When out of work, many job-seekers’ first instinct is to go straight to online job boards. When you consider the sheer number of job boards out there, and the amount of people trolling them, it’s easy to feel like you’re lost in a crowd of well-qualified applicants, long before you actually upload your resume and hit “submit.”
“Once a job is posted online, the company is going to receive anywhere from 200 to 1,000 applications,” says Donald Asher, the author of the new book, Cracking the Hidden Job Market: How to Find Opportunity in Any Economy. “You can win in a stack of eight to 10, but not in a stack of 1000.”
The key, Asher says, is connecting with people at the work-unit level before they decide to expand.
“It’s easier than ever to make those connections and reach out to strangers,” says Asher, so don’t rely solely on tired job-searching tactics. “Telling someone to join their college’s alumni group is like telling someone to shine their shoes before they go to a meeting,” says Asher. “It’s common sense, and it’s not enough anymore.”
The information in Asher’s book is for the job-seeker that has tried all of the “common sense” approaches and still can’t find work. Here are a few of the tips he offers.
- Write an ‘I’m On the Market’ Speech
“Part of being a careerist is coming out to your inside circle,” says Asher. “Many people are reluctant to admit that they’re on the market, but they have to get past that.”
One of Asher’s clients hadn’t shared with his closest friends that he was seeking a new job for more than a year after being out of work — and a number of them worked in his industry. After telling them his situation, he re-launched his job search, and ultimately landed a job in his field at his desired pay rate, through an introduction made by his golf buddy.
“Sharing your employment status is simply not optional,” says Asher.
- Start a ‘Stone Soup Club’
“This is literally a potluck that you set up with people in your industry, at your level, and unemployed or job-seeking,” says Asher. If you got laid off with a number of your colleagues, or have friends of friends in the business who are in a similar situation, that’s the perfect place to start. “No one wants to socialize across socioeconomic lines,” says Asher.
The barriers to entry? A food item, and a handful of job leads that aren’t right for you, but might suit someone else in the club. Set up the meeting for a Friday afternoon, says Asher: “No one is going to get a job on a Friday afternoon, so you’re not taking away from your job search.”
- Get Past Screening Software
While it’s still valuable to include a few of the key skills listed in a job description within the text of your resume, Asher says that resume screeners have upped the ante on search terms. “No one searches for ‘good manager,’” he says.
Take postings apart, look for unusual words, and put those in your resume. And don’t stop there. Everything from competitors’ names to zip codes are fair game, as long as you’re creative about working them in.
For example, if you’re in California looking for a job in Miami, call up your long-lost cousin that lives in the Sunshine State and ask for permission to borrow their address for your resume. It’s tricky, but inserting a simple “care of” before the address can make an exclusive search for local candidates work in your favor.
- Don’t Hate on Temp Work
“The contingent work force is now, measurably, 10% of all employment,” says Asher. “Take those part-time, temporary, and contract assignments seriously — about a third of newly created jobs are contingent when they’re first created.”
If you take a temp job that the company decides should be a permanent position, and you’ve done a good job, chances are the company will save themselves the manpower and resources for a talent search, and ask you if you’re willing to stick around on a longer-term basis. Money from a temp staffer’s paycheck isn’t any less green than money from a full-timer’s.
- The Postcard Technique
If you have a few extra dollars you’re willing to invest in your search, Asher suggests utilizing the postal service. Write a letter to the companies you’d like to apply to — describe yourself and what your career goals are — and send it in an envelope with an addressed, pre-paid, personalized postcard inside. (That’s right, no resume.)
On the postcard, give the recipient three options: send the postcard back with their contact information; send the postcard back with the contact information of a colleague who can best help you; or send it back with a dismissal — which, Asher says, is still a positive. You know not to waste any more time trying to connect.
- Send an Updated Resume
Another of Asher’s clients developed a list of 400 executives in her field, found their e-mail addresses, and sent her resume to all of them. Two weeks later, she followed up from her initial e-mail with a second one, leading with “I have updated my resume since we last had contact.”
“I would never advise anyone to tell a lie,” says Asher — and while her change was minimal at best (she added or removed her middle initial), the principle is an excellent one. If you take on a new project, think of a way that would strengthen the wording of your past experience, or finish up a temp assignment, add it to your resume, and send it out. Within a few weeks of her project, Asher’s client had gained a wealth of new connections, leads, and interviews from people who started to believe they knew her personally.
- The Three-Shot E-mail System
Most job-seekers have probably felt the disappointment from getting no response to an e-mail. Asher advises to be persistent.
“If you’re willing to e-mail people once, you should be willing to e-mail them at least three times,” he says. The system goes as follows: E-mail them. Wait three days, and e-mail them again. Wait four days, and re-work the subject line: “Dr. Wilson, I may not have an accurate e-mail address for you….”
Still no response? Assume you have the wrong e-mail address. Find a new one, and try, try again.