Atypical ways to get interviews at companies?
December 22, 2009 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Almost every job I have ever received came from responding to a Craigslist/Monster/ ad. This strategy doesn't seem to work as well anymore, likely due to astounding increases in online application volume. Besides simply knowing someone at the company, what are other ways you've had success in getting interviews?
posted by kelechv to Work & Money (16 answers total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
My best success has been in creating my own opportunities. Target companies that would have a need for you based on your experience and skills. Don't even bother checking to see if they are hiring. Send a very short email to the President for small firms, or the person who would likely be your boss for larger firms. Write one paragraph on how you can help them achieve their goals, and attach your resume.

I'm in sales, so maybe this works better for me because I can very directly help them make more money, so the connection between hiring me and achieving their goals is fairly clear. It might be harder if your job is essentially a cost center, but then again, pitching yourself in terms of how you help them drive more revenue, or lower costs, should get interest from any forward thinking company.
posted by COD at 2:57 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Going through the job hunt for about 9 months, I've looked through:

- Indirect connections: (knowing someone who knows someone else who works at the company).

- Meeting someone at the company through an informal social event [Two areas of my interests, non-profits, and urban planning, have monthly networking happy hours, these have been more successful than other ways for me to get interviews, although this may depend on your area of work.]

- Cold-Calling a business/employer that you're familiar with: Surprisingly for me, this worked (2 years ago). I went to a public talk by the owner of a small business and I sent the owner a cover letter a few months later expressing my interest in his business.

- Volunteering: (this I've heard mentioned plenty of times on ask.mefi, the college career counselors, and other people) volunteer for a non-profit organization and mention that you're looking for a job, your other volunteers (or the organization's employees) may know of unannounced employment opportunities.
posted by fizzix at 3:03 PM on December 22, 2009

I've found most of my jobs through staffing agencies.
posted by VC Drake at 3:03 PM on December 22, 2009

I was recently unemployed for 7 months, longer than any time in my adult life.
I performed all the 'new' networking techniques described above - including social events, job fairs, even classes I took, and made sure that I was networking with people who could help me.
I got an interview via a friend who recommended me at the company where he worked - but the fit wasn't right, so I didn't get the job.
What worked for me - a job board notification (Dice). I got a notice (like I do every day) about a job that was in a location I really wanted, and that I was totally qualified for. So I *very carefully* studied the keywords used in the job description, re-wrote my resume using as many of those keywords as I could, and wrote a cover letter using loads of the same keywords. My resume/cover letter floated to the top of the crop (of more than 200 applicants).
Moral: job boards *can* work, but the odds are against you.
Best of luck!
posted by dbmcd at 3:21 PM on December 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

Hitting refresh and being one of the first to apply to the job on Craigslist.
posted by wcfields at 3:22 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Staffing agencies and recruiters have been OK for me once I weed out the ones who want to submit me for positions for which I am clearly unqualified. I have one in particular who I really trust.

I did get my first real programming job from some letters to the editor I'd written to a computer newsletter. A small business owner saw them, observed that I seemed to know what I was talking about, saw that I was local, and found my dad in the phone book. I ended up paying for college by writing Apple II graphics software and utilities for him.

I also got jobs from my posts in various forums. Got my first job out of college that way. Got a book deal that way. I've even got a bit of work from MetaFilter from time to time, though I've never set out to look for it here.

Got my current job by cold application. They had already interviewed two candidates and were about to extend an offer to one of them (and in fact had pulled the job description from their Web site) when I sent in my resume. I ended up with the job.

Other than that, it's who you know.
posted by kindall at 3:26 PM on December 22, 2009

You can just apply to jobs that haven't advertised whether they're hiring or not. Or you can at least ask if they've got any openings. If it's a big company, openings will be frequent enough that you just might be replying in that window between when they know they want someone and when they actually post the job listing. If it's a smaller company, it's more of a shot in the dark, unless you have reason to suspect that they might be hiring soon. Possible reasons for suspicion of imminent hirings: people tend to leave the job at a particular time of year (e.g. anything tied to the school year gets openings every summer, so that's a good time to send in applications), you expect that they'll be expanding very soon (e.g. the company moves into a larger set of offices), there's a good reason for people to be leaving the job very soon (e.g. a competitor is opening up a location nearby and might attract away their best and brightest (be sure to apply to the new kids too!)), summer is coming or ending and you live in a college town (even if it's not a college kid job, you get a fair number of grad student significant others deserting their positions every year).
posted by ErWenn at 3:38 PM on December 22, 2009

When I was just starting out and looking for entry-level work, I had really good luck with temping. It was a good way to open doors, and get in and impress people. Hiring is such a crap-shoot that I found that people were willing to pay a temp agency's buy-out fee to hire somebody that they already were familiar with, liked and knew could do the job. Of course, that was before the recession started, and I imagine that competition for temp placements is much keener these days, but even then it was a pretty hand-to-mouth way to live between placements.

