Other Strategies for Finding a Job
By Roy J. Blitzer
Author of Hire Me, Inc.
Targeted mailings, cold calling, job fairs, and occasionally other strategies work for some job seekers. Yet, only 5 to 15 percent of job seekers find positions using these strategies, so be mindful of how much time and energy you put into each. Any direct mail marketing campaign, for example, is considered successful if it generates from a 1 to 3 percent response (each batch of 100 letters yielding 1 to 3 replies). To get significant results from this strategy, you need to limit your expectations; even if you mail to hundreds of organizations, your response rate may be even lower than the industry average. Your goal is to meet someone who will talk to you when there is no open position.
To be effective in a targeted mailing, choose the person you hope to report to or think is the key decision maker. If you correspond with someone much above or below the job level you seek, your letter could be forwarded directly to human resources for filing in the future reference drawer -- and never be read. (Job seekers have a special term for this place: the black hole, where all errant resume mailings go to oblivion. One industrious job applicant I know engaged in the great folly of addressing 700 resumes "To Whom It May Concern." How many people do you think ever read his resume? Oh well, at least he made the Post Office happy; many of his envelopes were sent via Next Day Air delivery.)
Compose a cover or marketing letter that will distinguish you and showcase your best abilities to contribute. Make your comments interesting, relevant, and creative, for example, "Resumes can't talk, but I can. I'm eager to speak to you about . . ." Then, follow up each targeted mailing with a phone call. Wait about two to three days after your mailing to call to be sure the letter has arrived; it is embarrassing to call too early and appear to be a pest, or too late and learn the letter got passed on to the black hole. Also practice some of the techniques presented here.
Mail your letters in batches of no more than 20 letters at a time. Remember your goal is an in-person interview, and there is no need to mail more inquiries than you can effectively track for timely follow up.
Most of your job search communication will be by phone. Here's where you get to be a phone fan like your teenager. Your goal is a face-to-face meeting or interview, and applying the phone strategy well will increase your number of interviews. Remember, you are competing for your contact's attention with many others who are selling -- real estate agents, stockbrokers, bankers, and other job seekers. Of course, telemarketing has a poor reputation, conjuring up images of frenzied callers interrupting dinners and barking about overzealous bargains. Nevertheless, in the pursuit of new work, effective telemarketing is a critical part of your marketing campaign.
To be effective, plan what you want to say, as you would any important telephone conversation.
- Develop a script and rehearse it, in front of a mirror, if possible.
- Craft a sequential list of meaningful questions, beginning with the most important. Ask questions that can actually be answered; people won't respond well to long, imposing, or confusing questions.
- Verify your research so you are knowledgeable and informed. Also, do your homework on the background of the person you're going to talk with, noting any special accomplishments to bring up, if that is appropriate, in the conversation.
- Relax and take some deep breaths. Even Olympic weight lifters do this before making a move!
- Mention your contact's name with your greeting.
- Check if it's a good time for the other to talk.
- Prepare answers for objections.
- Stay cheerful and focused on your objective.
- Take notes and listen carefully (confirm some facts if necessary).
- Ask specifically for what you want.
- Write down your follow-up steps -- and follow up on them.
- Meet your commitments, that is, don't assent to something you can't provide.
- Compose and send your thank-you note on the same day.
With cold calling, you do not always know the name of the right person to contact. You need to do your research and bypass the voice mail system by learning the names and numbers of assistants who can refer your call directly to a preferred contact. To find the correct name, try the company's main number first, and ask the operator for the name of the vice president of human resources or the manager of customer service. If the above information is unavailable, and sometimes it truly is, ask to be transferred directly to the specific department and learn the name of the department head. Verify the correct name spelling and address. If you're unsure about the gender of a name -- like Carol, perhaps -- or only have the first initial, make sure you learn the person's gender, too.
If you are working through a company phone directory, experiment using a catch phrase, such as, "I have some correspondence with Brent Nichols -- is he still your manager of customer service?" Try to get the name of your target's support person and use it if you can, too. Be clear and distinct when you give your name and number and alert her that you will be calling back. Your tone should be patient, courteous, and upbeat.
Finally, to increase your chances of talking to your target when you telephone, call during business off-hours: early in the morning, right before lunch, or late in the day. Your target is most likely to be at his desk then, not away at a meeting.
Practice your voice mail reply so that it is both brief and inclusive. Provide a time when you'll be available for a return call and leave your message citing your number slowly and distinctly. You've encountered fast talkers, not all of them selling used cars or leading an auction, so you can imagine how annoyed your contact will be if you leave a hasty voice mail that has to be played twice to hear the message correctly.
