Dhalgren is no self-help guy or someone who buys into trendy job search techniques. But after 14 months, it was time to try something different. My previous method was getting results (a 10% callback rate on applications sent via the Internet), but not making real progress. So...
You may have heard of putting together a 'self-marketing plan' or 'target list' during an intensive job search. I just wanted to write a note on how I finally came around to adopting elements of these techniques. Plus, I have some advice to bring your interviews to a new level of performance.
I have decided to adjust my job search slightly. I watched a poorly-produced yet informative special on CNBC called 'Where the Jobs Are.' It didn't have anything revolutionary, but it did offer advice on how to create a 'target list' of companies you want to work for. One of the experts on the show suggested listing about 20 companies and then aiming a little lower than you normally would in applying for a position (for example, apply to the 'associate' position rather than the 'manager' position). At the same time, follow-up and make a brief sales pitch explaining that you really want to work for that particular company. Don't let them assume that you are overqualified. Let them know that you are seeking to fill their vacancy and commit to the firm long-term.
In other words, create a short list of companies you really want to work for and then both apply and network your way in, leveraging Facebook and LinkedIn or other networking groups (heck, even knowing what bars employees go to after work can help you get the name of a hiring manager).
I have my list of companies. I am still applying to jobs on the Internet, but I am applying directly through the company's careers site.
Hopefully this will help me regain traction as we enter the stretch between Memorial Day and Independence Day. I'll keep you posted.
As for interviews, it is a given that you need to educate yourself about the company (Wikipedia is actually a nice place to start). But if you can, try to do two extra things:
1. Try to make a quick pitch and suggest a way the vacant position could be expanded. An example I thought of is if a small company is looking for an office manager, go further and ask if they need a technician, web content manager, writer, accountant, purchaser, facilities manager, or any other responsibility that you excel in. I'm not suggesting that you offer a company a 2-for-1 deal, but you can show that you already have ideas on how the position can grow.
2. If you can identify a challenge that the company is currently facing (JetBlue for example is having trouble finding routes for new planes being delivered), see if you can make a mention of it and offer your opinion of how that problem can be addressed. You can skip this if you can't find a specific example in the news in the public sphere. But if you can, see if you can squeeze it in as a topic. If you are applying for a manager position, then see if you can raise it as an issue that you can actually address as a future employee of the firm. People like free samples, just be careful not to give away workable solutions for free. This is tricky, but see if you can come-up with a teaser that will make the hiring manager ask more questions. That would also give you something to mention in your thank you e-mail.
I just hope the ideas I am writing here actually help me as I enter the 15th month of my job search...