Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What Can You Do When Nothing's Working in Your Job Search?

What can you do if nothing’s working in your job search? Change your search….

I talked to a candidate today who was frustrated. He’d been job searching for about a year, and he was getting nowhere. He’d sent 1,000 resumes, and had gotten just five face-to-face interviews….a response rate of ½%

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I asked a few more questions to learn that he sent about 950 resumes to recruiters, and about 50 directly to ads.

I asked what he thought he should do differently in his search. He responded “Send more resumes? Maybe hiring will improve next year.”

Wow…this poor guy is sending over 2.5 resumes per day, 7 days a week, and his answer is send more.

Send more resumes is the answer if you’re sending less than 10 resumes, maybe 20 resumes per month. He was already sending 85 resumes per month. This reminds me of a piece I wrote last year called The Definition of Insanity quoting Albert Einstein….I figure a really smart guy like Einstein might have some interesting things to say, so I quoted him.

When your job search strategy isn’t working…why not change your strategy?

This is the toughest job market in our lifetime. The Department of Labor just released figures that show there are 6 times more unemployed than open jobs.

It’s easy to blame poor job search results on the economy. But it won’t get you anywhere.

Why not try a tougher alternative? Why not try changing your activities, rather than just increasing them? I’m not saying it’s easy and it may push you from your comfort zone. But it’s probably more effective than complaining about the job market, and doing more of the same old thing. How about working smarter?

This guy had a basic problem…he was chasing after jobs the same way everyone else is. It’s an easy approach, because we’re all used to it. We were taught this approach early in our career, often when we graduated school. For many of us, we sent resumes in to jobs advertised in the paper (or online), and sent resumes to recruiters. It’s a passive way to search for a job and one that emotionally protects us from direct rejection.

Some others take a slightly more active, but still flawed approach – they drop in to HR offices and ask to speak with a HR representative, without an appointment, dropping off a resume and asking if the company is hiring. It’s how our parents looked for jobs, so it should be good enough for today. Again, it’s something we’re used to, so it’s within our comfort zone…just not very effective.

The problem with all of these approaches is they target the advertised job market, when 80% of jobs are unadvertised (maybe more…I saw an article that quoted CNN saying 95%, but I haven’t found the source).

The unadvertised job market has much less competition, and gives the candidate a much greater chance to differentiate themselves against the competition…because in the unadvertised job market, the candidate designs the job.

The problem is that most candidates don’t know how to approach the unadvertised market, because it’s not easy…but it can be very effective.

Suggested 2010 strategy change - Here are four steps you can take to move your job search into the unadvertised market:
  1. Create a target list of at least 20 companies that have specific problems that your unique skills can solve better than anyone else. The key word is unique. Don’t focus on what you could do, one of the 15 things you’re qualified to do, or what you could learn to do. Instead, focus on problems you’ve already solved before and that you can solve better than anyone else.

  2. Find multiple contacts to talk to at each target company, the closer to the specific problem the better. Use your in-person contacts, Linkedin network, alumni networks, etc. to find people to talk to.

  3. Don’t send this contact your resume, or even talk about a job – instead just talk to them, find out what’s going on inside their company, and learn more about the specific problems that you can solve. Learn who this problem impacts, how it impacts the company, and how much it’s worth to the company to have it solved. If your contact doesn’t know the answers, keep networking until you find someone who does. Use other job search espionage tactics outlined in Guerrilla Job Search.

  4. Create a customized resume that clearly shows how you’ve already solved the problems this company has today, and how much money you made for your past employer by solving it. Email your resume – without a cover – to the hiring manager. Call the hiring manager the next day to set up an appointment to talk about this company’s specific problem. If you can’t reach the hiring manager, over the next two weeks, Fed Ex a hard copy resume for morning delivery - and call that afternoon for an appointment.

The major difference with this approach is that you’re not looking for a job – you’re looking for a problem, defining the solution (you), presenting a strong ROI, and making yourself the only candidate for a job that’s not advertised.

Yes, this approach is tougher, because it will take you out of your comfort zone. But you’ve got to admit….you’ll see a whole lot less competition that you would through job boards and recruiters.

Are you going to give this a try in 2010? Or will you stay the course, and blame the rotten economy?

It’s your choice...

Executives exploring Career Change: For a free 30 minute resume consultation, or career advice for executives, email your resume confidentially to reCareered (, and we'll schedule a time to talk.

Staff, Managers, Entrepreneurs, and career changers outside the US: Send your resume to to enroll in a free group teleseminar "Accelerate Your Job Search - tools you can use".


Related Articles:
Networking Wedding Crashers – Be the Only One Like You in the Room
Other articles about how to change your job search

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TJ said...

Sounds easy when you have connections and work experience. But when you're a recent graduate with only a degree and internship experience, it's a lot harder. The job market for recent graduates is brutal. The jobs that should be intended for them are being taken by more experienced workers who have lost their jobs and are willing to work at lower pay.

Phil Rosenberg said...

TJ, No one said it was going to be easy, because it's not...I said as much in the article. However, taking the more difficult path of networking and finding hiring managers makes your search far more productive.

Anonymous said...

I've read many, many articles but this one nails it with positive action. Well done and thank you.

AnciersForYou said...

Well written, well done.