Your Career Depends on Adopting High Touch Job Hunting

LinkedIn’s Talent Connect is a recruiting festival of lights, sounds, new tools and new ideas. After years of cynicism I left last month’s October 2016 conference convinced that the recruiting industry has finally turned a corner. High touch recruiting is back after an absence of 25 years. The merging of high tech and high touch promises a brighter future for those companies willing to invest their resources in hiring stronger people and for job seekers who want to find better jobs.

The Sad Cost of High Tech

From my perspective the cost of high tech recruiting, i.e., job boards, pre-qualification assessments, AI, applicant tracking systems, and the like, far outweighed the advantages. In its wake it caused excessive turnover, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and underperformance. It also created the hidden and public job markets. The public job market is the one you’re all familiar with. It’s the 5+ million jobs found collectively on all of the job boards. This market is impersonal, vague, where people are filtered by arbitrary criteria that neither predicts performance nor ensures job satisfaction, and at best the jobs that are offered represent ill-defined lateral transfers.

The hidden job market is entirely different. It represents all of the jobs that are filled before they’re ever posted. These are the ones filled via internal promotion or referrals from trusted sources. Even better, these jobs are typically customized to better fit the career needs of those hired. The pre-public and hidden market is where careers are created. The public market is where the leftover jobs are filled.

Use High Touch Job Seeking Techniques to Get a Job in the Hidden Market

The best jobs are in the hidden job market. Here’s how to get one:


Understand how you’re being evaluated. Watch the video above (the trial is free). It explains how recruiters and hiring managers should interview candidates. More important, by reverse engineering the process savvy job seekers can be sure they’re being interviewed properly.

Implement a 50-50 high touch networking effort. Recognize that networking is not meeting as many people as you can in the hope that someone knows about an open job. Instead, it’s meeting a few well-connected people who can vouch for your performance and introduce you to a few other well-connected people. By expanding your network this way, you’ll soon learn about an open opportunity in the hidden job market.

Use the job post as a lead to the backdoor. Forget about applying to a job unless you’re a perfect fit based on the criteria listed. However, if you believe you could handle the job you need to find someone who can get you an interview with the hiring manager or department head. LinkedIn is a powerful tool for this purpose. For example, one candidate for a senior engineering position in the construction industry told me the other day he got an interview with a VP by using a professional society connection.

Prove you’re worthy by being different. The backdoor is a great way to find who you should contact but unless you’re able to get a referral from a trusted source you’ll need to prove you’re worthy to get an interview. One way: Do some type of mini-analysis and offer to discuss your findings.

Control the interview. While getting an interview is a big deal it’s not enough. You need to ensure you’re being interviewed properly. Unfortunately too many interviewers overvalue first impressions, technical skills and generic competencies. So rather than leave the process to chance ask the interviewer to describe real job needs in terms of challenges and objectives. Then give examples of work you’ve done that best meets their needs. (This video for job seekers shows how to use this type of "forced choice" questioning process.)

Push the process along using advanced selling techniques. Getting a job in the hidden job market is similar to consultative selling. One way to check if the first interview is going well is to ask the hiring manager about next steps. If vague you need to ask something like, “Based on your job needs do you believe my background meets your requirements? If not, what do you think is lacking compared to others you’re meeting?” This question requires the hiring manager to rank you against other candidates by highlighting any deficiencies.

The best jobs are in the hidden job market, before they’re publicized to the world. Even better, since nothing has been finalized, it’s easier to modify the job and compensation package to best meet the candidate’s strengths and career needs. Getting this type of position requires a high touch process involving networking, strong selling techniques and a track record of comparable – not identical – past performance. It’s a highly personalized approach but far more rewarding than applying to dozens of jobs and then waiting and hoping. More important, the end result of this high touch process is a career opportunity, not a lateral transfer.

How to Uncover the Four Best Predictors of Success in 30 Minutes

Over the past 40 years I’ve interviewed thousands of candidates for staff level jobs to senior executives and tracked the performance of hundreds of them.

After a few years it quickly became apparent that a 30-45 minute work history review revealed four great predictors of on-the-job success. As long as the following four conditions were present I was comfortable recommending the candidate for further interviewing. Of course, further evaluation was essential but it turned out as long as the four factors were present the likelihood of the candidate being a finalist was extremely high.


Determine Job Fit Based on Comparable Accomplishments

Obviously going through the person’s resume reveals a lot about whether the person is a basic fit for the job. But of critical importance is the person’s most significant accomplishments. During the work history review I dig into the one that best compares to what the person will be doing in the new position.

The focus of this is on the scope of the project, span of control, size of the budget, reporting relationships, complexity of the work and the results achieved. For example, for a Director of Accounting at a major corporation I recommended a manager at a Big 4 accounting firm since she had implemented robust reporting systems at Fortune 200 companies leading teams of 10-20 people. This was the primary objective of the job, so the fit was perfect.

Potential is Revealed through the Achiever Pattern

The Achiever Pattern indicates the candidate is in the top 25% of their peer group. The idea is that people in the top 25% at different companies and at different jobs are likely to continue to be in the top 25% in the new job. Since these are the people who continue to take on more challenging projects and get promoted more quickly, the Achiever Pattern is a good indicator of potential.

Each position has different criteria to meet the top 25% standard but they all have some. For example, for sales positions look for people who have a track record of always making quota. The best staff level people in all functions are assigned more challenging projects soon after starting a new job. The best managers seek out and are given more challenging management assignments. The best team players are assigned to more important multi-functional teams.

While this is only a short list, the idea is to use the work history review to find out where the candidate has been recognized for doing superior work, whether it’s an award, a promotion, special bonus or an important assignment.

Career Motivation Can be Determined Based on How Job Changes were Decided

Why people change jobs is an important clue to how motivated the person is career wise. Always ask candidates why they moved from one company to another and if the move accomplished its purpose. For the best people these moves are typically part of a bigger career plan and are not made superficially. While they don’t often work out as planned, most times they do. Look for people who are concerned about making an impact, developing their skills and finding more satisfying work.

For example, I challenged one candidate who made a decision to accept a job that was closer to home, had a slightly better title, and offered a bit more money, but was in a decaying industry. When I pointed this out to him he rejected this job and accepted the other better long-term offer. He called a year later thanking me for the advice after he got a huge promotion.

The Size of the Opportunity Gap Predicts Engagement and Performance

A good career move requires a 30% non-monetary increase. This is the opportunity gap. It’s the sum of the increases in job stretch (bigger job), job growth (faster rate of increase) and job satisfaction (doing more satisfying work). If the stretch part of the gap is too great, the chance of failure increases, but if the gap is non-existent, dissatisfaction and underperformance is likely. The opportunity gap is determined by what the person has accomplished compared to what the new position offers.

Most recruiters and hiring managers can’t even figure out the size of the opportunity gap since the job is ill-defined. In this case money becomes the primary criteria to accept an offer or not. This is a great predictor that the person will underperform.

Take the Time to Find These Four Predictors

When the person is a good fit for the job, possesses the Achiever Pattern, has a track record of making good career decisions and the job offers a true career move, it’s likely the person will be a serious candidate for your job. What’s surprising is that much of this can be figured out in a 30-45 minute work history review. What’s more surprising is that most interviewers won’t take the time to do it.