According to US Labor Statistics, the average American changes jobs ten to fifteen times during their career. This new norm of job-hopping means job searching is now nearly constant, and there is certainly nothing more discouraging than preparing, personalizing, and sending innumerable job applications into the internet void.

Stop churning out online applications and talk to people instead!

Your parents have likely told you at some point to “go in there and ask for a job.” They’re not wrong. The traditional approach means rather than churning out online resumes, make an effort to connect with people. If you anticipate hiring needs and connect with the right people, your name will be at the forefront when the next opening comes up.

Background: Understand the Hiring Process

Think of the hiring process as a clock.

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From noon to 1 o’clock everything seems to be humming along fine in the organization. By 2 o’clock the organization is beginning to perceive that it has some problems. Work is piling up on someone’s desk. Customers are complaining about slow response time. You get the idea.

At 3 o’clock a suggestion is made in a staff meeting to hire a person with expertise in project management, data analysis, or sales support. By 4 o’clock the need has become so obvious that a committee is appointed to define what kind of help is really required. It takes until 5 o’clock to come up with job specifications and get the money approved. By 6 o’clock the job specifications are sent to human resources.

It’s now 7 o’clock and HR has finally developed a classified ad or given the job specifications to a campus placement office. Quite a few resumes come in, but it takes until 8 o’clock to identify a few candidates who seem strong enough to be called in for interviews with the hiring manager.

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By 9 o’clock it’s clear that none of the four candidates selected is exactly what the hiring manager had in mind, so the job specifications are sent to a recruiter, who produces some better-qualified candidates. Now it’s 10 o’clock, but it takes until 11 o’clock to conduct interviews, make the choice, negotiate terms, and get the person started. At midnight, the new hire is up to speed and productive. Then the cycle starts again.

When you apply on publicly available job openings, you’re (literally) entering the process quite late in the day, somewhere around 7-11pm.

The aim when job searching should be to enter the hiring process as early in the cycle as possible.

Get Your Sleuthing Hat On

To get in front of decision makers sooner, when I was last job searching I decided on a targeted approach in which I identified postings of interest and cold-emailed people who previously held the job I was targeting (maybe they got promoted or moved to a different department). This takes a fair amount of LinkedIn sleuthing, but the time invested is more than worth it.

I would then send this person a quick email with a blurb about me and a paragraph about why I would be a good fit for their organization. Close by asking for their help (this is key) to learn more about their role and the work of their company in a short phone call. This gets your name out there and shows your interest and proactivity. Thankfully, I have yet to receive a response declining this type of request.

DO NOT attach your resume when emailing your person of interest. They likely cannot make hiring decisions and if they can, will think you’re trying to flout the system by bypassing HR entirely.

On this call, you have a chance to impress this person with some well thought-out questions. Ask about their career path, experience with the company and industry, and about the job role you are interested in. Listen carefully for red flags like long work hours, ineffective supervisors or toxic workplace culture.

Meet Modern Expectations, Too

In most cases, you will still need to prepare an application and submit it via online channels. The difference is following-up every online application with a personalized email to an actual person. Again, you’ll need to do some LinkedIn research to find the position that supervises the posted job (ideally you’ll have done this in advance and addressed your application to this person).

Once more, fire-up your email and send them a message with a paragraph about you as well as why you’re a good fit for the posting. Attach your application package and mention that you’ve applied on the company website but wanted to reiterate your enthusiasm and interest in the role.

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I’ve had mixed results with this technique because these are busy people. You may not get a response but hopefully, that person read your resume, was blown away by your cover letter, and immediately phoned HR saying “I want to interview this rockstar!”

Putting a traditional spin on modern job searching will help you stand out from the competition and get the job you deserve.

Do you have any job search wisdom? Share it in the comments!

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