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Virtual job boards such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder, and even LinkedIn have brought massive scale to the employment search market. These sites allow job seekers to search for and apply to positions within minutes. It is not unheard of to apply to 20 jobs in an hour. That’s amazing.

However, while you may think this technological revolution is making life easier it is actually making you more of a faceless statistic whose odds of landing the job you want are nearing the odds of winning the lottery. For every 1 job posting companies receive approximately 250 resumes. Those resumes are then usually put through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that searches for key words in an effort to identify the “best” candidates. About 25 resumes, or 10%, will then be reviewed by hiring managers and maybe 4-6 will be invited for an interview. Finally, 1 person will receive an offer. That means your odds of receiving an offer for the job you found on the job board are 0.4%.

“Everyone wins…except you the job seeker.”

On top of all of this, many companies are starting to use artificial intelligence to match the “best” candidates with the company’s preferred background, personality, and whatever else they dream up.

All of this is great for the hiring companies, the job sites, and the companies building artificial intelligence applications. The hiring companies are able to ensure that their open positions are seen by as many people as possible and then can screen hundreds or thousands of resumes instantly. The job sites continue to drive traffic which means they can charge those companies more money. And the technology providers, like artificial intelligence creators, get their name mentioned in tech blogs and get to raise money from Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

Everyone wins…except you the job seeker. You have lost all power and been reduced from John Jones the hardworking self-starter with unique experience to Applicant #139. You’re a minnow in a big ocean.

The good news is I have a way to restore your power and help you cut the 250 person line that the job boards make you stand in.

#1 Screw and Abuse the Job Sites

That’s right, screw them. In fact, screw them and abuse them. We’ve already established that your odds of landing a job found on the job sites are 0.4% in most cases. So why keep banging your head against a brick wall? It’s time to flip the script and abuse the job sites.

Job sites are only good for two things:

  • Finding open positions
  • Hedging your bets

I won’t deny that job sites are the best platform to find thousands of open positions. They are great for that. It’s what happens once you apply to the job that minimizes you the job seeker. So, let’s use it for what it’s good for, and that is to identify who is hiring and what positions they are hiring for.

Scan the jobsites and make a list of the positions you are interested in. Also, if provided, make a list of the individuals that posted the position or those who are listed as the primary point of contact. You are then going to use this information in the next step in the process below.

Before we move on, we are not going to completely abandon the job sites. Our goal is to use them, not let them use us. We are just going to reduce them from 100% of our effort to about 10%. Instead of using them as our primary means of job seeking we are now simply using them as a hedge.

Choose 10 positions that are of real interest to you and apply to them. This should take you very little time and, again, this is simply to hedge our overall strategy. The odds of catching a fish are minimal but it doesn’t hurt to throw a few lines in the water, so long as we don’t depend on this method alone for our food.

Now grab your list of open positions and move on to the next step.

#2 Get to the Source

If you want water, go to the well. In other words, cut out the middle man. It’s the same with landing the job you want. You need to go to the source.

“HR is the devil.”

We already cut out one middleman in the job sites and now we are going to cut out the next middleman – HR. HR is the devil. They are essentially gatekeepers who never did the job you are applying for yet somehow feel qualified to tell you that you are not qualified for that job.

Speaking to them is like speaking to the human version of the Applicant Tracking System. They have no real idea of what the job entails and don’t care much to look for real qualifications beyond the black and white. They are simply checking boxes on a piece of paper as they talk to you. “Does he/she have 3-5 years experience? Check! Has he/she sold into technology companies with 100 – 500 employees in the 100 mile radius outside of the Chicago area? No, they sold to companies with 100 – 500 employees in only a 50 mile radius. Sorry, you’re out!”

It’s a waste of breath. You need to skip HR and go to the source.

So who is the source? It is the hiring manager, meaning the person who you will eventually work for. They are the person who knows what they are looking for because they have done the job and they can actually make a decision. This is the person we need to get to.

Nowadays, with LinkedIn, we can find the source fairly easily. First, type in the position you are interested in into LinkedIn plus the company name. For example, if you are interested in an Account Executive position at Acme company you would type “Account Executive Acme”. This will pull up a list of people that work in the job that you want to work in at the company you want to work at.

(Before we move to the true source I want to point out that it is also great to reach out to these people. They are doing the job you want to do and know the ins and outs. They can tell you what the job is like, what it’s like to work for the company, and how to prep for an interview. They also can get you access to the source, the hiring manager, if you are not able to do so yourself. So make sure to connect with them.)

When looking at the LinkedIn pages of the people doing the job you want, the Account Executives in the example above, you will navigate to the right of the screen to the section labeled “People also viewed”. This is a great place to start digging in to find the decision maker (i.e. the boss). If you don’t know the exact title associated with the boss, look for terms like “Manager”, “Director”, or “Vice President”. The person you are looking for may not appear on the first person’s “People also viewed” section so you might have to dig a bit by clicking on different people and then using their “People also viewed” section. Another great alternative is to simply use the search function and type the company name and the titles I just listed above, such as “Acme Vice President of Sales”.

One of these two methods should identify the person you are looking for. If for any reason it does not, try a general Google search. You can also cold call the company itself and ask for the Vice President of Sales. If one of these methods doesn’t work then the person either has zero internet presence or, more likely in the year 2017, you aren’t searching hard enough.

#3 Contact the Decision Maker

Now that you have identified the decision maker you need to get to them. Gaining access is the most difficult part of any sales job. And make no mistake, searching for a job is a sales job. You are selling the easiest product you will ever sell – yourself.

If the person you are trying to reach is truly a decision maker it means he/she is most likely extremely busy and, therefore, difficult to reach. This means that there is a real risk of you being buried in the white noise that fills his/her voicemail and email.

There are tricks that you can use to break through the noise such as sending him/her a physical package via Fedex or attending an event that he/she is scheduled to speak at. I absolutely recommend these types of outside the box approaches. However, the only real tried and true methods are persistence and follow up.

You are most likely not going to connect with this person on your first try, or even your second, third, or fourth. It will most likely take you ten or more reach outs across various channels (phone calls, email, packages, etc.). That means you need to be aggressive in your reach out efforts, although not to the point of being suffocating and annoying.

3 calls per day is suffocating and annoying. 3 calls per week is persistent. I recommend the following approach:

  • Day 1 = Phone call
  • Day 2 = Email
  • Day 3 = Nothing
  • Day 4 = Phone call and email
  • Day 5 = Phone call
  • Day 6 = Nothing
  • Day 7 = Email
  • Day 8 = Phone call and email
  • Day 9 = Send physical letter in a Fedex that will arrive on his/her desk (make sure it arrives same day)
  • Day 10 = Phone call and email

Some people might look at this and say it is too aggressive. Those people suck so don’t listen to them. If you want something, you need to go after it harder than the next person.

“The key is, don’t give up. Keep calling and emailing until they respond.”

If you are persistent and do everything possible to get in front of them then one of two things is going to happen: They will either say “This person is a pain in the ass, I am going to meet with them so that they stop calling me” or “Wow, this person is persistent. That’s the type of person we want here. I am going to meet with them”.

Either way you get to meet with them. Mission accomplished!

The key is, don’t give up. Keep calling and emailing until they respond. And if their response is that they don’t want to meet with you, call and email them twice as much. Maybe you’ll piss off one or two people. So what? No one ever got anywhere by sitting on the sidelines and waiting for something great to happen. I guarantee that more people will be impressed by your persistence and be willing to take a shot on you.

If you follow these steps, you will skip the line and get to the decision maker. After that, it’s simply up to you to “close the deal”. I’ll talk about that in a future blog post soon.