your time and energy networking.
You can create a Target Employer List and begin reaching out to hiring managers today. You don’t have to wait until somebody posts a job ad that matches your interests and expertise.
Evolving From Job Seeker To Consultant
You will be at the mercy of organizations as long as you think about yourself and brand yourself as a job-seeker. You are not a job-seeker. You are a consultant! You can get a consulting business card for a few bucks at Vistaprint and start handing it out today. You don’t need an employer to make you whole or worthy. You are amazing all by yourself!
You’ll have fun and work your brain deciding on the range of services you want to provide to your consulting clients, an hourly or project rate to charge them, and marketing language to describe and promote your services.
I pushed each of my older kids to develop an independent business before they finished high school. One kid did landscaping work and another one is a music theory coach. Because they know how to get paid without having a traditional job, the kids have more confidence as job-seekers.
They know that they have at least one other way to make money, apart from showing up at a regular job and punching a clock. They don’t feel desperate for any employer to give them a chance. They can create income when they need it.
You can do the same thing!
Five Job Search Tactics That Don’t Work
Branding Yourself Based On Tasks and Duties
Most of us were taught to brand ourselves like this:
Results-oriented Marketing Coordinator with excellent communication and organizational skills seeks challenging Marketing position in a growing company where I can use my PR, marketing communications and project management skills.
This kind of branding puts people to sleep and worse, makes you sound like every other banana in the bunch.
You have a story that no one else on earth has ever had or ever will have. We want to hear your story more than a boring list of the exact same ‘skills’ every marketer claims! Let’s try your branding again and this time, let’s put a human voice into it:
I started my Marketing career at Angry Chocolates, where I helped build the company’s first CRM program and launch its first loyalty program. The Angry Lovers loyalty program had 11,000 members after six months and taught me how to communicate with fans, use social media to spark conversations and support local retailers with fun promotions. Now that Angry is being acquired by Nestle, I’m looking for my next challenge.
This short Human-Voiced Resume Summary packs a punch. We already know a lot about this job-seeker, who was “only” an entry-level Marketing Coordinator at Angry Chocolates but nonetheless understands a lot more about Marketing than many more senior-level people do!
This job-seeker understands why the Angry Lovers loyalty program was important and understands that a future boss wants to know what s/he’s done and how that work helped another company grow. What else would a hiring manager want to know, apart from your successes in your career so far?
Keep in mind that this job-seeker doesn’t need to worry about stuffing a resume with keywords, because a Human-Voiced Resume isn’t written for the benefit of keyword-searching software programs. It’s written to be read by a human being — your hiring manager, in fact. It’s sent through the mail directly to your hiring manager’s desk, along with your Pain Letter.
Relying Solely On Job Ads
You can’t rest your job-search hopes on replying to job ads, as more and more job-seekers are realizing every day!
Completing Online Job Applications
Online job applications are a waste of time. If you somehow make it through the recruiting sieve after completing an online job application, don’t be surprised if you don’t like the job once you get it.
Using a One-Size-Fits-All Resume
Hiring managers have pain, and your ability to grab a hiring manager’s attention rests on your ability to brand yourself as a person who understands and has dealt with your target hiring manager’s pain before. That means that every Human-Voiced Resume you send out may be customized for its specific intended reader.
You don’t have to do a lot of customization, but you can make sure that the Summary at the top of your resume reflects the particular facets of your background that most closely match the individual hiring manager you’re writing to.
Chasing Rats Down Rat Holes
One of the least effective and most frustrating job search techniques is to treat every job lead like a prized opportunity. Just because someone reaches out of the void to contact you doesn’t mean that an opportunity is worth your time and attention.
Some job leads are a waste of your time. You’ll realize that in a heartbeat when you sit down with a recruiter or hiring manager who has no idea why you are there, what job you might be applying for or even what day it is. Not everyone deserves your talents.
Not every organization that posts job ads is for real. Some of them are scammers. Some of them are lightweights.
You don’t have to chase every job lead to a conclusion. Some are better ignored. When you receive a spammy email response full of typos and misspellings or when you reply to a job ad and receive a response that tells you to immediately take an online honesty test and complete a twenty-minute questionnaire, your first question should be “Would I even want to work for these people if I got this job?”
The stronger your muscles get and the more your mojo returns to you, the less tolerance you’ll have for mistreatment at the hands of employers or recruiters. That’s a good thing! The more powerful you feel, the more effective a job-seeker — whoops, I meant Consultant! — you will be.