If you are hunting for a job, your first inclination will probably be to go online to look for job openings. There is no shortage of such portals and many job-seekers flock to them in droves.
But wait… how effective can applying for advertised jobs be? The answer is “Don’t hold your breath”.
As many job-hunters will attest, the success rate for such an approach can be very low. Why?
Because advertised jobs are what we call ‘late-stage opportunities’ and your chances for these are very, very slim.
Typically, the placing of job-ads on portals is often the last resort by employers. Many HR professionals prefer to use internal/external networking and/or recruiters as their first-line of approach. About 80% of the time, the right candidate is found this way and the opportunity doesn’t even see the light of day.
What this means is that for every “Help-wanted” ad you see online, another four have already been filled and you weren’t even aware of those, hence you have been missing out on all the nice roles that could have been yours!
Moreover, many of these advertised roles may already have been filled by ‘internal candidates’ and putting them online is just an obligatory way of saying, “Yes, we did look outside the company.”
So, how do you access these ‘early-stage’ opportunities?
Here are two strategies I suggest you execute in tandem.
1. Improve Your Network
When a role first opens up, the hiring manager’s immediate response would be “whom do I know would be good for this job?” If the hiring manager knows you personally, then I can imagine him dropping you an email right away.
You want to be first on the radar when such opportunities arise, so having a wide network of friends, former colleagues, ex-bossesa and headhunters helps you cast your net wide.
But having a large network isn’t good enough. You need your network to have both quantity and quality, hence you have to make an effort to reach out to the ‘decision-makers’ who would be in such positions to recommend you for roles.
These decision-makers could include Talent Acquisition Managers, HR Leaders, and Headhunters/Recruiters in YOUR industry/function.
I would even suggest that you be BOLD enough to connect (via Linkedin) with the BOSSES of your counterparts at competing companies, no matter where they may be located. This is because I’m sure he/she would love to have a word with you should they have expansion plans, or when your counterpart (his staff) resigns.
To this end, use LinkedIn extensively! It is the best networking platform in the Universe right now.
Spend at least half an hour a day curating your account and networks. Keep widening your reach and stay on these decision-makers’ radars, even if you have to “LIKE” the inane articles they know you exist.
2. Enhance Your Professional Reputation
Your reputation is what people know you for. It is what people say when you are not around to hear it. “A Rainmaker”, “A Deal-maker”, “The M&A Specialist”, “The Compliance Expert”…the list goes on. But why is it important for landing roles?
Because it is your reputation that will give you ‘top-of-mind recall’ when such early-stage opportunities arise.
Your reputation is your ‘brand’ in the market.
When an employer says, “We need an expert in <insert your expertise here> who is the best in the market?” – Does your name come to his mind?”
It is also important in ‘positioning’ your skillsets/achievements so you come across as a ‘specialist’ rather than a ‘generalist’ – that you are the best in what you do. You can also curate your positioning such that you become unique and hence, more desirable.
How do I improve my reputation?
Firstly, you need to know what you want to be branded for. You need to decide what special skill you have that organisations will want.
In the movie “Taken”, Liam Neeson’s character says that he has “a very particular set of skills” that he has “acquired over a very long career.”
He knew what he could do…what special skill do you have?
Secondly, stay top of mind by keeping your networks reminded. Remember the old saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no-one is there to hear it, does it even make a sound?” Beat the drums regularly to let people know what you’ve been up to!
If you have successfully delivered a workshop, post it on Linkedin. If you have a positive client feedback, ask whether they can add a ‘recommendation’ on Linkedin to showcase your expertise. Write articles and post interesting links on Social Media sites.
Do your bit of shameless self-promotion regularly!
So as you can see, the advertised jobs you’ve been applying for may not have be the best leads to follow. In fact, it could lead you to feel disappointed when no-one replies to you countless applications, making you think that the job market is really that bad when actually, you’re just chasing after the leftovers.
Make a plan today to target these early-stage opportunities by widening your networks and enhancing your reputation!