February 8, 2011
How to crack the code to the secret job market
In previous posts, I've discussed the importance of creating a marketing plan for your job hunt. Part of this plan includes identifying a set of employers you want to target so that you can tap into unadvertised opportunities -- also known as the hidden, or secret, job market -- and so that you can focus your efforts like a laser beam, as opposed to a shotgun approach.
Once you have a list of 10 companies you want to target, the question becomes, "Now, what?"
Here are some resources experienced marketers and business development professionals use to research their prospective clients. You will find them valuable to learn about your target companies, as well.
Use company websites to research and understand the major products and services your target companies offer. Hiring managers and recruiters at our career mixers are appalled by how many job seekers don't understand the basics of their companies.
Be sure to look up the companies' key managers and board of directors, usually identified in the "About Us" section of the websites. Look up the LinkedIn profiles of these key players to see what you can learn about them; for example, do they have blogs or Twitter accounts? Do they serve as keynote speakers? Are they on the boards of nonprofits? This information can lead you to further information about a company and provide you with opportunities to make connections.
Often, company websites will publish press releases and identify the press coverage the company has received. Press releases announce changes, new products or services, promotions, mergers and acquisitions, etc. These often identify areas of pride (and sometimes concern) for companies, and knowing this information can greatly enhance your ability to build solid rapport with a company's management team.
If the company's financials are mentioned, you might be able to identify where a company is struggling, and find opportunities where you might be able to turn around a losing product, grow an existing one, etc. (You might want to work with someone who has a finance or accounting background who can translate the numbers for you.)
I've written extensively about LinkedIn recently because the tool is so valuable for job seekers. LinkedIn can help you find former employees who have recently departed a company. These people can give you insights into hiring practices, salary ranges, where a company is headed, etc. -- something current employees might hold back from sharing.
LinkedIn is also where you can see current employees and check what groups they belong to and what terminology they use in their work (acronyms, ways of describing a product or process). With this knowledge, you can adjust your profile to look and sound like them, therefore increasing your odds of being found in search results when recruiters are looking for people with similar backgrounds.
With LinkedIn, you can identify new hires at your target companies who can tell you how they got their jobs. If you notice a pattern, you probably want to emulate their successful approaches. For example, some companies favor employee referrals, while others prefer people who belong to certain associations, and others actually like candidates who come from certain local job boards.
Finally, on LinkedIn you can search for every recruiter, recruitment manager or anyone in human resources, for that matter, who you'll probably need to know to get your resume noticed. Many qualified applicants are left in the dust because no one ever sees their profile. If you want to stand out, you have to get the attention of a human who's in charge of hiring, versus the company's applicant tracking system.
I mentioned this earlier, but when you're on a LinkedIn profile, you can usually see if the person has blogs or Twitter feeds. Monitoring these will help you find ways to break the ice with these strangers. (And while you're searching for blogs and Twitter feeds, look at what others are saying about the company, because you can use this information, too).
These are just a few ideas for researching your prospects. Do you have other favorite techniques? What's been most successful for you?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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