For incoming calls, be sure you have a quiet room set aside to talk, including a desk or table for your contact records, calendar, and resume (or accomplishment sheet), with paper and pencil handy. Alert family members who answer the phone to be prepared to note accurate information, and sound as polite as possible. Your four-year old is charming for family and friends, but might not be the best choice as an administrator to answer your phone call from a job recruiter, unless you're a day care leader. Make sure your voice mail recording is rational, too, and not overly cute or off the wall. (Let the kids' cell phones have the answering modes with rapper-recorded messages.) The following story is an illustration of this type of situation.
A freelance single mother of a ten-year-old girl asked me for advice on expanding her business. I returned her phone call one morning, only to hear the daughter's recorded voice singing a "hello" message before asking for return call information. I met with the freelancer to tell her that this was neither professional nor a business-friendly message and she should consider a separate phone line or a revised recording. She told me she was reluctant to do this, fearing she would damage her daughter's self-esteem if the message were changed, nor did she want to pay the extra cost for another line. One month after reluctantly changing her voice message, her business began growing again.
Job Fairs and Open Houses
Job fairs and open houses attract potential employees and help organizations fill a large number of open requisitions. Fairs are popular during periods of dynamic growth and even in downtimes draw those with can-do skills. Some job seekers see these as "cattle drives" to round up desperate people who will work cheaply, but others with a positive attitude like job fairs because the gatherings allow them to shop the companies they like.
Before the fair, you should practice your "reason for availability" or your 60-second infomercial/elevator speech, stay confident and positive, shake hands convincingly, and smile. Also, keep the following tips in mind.
- Research the companies attending -- and also consider organizations not previously on your radar list.
- Dress professionally (tie and jacket for men; skirt/dress slacks and blouse for women). Save the Speedos and sweats for at-home networking. And always wear comfortable shoes.
- While at the fair, ask good questions of the recruiters and show enthusiastic interest in the organization. Take company literature available for future study/research.
- Write down the name of the person you meet and jot down the context of your conversation on the back of his business card. You may find, however, that some companies hire recruiters just for the day and instruct them to withhold any personal identification.
- Bring an ample supply of resumes (25 to 30 copies). Some astute product marketers fold their resumes in thirds to have them stand out in a file; others enclose them in plastic sheaths to distinguish them.
- Distribute your business card.
- After the meeting, follow up with the recruiter or hiring manager by telephone. Wait three to five days for smaller events, five to ten days for events with more than 100 attendees.
- If the lines are long and the waits are tedious, introduce yourself to others in line and start one or two new relationships. People looking for work could have friends and contacts at companies that interest you, and you can often learn from them about the company's culture, salary range, and hiring needs.
There are numerous sources to help you find a job. Below are just a few for you to consider.
Job Hot Lines. Some large organizations, universities (and colleges), and government agencies have 24-hour job hot lines. They have recorded messages with current openings that include brief job descriptions, a few key requirements, salary ranges, and dates for submitting applications. Treat your responses as you would a published listing.
Computer Networks. Some institutions use a national computer network for their job listings and accept resumes online. Be sure to follow all of the directions to log on and to access the system exactly. There is always the danger that your paperwork will be cut off at the end of a couple of minutes or after 200 some odd words. Make sure your resume has key words that are used in the job description.
Interactive Voice Mail. Some firms are experimenting with a new interactive voice mail software. Here you are asked to submit your qualifications by touching your telephone keys (push 1 if you have an MBA, push 2 if you have a Ph.D.). It is used mostly as an elimination tool, so, again, follow directions precisely to avoid a mistake that could take you out of the running. Also, supplementing this with a follow-up mail response or direct phone contact with the hiring manager is a very good idea.
Faxing Your Resume. Never hesitate to fax your resume when asked or to use the medium to further distinguish yourself. One marketing executive created her own fax form, with her unique experience and skill set noted in the borders. She also took a risk when she faxed her resume and marketing cover letter to a key number of important directors of marketing. Some offices do not welcome unsolicited fax communication, even from a candidate where creativity is expected.
Hire Me, Inc. by Roy J. Blitzer. Published by Entrepreneur Press. Copyright © 2006 by Entrepreneur Media, Inc. August 2006; $19.95US; 159918023-5.
Author Roy J. Blitzer is an executive and management consultant with more than 28 years of experience as a human resources and business management professional.