Where do you find most of the jobs you apply to? If your answer is Indeed, LinkedIn, and the like, you may not be going deep enough. Don’t limit yourself to what you find on job boards. You’ll find yourself arriving days late to the party for some listings and even missing out on openings that just aren’t advertised online.
If you’re not finding relevant job listings at companies you love, begin reaching out directly to them. This is an important step in the job search process because most jobs aren’t ever listed by companies. So find where you can be helpful or where you fit into a role you can carve for yourself at a company, and be there before the hiring manager has the time to get a job listing up.
Here’s how to get started:
Make yourself a master list
Before you do anything, it’s important to build yourself a list of target companies. Go through your 5-10 favorite companies – ones that you’re a loyal customer of, ones that you admire, or ones that you could just imagine yourself working at. These companies will be the baseline of your list.
Then look at similar companies – competitors you find interesting, companies in the same industry, or even companies that are clients of the ones already on your list. Keep expanding your list until you get to a point where you feel like you have enough outreach targets. Top off the list with direct points of contact, LinkedIn profiles, and email addresses for later outreach.
Pro tip: If location is an issue with many of the companies, remember that remote and flexible work is becoming more and more common as technology continues to bridge communication gaps and make long-distance working easier.
Network with employees
Once you’re comfortable with your list, start using it as an opportunity to learn. Even if a team you’d love to join isn’t hiring people with your skillset, there are people there that are vocal and always happy to help others trying to learn and succeed in that field. And along the way, you’ll learn to understand their pain points and where you can fit in with your skills.
Start by finding a person on the team - someone in a position you want to be in at a later stage in your career - and reach out to them with a cold email or via LinkedIn. In the message, briefly talk about something you want to chat with them about. Maybe it’s a great email marketing campaign they ran that you’d like to learn more about. Or maybe it’s an article they wrote, and you want to continue the conversation. Do your research and make the message directly relevant to them.
Lead a conversation, ask smart questions, and add value by providing your input and feedback. Develop rapport with the individual, begin to understand how their team functions and what’s missing, and figure out how to position yourself as a potential asset. Later on, when you apply and your name comes up for consideration, there will be someone on the team you can reach out to who will recognize you and have good things to say. You may even create a lasting relationship with that person, resulting in them referring you for a role.
Join talent networks
Next, it’s time to join company talent networks. Some companies have full-fledged systems allowing you to submit your resume and cover letter to an applicant tracking system, while others have a simple careers email address you can reach out to.
Submit your information through the system as you would a normal application, with a resume and cover letter catered to the fact that you’re reaching out for future consideration, should an opening come up. Hiring plans change rapidly. Often, recruiters will look through their talent networks before even posting the job online, so being in that system is a great first step.
Pro tip: Make sure your resume and correspondence is easily discoverable, whether it’s sent through an ATS or an email, by adding relevant keywords for your profession. This way, when there is a need for a person with your skills, your details can be found with a simple keyword search.
Connect with a recruiter
An important step of a multi-pronged plan of attack in approaching companies is to connect with in-house recruiters. Many in-house recruiters have specific job verticals they are responsible for, so make sure that you find the right one for you. A software engineer, for example, should find a technical recruiter. A marketer could reach out to a marketing, sales, or creative recruiter. Find the right one for your background, and if a specialized one doesn’t exist, reach out to a general recruiter.
Once you find the right recruiter at a company on LinkedIn, connect with them or send them an InMail inquiring about a position. Mention that you hadn’t seen a relevant opportunity but wanted to be considered should one open up. Talk about the value you can add to the company, how your experience measures up, and why you admire the company and want to work there.
Recruiters are always looking to augment their talent pipeline. Finding great candidates is no easy task, and ones that take initiative in reaching out even when there isn’t a relevant opening can make a strong first impression.
Pro tip: Nurture the relationships you form with the recruiters that respond to you. Follow up with them every 3-4 weeks about both the progress of your job search and to ask for updates. And if you find a relevant job opening, reach out to the recruiter either just before or immediately after you apply.
Business needs change regularly, especially with high growth companies or in high turnover industries. Even if you don’t see the right job for you on a company’s careers page, that doesn’t mean they don’t or won’t need you. Most other candidates won’t bother reaching out to companies that don’t have jobs for them. Reaching out at this time is a great tactic to sneak your way to the top of the pile.