Over the past few years I suggested there were a number of things a job seeker could do to get a (better) job rather than wasting time applying directly or complaining about the unfairness of the process. Here’s the best of the bunch.

  • Think Less is More. It’s better spending more time working hard to do what's ever necessary to get a job at 5-6 different companies rather than applying to dozens and hoping.
  • Don’t spend more than 20% of your time applying directly to a job posting. Unless you’re a perfect fit on skills and experience, it’s a waste of time. Here are some ideas on how to spend the other 80% of your time.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Here’s an even more radical idea: Interview yourself using this template and send it to the hiring manager.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 who got hired by describing some of the related SEC work he had done extremely well over a period of three months that met the required “5+ years of experience.”
  • 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, but only did it sometime long ago, you’re overqualified.
  • 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.
  • Be fully prepared to be interviewed. This webcast describes what it takes to be fully prepared. You know you’re prepared when you’re not nervous walking into an interview. Spend 4-5 hours at least getting prepared.
  • Make sure you’re interviewed properly. By asking these forced-choice questions you can be sure you’ll be assessed on your past performance and future potential rather than your first impression and interviewing skills. That’s why you need to practice – to ensure you’re being interviewed properly.
  • Don’t negotiate the size of the compensation; negotiate the size of the job. Your compensation will grow faster if the job you’re accepting is bigger than the compensation package you’re being offered.

I’ve condensed all of this advice in a special video program for job seekers and showed how to reverse engineer the entire hiring process in The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired. Spending a few hours learning these techniques is more likely to result in a better job than complaining about the unfairness of the system or applying directly.