Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Job Search Guide: Strategies for Professionals

Chapter Five

Conducting The Job Search


[How Do People Find Jobs?] [Tapping the Hidden Job Market] [Selecting Target Companies] [Researching Your Target Companies] [Sources of Information about Your Target Companies] [Utilizing Formal Methods] [Record Keeping] [Use Multiple Methods]

When you have decided the type of job for which you are best qualified, where you want to work and which companies are likely to employ workers in your field, it is time to develop an effective strategy to find that job. People who develop an organized job search will probably have an easier time finding employment. This chapter will help you identify both formal and informal sources for locating job openings. It can even help you create a job opening where none currently exists.


How Do People Find Jobs?

Eighty percent of available jobs are never advertised, and over half of all employees get their jobs through networking, according to BH Careers International. Therefore, the people you know -- friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, teachers, and former coworkers -- are some of the most effective resources for your job search. The network of people that you know and the people that they know can lead to information about specific job openings that are not publicly posted. To develop new contacts, join student, community, or professional organizations. Only one-third of available openings are obtained using "formal" methods such as want ads, employment agencies, hiring halls, and civil service tests. Most job seekers probably spend too much of their time using formal methods, not realizing there are alternative methods.

You must carry out an active, as opposed to a passive, job search. It is not enough to respond to leads from want ads or employment agencies. Carrying out an active search allows you to control the job search process and opens up many more job opportunities.


Tapping the Hidden Job Market

Most job openings are part of the "hidden job market." The hidden job market consists of openings that are not yet advertised: jobs resulting from recent retirements, firings, company expansions and anticipated future openings, along with jobs which do not currently exist, but which are created for individual job seekers. Most jobs never make it as far as want ads or employment agencies; they are filled by people using direct contact methods. Employers usually use formal methods only when jobs are not filled through informal means.

In order to tap the hidden job market, a job seeker should spend most of his/her search time using informal methods. Most jobs are found through personal contacts or direct contacts with employers. The following sections describe how to begin using informal methods to tap the hidden job market.


Selecting Target Companies

The first step is to compile a list of "target" companies--firms where you might like to work. The companies on the list may come from many sources. These include:

Information obtained by researching the job market

Personal knowledge about a company

Information obtained through networking

As you learn more about these firms the list may change; some firms may be removed and others added. Once you have decided on a small list of target companies upon which to concentrate, you are ready to get to work.


Researching Your Target Companies

Find out as much as you can about each of your target companies. The information you will need includes answers to the following:

What are the company's products or services?

What is the company's status in the industry? Is the company large or small, growing or downsizing?

What can you learn about the job you want (the job duties, salary, benefits, work environment)?

What is the public image of the firm and what type of person "fits in?"

What are some of the firm's current problems?

Which people have the power to hire you?


Sources of Information about Your Target Companies

Directories and publications. Some examples are:

The Career Guide - Dun's Employment Opportunities Directory

The Vault Reports - provides information about companies and what their employees think of these companies.

These, along with other publications, were described in more detail in Chapter 4, Researching the Job Market.


Newspapers, business periodicals, trade and professional journals. Review these sources for articles mentioning your target companies. Don't neglect specialty newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal. Look for information on new products, expansions, consolidations, relocations, promotions, articles by executives in the companies, annual company earnings and current problems.

Check back issues of newspapers for old want ads. They can provide important information on job duties, salary and benefits. There may even be a want ad for a job in which you are interested. Perhaps the job was never filled or the person previously hired has already moved on.


The companies themselves. Call the human resources or public relations department of the firm. Get brochures, an annual report, descriptions of relevant jobs and anything else that describes the company.


Informational interview. Meet with someone from the firm to get more detailed information about the company itself and possibly a job lead. Informational interviews are discussed in Chapter 6, Networking.


Professional and trade associations. Most industries have their own trade associations. These associations may hold regular meetings and publish periodicals, both of which are good sources of inside information about member companies.