These days it seems like most of the people I know that are finding work are finding it through direct or indirect connections. I got my current job through an executive I used to work with that had moved to a new company. There was no position that existed before they created one to hire me into, based on his recommendation and my interviews.

The last job I found for somebody else was through indirect connections, a couple months ago: I knew a guy who was looking to hire somebody with a certain background, so I told a friend about it, had him write a version of his resume that emphasized the experience the hirer had told me he was looking for, and passed the resume on with a little email talking about what a great person my friend was and how he had exactly the skills he was looking for. I was just a casual acquaintance of the hirer, but it still made a difference to have the word of somebody he knew, however vaguely, rather than just picking between whoever answered an ad.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:22 PM on December 22, 2009

Nthing temp agencies. Even if it doesn't directly lead to a permanent job, temping is a great way to network.
posted by Lobster Garden at 4:44 PM on December 22, 2009

As something of a followup to what dbmcd wrote: When I hire people I go through the people I know first (friends, family), then the people I kinda sorta know (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) then job sites. I hate getting to the point where I have to post on a job site because it means I've pretty much invited a crapload of work onto myself sorting through all of these resumes.

So what do I do to make it easier? I put a few instructions in the posting about how I want resume's received, what format they should be in, what subject to put in the header, and a few other simple Do's and Don'ts. (Daytime phone number, no image attachments. Nothing complex.)

Then I set up a mail filter to trash everything that doesn't match 100% with those instructions.

This, much to my surprise, gets rid of 80% of the applicants. Which is great because I don't want someone who can't follow a few simple instructions. If they won't take 2 minutes to customize their response to my job listing, they don't want it very badly and I certainly don't want them.

So first I would do what you can to expand your social network--without an eye to getting a job. Sure mention that you're out of work if it comes up, but don't say "Hi, I'm only talking to you because I hope you can get me a job ohpleaseohpleaseohplease!" (Which I've seen an alarming amount of at various events lately. It's not pretty.)

And then target each and every resume or response you send out. No form letters. Tailor everything for that specific job from that company. And make 100% sure you follow their submission guidelines to the very last letter. Don't give them any reasons to not choose you.

Oh, and like I said, I only make an open position public once all other resources have been exhausted. So consider sending resume's to companies without a specific job opening, you might get lucky and get in before they take it to the boards.
posted by Ookseer at 5:03 PM on December 22, 2009 [7 favorites]

I've had some luck by joining up to some of the specialist groups attached to LinkedIn. They vary in their degree of focus and their traffic but I have noticed quite a lot of people posting jobs in them. The people placing adverts here seem to be technical specialists wanting to contact other specialists so it is a good way of avoiding getting stuck with HR department intermediaries. Sometimes people place adverts this way using an intermediary agency who does the initial screening - so be aware that that might happen. This route probably works best for freelancers and others at the more entrepreneurial end of the job market: you need to have a profile page which is a good match for the sort of job you are looking for.
posted by rongorongo at 6:15 PM on December 22, 2009

Oh, I forgot to add:

Depending on what your career choice is, there may be professional e-mail lists or online forums specific to your field (if it's a big field, then your field in your area). If they exist for you, get on them. They might not post job ads specifically, but it's a good bet you'll hear about someone hiring there first.
posted by ErWenn at 6:58 PM on December 22, 2009

I got my current job by answering an ad on Craigslist.

The one before that, I got because a friend's mother knew someone who worked there.

And the one before that was a temp-to-hire position, and they hired me full-time.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:34 PM on December 22, 2009

Are there job boards or list serves for your field or subfield? After word-of-mouth, that's where I've found most of my jobs. I've never applied for a job on, it seems like a black hole.

The other thing that has been surprisingly successful for some of my friends is looking on linkedin to see if they have any friends-of-friends working at that company.
posted by lunasol at 8:01 AM on December 23, 2009

Get a recruiter to think you're a shoo in for any job you apply for.
posted by xammerboy at 9:39 AM on December 23, 2009

I have been surprised how many recruiters in my field of specialization have sought me out via LinkedIn. It is worthwhile to make sure your profile there is updated with lots of keywords that make you easy to find.

I also highly recommend you become well-known for excellent work - I just got an attractive offer from a friend from a prior company where we worked together, who was just offered a high-ranking executive position, and was tasked with building a new team. My interview consisted of a very nice dinner out - the most unusual interview I've ever had...
posted by scooterdog at 11:07 AM on December 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

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