04 November, 2013

Use This Little Known Fact To Increase Your Job Seeking Odds

I recently resigned from the Kanawha County Workforce Investment Board but I have not resigned from being a recovering headhunter, "career night panelist", newspaper employment writer or jobseeker workshop presenter so I occasionally like to offer job seeking advice - which occasionally means exploding some of the myths about job-seeking.

One of those myths is the one that says "Jobseeking is a numbers game - the more resumes you send and the more interviews you go on the higher your chances of getting a job."

It's a half-truth. Yes, of course, sending out more resumes increases your odds but what the "numbers game" advocates don't address is this: if you're sending your resumes to strangers instead of people you already know, you're still playing a low percentage game no matter how many resumes you send. 

Let me reveal one of those counterintuitive headhunter facts that most headhunters don't want to admit and human resources directors work very hard to conceal: while it's not impossible to get a job with a company to which you are not already networked in some way, most companies hire very few total strangers so your odds of getting hired go way up if you focus on places where you have some sort of an "in". It doesn't matter if that connection is a weak  one. 

Let this fact sink in: companies paid me ridiculous fees to bring them people to whom they were already networked and could have "found" on their own without my services. In fact, in all the years I charged ridiculous fees to "find" managers or VPs or sales reps or whatever for clients, I never placed a total stranger with a client; turns out, every candidate I placed was already networked to the client in some way and that client could have "found" this candidate on their own and saved the 5 figure fee they paid me.

So let's backward engineer this and see how every jobseeker can learn how to play the high percentage game of getting hired by people in your network instead of the low percentage game of trying to get hired by total strangers. 

Companies have a very, very strong bias for hiring people from their own networks. Remember what I said: in all my years of charging outrageous fees for "finding" people my clients could have found in their own networks if they tried, I never placed one candidate in a company where he didn't already have a connection - somebody he went to college with but hadn't seen in 15 years or somebody who is friends with a friend. 

Somebody you already know is more likely to hire you or introduce you to your next boss than is a total stranger who gets your resume via internet. On a recent radio talk show job-seeking expert, David Rawles, underscored the point that a very low percentage of new hires happen as a result of job-seekers scouring the internet for a new job. 

Your time is better spent within your own existing network of friends, relatives and acquaintances. Especially acquaintances. In fact, the odds of being introduced to your next boss or even being hired by someone you don't know well are higher than your odds of being helped by a close friend because you have so many acquaintances. You may only have an inner circle of a dozen or so people but you may have hundreds of colleagues, former co-workers, old college buddies and casual acquaintances who can introduce you to your next boss. 

So this week instead of playing the low percentage game of sending resumes to strangers, play this high percentage game instead: make a list of everybody you know from anywhere and start systematically and exhaustively contacting each one and asking them who they can introduce you to who might need to hire a person with your skills, knowledge and experience. Make sure your acquaintances know what you do. don't give 'em job titles, give 'em a description of the things you do and have done. Don't say "I'm a business analyst". The only people who know what a business analyst does are other business analysts. Instead, describe the work you do. Here's an example: I have a friend who is a business analyst and when he's trying to explain what he does all day he tells people he figures out the business case for laying people off and reducing head count and replacing this work with contractors or outsourcing. Grim, but descriptive and, as he says, if he doesn't do it somebody else will.

By the way, it's best to have this conversation over lunch or coffee, eyeball to eyeball, instead of via email or even phone. That way, you can see it in their face when you've said something they understand.
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