I tell job seekers in all my workshops that research is key to their job search. I’m being redundant, but it’s true and worth repeating. The time you put into research will be a tremendous return on investment.
Many believe that the first thing they must do after losing their job is updating their resume. Having done this, they’re now prepared to respond to positions posted online. Good plan? Not really.
It would be far better to be proactive in your job search by approaching companies for which you’d like to work. To do this, will require research. Here are five steps to take when researching your companies.
1. Discovering which companies are growing the fastest is the start of the job search. This should be your first step, yet so many people don’t realize how valuable this information is.
I tell job seekers that they should have a list of 10-15 companies for which they’d like to work. Many don’t; they have a hard time naming five. Yet if some of them were asked to name their top five restaurants, they could.
2. Once you’ve located the companies you’d like to researched and decided which companies are the ones for which you would like to work, you should dedicate a great deal of your computer time visiting their websites.
Study what’s happening at your chosen companies. Read pages on their products or services, their press releases (if they’re a public company), biographies of the companies’ principals, and any other information that will increase your knowledge of said companies.
Your goal is to eventually make contact and meet with people at your target companies, so it makes sense to know about the companies before you engage in conversation. This research will also help when composing your résumé and cover letter and, of course, it will come into play at the interview.
3. If you don’t have familiar contacts at your favorite companies, you’ll have to identify new potential contacts. You might be successful ferreting them out by calling reception, but chances are you’ll have more success by utilizing LinkedIn’s Companies feature.
LinkedIn’s Comapnies feature is something job seekers have used to successfully make contact with people at their desired companies. Again, research is key in identifying the proper people with whom to speak.
Most likely you’ll have first degree connections that know the people you’d like to contact—connections who could send an introduction to someone in the company. These connections could include hiring managers, Human Resources, and directors of departments.
Let us not forget the power of personal, or face-to-face, networking. Reaching out to job seekers or people currently working can yield great advice and leads to contacts. Your superficial connections (neighbors, friends, etc.) may know people you’d like to contact.
4. Begin initial contact with those who you’ve identified as viable contacts. Your job is to become known to your desired companies. Will you be as well known as internal candidates?
Probably not, but you’ll be better known than the schmucks who apply cold for the advertised positions—the 20%-30% of the jobs that thousands of other people are applying for.
Let’s face it; going through the process of applying for jobs on the major job boards is like being one of many casting your fishing line into a pool where one job exists. Instead spend your time on researching the companies so you’ll have illuminating questions to ask.
So, how do you draw the attention of potential employers?
- Send your résumé directly to someone you’ve contacted at the company and ask that it be considered or passed on to other companies. The risk in doing this is to be considered presumptuous. As well, your résumé will most likely be generic and unable to address the employer’s immediate needs.
- Contact someone via the phone and ask for an informational meeting. This is more acceptable than sending your résumé, for the reason mentioned above, but takes a great deal of courage. People these days are often busy and, despite wanting to speak with you, don’t have a great deal of time to sit with you and provide you with the information you seek. So don’t be disappointed if you don’t get an enthusiastic reply.
- Send a trusted and one-of-the-best-kept-secrets networking email. The approach letter is similar to making a cold call to someone at a company, but it is in writing and, therefore, less bold. Employers are more likely to read a networking email than return your call. Unfortunately, it’s a slower process and doesn’t yield immediate results.
- A meeting with the hiring manager or even someone who does what you do continues your research efforts. You will ask illuminating questions that provoke informative conversation and ideally leads to meetings with other people in the company. At this point you’re not asking for job, you’re asking for advice and information.
5. Sealing the deal. Follow up with everyone you contacted at your selected companies. Send a brief e-mail or hard copy letter asking if they received your résumé or initial introductory letter. If you’ve met with them, thank them for their time and valuable information they’ve imparted.
Send your inquiry no later than a week after first contact. For encouragement, I suggest you read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It’s probably the most recommended books on networking in history and for good reason.
Ferrazzi goes into great detail about his methods of building relationships through networking, while emphasizing the importance of constantly following up with valued contacts.
People in the career development industry never said finding a rewarding job is easy. In fact, the harder you work and more proactive you are, the greater the rewards will be. Take your job search into your own hands and don’t rely on coming across your ideal job on Monster.com, Dice.com, or any of the other overused job boards.
Your job is to secure an interview leading to the final prize, a job offer. But your researching skills are essential to finding the companies for which you’d like to work, identifying contacts within those companies, and getting yourself well-known by important decision makers.