Many professionals belong to one or more professional associations. If you never joined yours, or your membership has expired, this might be a good time to get active. These organizations often have a membership directory, which is an excellent source of names for networking.

Professional groups usually have regular meetings where job openings may be posted. The association may also keep a resume bank or provide placement assistance to members. If your group does not have such services, suggest that they start one, and offer to help get it off the ground. By doing so, you will be the first to hear of any interesting jobs.

Three methods commonly used to contact employers are: mail, phone and an "in-person" visit. (Each of these are discussed in detail later in this chapter.) The method that will work best for you with a particular company depends on the information you uncovered during your research and how comfortable you are using the different contact methods.

Before using any of these methods, be sure to get the name, with the correct spelling and pronunciation, and the title of the person you are planning to contact.

If you were referred or obtained the information about whom to contact from someone you know, be sure to ask that person for permission to use their name. It always helps to say, "Mary Smith suggested I contact you ...."

Mail Contacts. Mail campaigns are conducted by sending resumes or letters to your target companies. If you send a resume, you may want to customize it for each company you contact. Always compose an individualized cover letter. (See Chapter 7 on resume writing and cover letters.)

Send your resume or letter to the person in the company who has the authority to hire you. If you do not get a response within a week, try to call the person.

Phone Contacts. Prepare carefully before you make the call. Prepare a script; write down everything you want to say in words that reflect the way you speak. Below is a suggested sequence:

Introduce yourself. Tell the person what you do and how you can help the company.

Discuss your accomplishments. For example, you can mention how you helped your previous company; how you increased productivity that led to greater profits.

State the reason for the phone call (to set up a meeting).

Here is a sample script:

"Good morning, Ms. Jones. My name is Martin Doe. I am an experienced marketing manager and would appreciate a few minutes of your time. I have read a great deal about your company and I have some ideas that can help your company get a larger share of the market. In my last job, I was able to use my abilities to obtain several new major accounts. Could we meet to discuss my ideas in more detail?"

Keep it brief. Your goal is to obtain an interview, even if there is no job opening. You are hoping that your knowledge of the firm and how you can assist them will convince the employer that they need you.

Anticipate objections and prepare responses in advance. Some objections and possible responses are listed below:

Employer: "I'm too busy to speak to you."

Response: "I understand that you have a very busy schedule. When would be the best time to contact you?"

If the employer won't give you a specific time, ask if you can send your resume so that he or she can look at it when they have a free moment.

Employer: "You have to speak to someone in the human resources department."

Response: "That is fine. Whom should I ask for and is there a specific position that I should mention?"

Employer: "I don't need anyone with your skills right now."

Response: "Perhaps I can send you a resume so you can keep me in mind for future openings. Do you know any one else that may be able to use my abilities right now?"

Practice the script so that it sounds spontaneous and unrehearsed. If you are nervous about calling, role play with a friend. You can also gain experience by making some of the first calls to companies that are low on your priority list.

Don't feel that you have to stick to the script. Regardless of how much you prepare, you will probably have to adapt your responses to what is being said by the employer.

In-Person Visit. Unannounced visits are not for the faint of heart. If you can be assertive and don't mind speaking to strangers, try it. Dress appropriately and be prepared for a job interview. Do all your research so that you know who you have to see. Getting to see someone may be somewhat easier in a smaller company where the atmosphere is usually more informal and the person you want to see may be more accessible. If the person is busy, ask if you may wait. If this is not acceptable, leave a resume and call back in a few days to follow up.


Utilizing Formal Methods

Although the majority of people find jobs through informal methods, formal methods are still very important and should also be a part of your job search.

Want Ads. Be familiar with the newspapers in cities where you want to work. Find out which sections carry the want ads and on what days they appear. Be sure to check all sections which may have want ads. Want ads also may appear in professional and trade publications.

