Are you not getting results from hours spent job hunting? John Lees outlines how, as MBA graduates, you can get a better return on your time investment
Looking for a job in the current climate can be energy sapping. Most of the time the problem isn’t rejection, it’s silence – CVs pitched into the ether with no feedback.
Even outside a pandemic, the average job hunt can take weeks rather than hours, so think about the return on time invested. It’s tempting to spend all day uploading your CV to job boards or sending to executive recruiters, but how effective is that activity compared with other strategies?
Start by thinking about how organisations like to find employees. Years ago national newspapers had extensive management appointments pages, which have largely disappeared. Now organisations have got very good at finding quality staff at low cost. Yes, they sometimes go to external recruiters or headhunters, but they also frequently use a savvy mix of social media and word of mouth connections. It’s now easy to attract talent where you can search for specific skills on LinkedIn and when interested and qualified people follow you on social media.
Why word-of-mouth recruitment is on the rise
Word of mouth recruitment is more complex than traditional old-school networks. Professionals share news of vacancies to peers online and through other communication channels. Understanding preferred recruitment methods like this provides valuable insights for candidates. Put yourself in a recruiter’s shoes. An interesting vacancy attracts a flood of applicants – all people you know little about.
Word of mouth recruitment not only provides an easy filter, it also gives a feeling of security. Knowing something about candidates, through direct experience or recommendation, strengthens the idea that someone work history has been objectively recorded, which encourages the idea that work performance can be predicted.
Research referenced in the latest edition of my book How to Get A Job You Love suggests that employers are increasingly relying on personal recommendation. This is even more true for small and new businesses. Some sectors use word of mouth almost exclusively.
The attractions of online hunting
As MBA graduates you will be familiar with marketing channels – different ways of getting your message across to businesses or consumers. Job hunters also have a range of channels available to them – internet job sites, company web sites, social media, recruitment agencies, headhunters, direct approaches to organisations, and word-of-mouth recruiting. But most candidates often adopt just one or two of these channels, and around half rely almost exclusively on online job sites where vacancies are advertised and you upload your CV.
Online job hunting is attractive because you can see what appear to be actual vacancies (although these jobs may already be filled), and the process of filling in forms on screen and firing off a CV looks very much like work, so it feels and looks productive.
The problem of online job hunting? Ask anyone who’s been using this method recently. You spend a lot of time preparing applications and tailoring your CV, and the usual result is radio silence – no reply, and certainly no feedback. Some people can shrug this off, but for most applicants this is dispiriting and knocks confidence.
Open all channels
Today’s job market is complicated, with lots of distractions and dead ends. To get quicker results, use a multi-channel job searching strategy.
First, recognise how you can maximise results from online activity. The Internet is fantastic for researching people and organisations. Even job boards can provide big clues about which organisations are hiring, and the agencies handling these vacancies. LinkedIn offers powerful way of building connections and researching individuals before you talk to them.
But there are other tools available which statistically are more effective. Since employers often recruit from a pool of known candidates, one of your objectives as a job hunter is to increase your visibility. This means that all conversations, even exploratory ones, are useful. You should spend at least half your job hunting time in conversations, even if they are through screens.
Don’t neglect other methods which provide useful shortcuts. Recruitment consultants have tremendous market knowledge and leverage, and can persuade employers to commit to shortlisting and appointment decisions. If you have marketable skills and a clear focus about the kind of role you want, it’s worth building relationships with specialist recruiters.
Don’t wait to see roles advertised. Build up a shortlist of interesting target organisations, and do something weekly to increase your visibility to them. Use fact-finding conversations to understand industry trends and organisation needs, and make direct approaches even if no roles are advertised, sending a short and tailored message outlining why your experience and qualifications are closely matched to the needs of the employer.
Operate using all channels, but give most attention to methods which generate results. Don’t neglect the online world, just don’t rely on it for job searching. Combining methods increases their power, and unlocks the hidden job market. What job search method do you prioritise? Anything that gets you in the room with a decision-maker or closer to an organisation with an identifiable need. Spend your time and energy wisely; focus most on activities that shorten your job search and protect your confidence level.
‘Must do’ list – Multi-channel job searching
- Research work sectors, and build up a list of target organisations.
- Undertake contract or project work that increases your visibility to decision-makers.
- Scrutinise job advertisements to identify likely employers and useful agencies.
- Monitor internal job boards operated by employers.
- Conduct information interviews to deepen your understanding of sectors, while improving your contacts and visibility, ‘I’d like to explore….’.
- Be visible and distinctive on social media. Use LinkedIn to reach out to informative and supportive new contacts.
- Follow up recommendations to talk to people and organisations, but do your homework first to know what’s going on in the sector.
- Ask for meetings with people who are at the heart of great networks.
- Talk to recruitment consultants who regularly advertise jobs in your target sectors.
- Approach companies in your chosen sectors on a speculative basis. Write a cover note matching four or five of your key areas of experience to the employer’s needs.
- Submit carefully matched applications in response to interesting vacancies.