Over the past year on these pages, I suggested there were a number of things a job seeker could do to get a (better) job rather than wasting time complaining about the unfairness of the process. Following is recap of what I consider the most important advice on how to hack-a-job rather than applying directly. (Here's a link to the video series summarized below.)

  1. Don’t spend more than 20% of your time applying directly to a job posting. Unless you’re a perfect fit, it’s a waste of time. Here are some ideas on how to spend the other 80% of your time.
  2. Use the job posting as a lead. Once you see a job of interest, search for all the jobs the company has posted. Then use some of the non-resume ideas below to connect directly with the department head or someone connected to the hiring manager.
  3. Become a true networker, not a glad hander. Networking is not about meeting as many people as you can. It’s about meeting a few well-connected people you already know who can introduce you to a few well-connected people you don’t know.
  4. Use the backdoor. If you’re not a direct match on skills and experience you need to be referred by a company employee or someone connected to the hiring manager. This will get you to the top of the resume stack since there are fewer gatekeepers watching the backdoor.
  5. Prepare a non-resume. If your resume isn’t a perfect match, but you’ve done something related, you’ll need to narrow the focus and amplify your accomplishments. A one-page job proposal or a video describing a major comparable accomplishment might just do the trick.
  6. Do some pre-work. An MBA student took my suggestion to prepare a competitive analysis for a company he had targeted. He sent it to the VP of Marketing and landed an interview. Mini-projects like this are a great way to demonstrate your ability.
  7. Send the department head a performance-based job description. If you’re familiar with the job, you might want to reformat the posted job description by describing some of the likely performance objectives. Send this to the department head with a summary of a few of your related accomplishments to get an interview.
  8. Offer a free or low cost trial. There’s always a risk in hiring someone. To reduce this risk, offer to work on a small project on a contract or temp-to-perm basis.
  9. Learn the 2-minute answer to any question. Get a two-minute egg timer. Find a bunch of standard interview questions. Turn the timer over and force yourself to answer each question out loud for the full two minutes using this technique. This will be great practice and a real confidence builder for an actual interview.
  10. Control the interview. Ask the interviewer to describe actual job needs. Then give a two-minute example of something you’ve accomplished for each one.
  11. Divide and conquer. You don’t need to possess every skill listed on the laundry list of qualifications to get seen or hired. Long ago I had a candidate for a controller spot get hired by describing some of the related things he had done extremely well and how he could quickly learn everything else.
  12. Prove you’re not overqualified. There are two dimensions to being qualified for any job. First, you need to be competent to do the work. Second, you need to be motivated to do it. No matter how competent you are, if you can’t prove you have proactively done this work in the recent past, instead of sometime long ago, you’re now overqualified.
  13. Interview yourself and send someone your answers to our Performance-based Interview questions. This Performance-based Interview template will help you get prepared. This video explains the process. To get an interview, send a recording of your answers to someone you found through the backdoor.
  14. Get phone screened if your appearance or age will send the wrong message. In The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired I suggest that a 30-minute phone interview focusing on accomplishments will minimize biases due to first impressions. Job seekers should request this type of phone screen if there’s any chance they won’t be assessed objectively.
  15. Be fully prepared to be interviewed. This webcast describes what it takes to be fully prepared. You know you’re prepared when you know how to make sure the interviewer asks you the right questions.

If you don’t want to wade through each of the links above, here's the condensed video version. The tips are also hidden in plain sight between the paragraphs in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. Whatever approach you use to try these ideas out, I can guarantee they're more likely to help you get your next job rather than complaining about how unfair the system is.


Lou Adler (@LouA) is the CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting and training firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring. He's also a regular columnist for Inc. Magazine and BusinessInsider. His latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013), provides hands-on advice for job-seekers, hiring managers and recruiters on how to find the best job and hire the best people. You can continue the conversation on LinkedIn's Essential Guide for Hiring Discussion Group.