Using A Computer. The internet can now be used for all aspects of your job search:

Performing a self-assessment and using labor market information to decide on your career goal

Researching prospective employers

Contacting people for information on potential job openings (networking)

Improving your job search techniques (resume writing, interviewing skills, etc.)

Searching job listings

Posting your resume

The New York State Department of Labor and its counterparts in every other state pass job openings to America's Job Bank which provides a nationwide job listing service.

If you're looking for work in New York State, we suggest that you search New York's state-level job bank. If you are looking for work in another specific state which provides a web service, you should search the job listings on that state's web site. If you're willing to work in any state, America's Job Bank should be your first stop for searching job listings.

There are also many commercial job listing services available on the internet. Many of these services do not charge job seekers a fee.

A final word of warning about using the internet for conducting a job search campaign. The use of the internet can become addicting. Don't let it. The internet should be only one of the tools you use; not the only tool.

Private Employment Agencies. Private employment agencies have job openings from many companies. They handle a large variety of jobs at various levels and will keep your resume on file for future use if there are no current openings.

There is a fee for their services if they find you a job. You should find out whether you or the employer will be responsible for paying the fee. Get recommendations to find reliable agencies. Private employment agencies should not be confused with executive search firms.

Executive Search Firms (Head-Hunters). Executive search firms are hired and paid by employers to recruit for higher-level jobs. They fall into two categories: retainer and contingency.

Retainer firms are hired by individual employers to recruit for a specific position within the company. They often are consulted to help develop the candidate profile used as the basis for the search. Retainer firms work with the highest level professional jobs and are paid a retainer fee for the search even if they are unsuccessful in filling the position. They usually work with fewer employers than contingency firms.

Contingency firms work for several employers to recruit for various mid-level professional jobs. They are paid a fee only if they successfully fill a position.

Executive search firms are useful only to job seekers who have the experience profile that their clients desire. They prefer people who are currently employed but will consider you if you lost your job through no fault of you own. Contact some search firms which specialize in your industry. You will probably receive a better reception from contingency firms. When you call, state your experience succinctly. If they are interested, they may ask you to send a resume or come in for an interview. During an interview, conduct yourself as you would with a prospective employer.

Public Employment Agencies. All states have a Department of Labor or a Bureau of Employment Security with offices located in major cities. They list job openings from many employers, including professional jobs. Many offer workshops in resume writing, job search skills and interviewing techniques. These offices may also provide career counseling. In addition, they offer a computerized job bank which lists openings from around the country. All services are free.

College Placement Offices. Most colleges have placement offices with job listings. They know the companies that recruit on campus and can usually arrange for on-campus interviews. Contact the placement office early in the school year.

Alumni Associations. Many colleges and universities offer placement services to alumni. You can develop your own leads from the membership list of the alumni association. Old schoolmates can he good sources of job leads.

Job Fairs. A number of employers in a particular field will sometimes hold a job fair. These fairs may give you the opportunity to find out what jobs are available in the companies for which you would like to work. Even if there is no appropriate job opening, job fairs give you the opportunity to gather important information about the participating companies, to inquire about future job openings for which you qualify, and to get the name and number of a company representative for later follow-up.


Record Keeping

Keep a record of all your contacts. Use whatever method you find most convenient. A suggested format is illustrated in Chapter 6, Networking. Your record should include the name, address and telephone number of the company, the name of the person contacted, whether you called, visited or sent a resume, what your next step is, when you should take it and any other relevant information.


Use Multiple Methods

A thorough job search will use numerous methods simultaneously to uncover as many job leads as possible. One thing is true for all the approaches discussed here--the more you know about the firm and how your skills and abilities can be utilized productively in the company's operations, the better your chances for success.

Go to Table of ContentsHandling Your Job Loss, Managing Your Personal Resources, Assessing Your Skills, Experiences and Interests, Researching the Job Market, Networking, Writing Resumes and Cover Letters, Employment Interviewing, and Employment Testing.

Thanks for the feedback! It will help us improve your experience.