By Gerald Walsh ©
When job searching, one activity you should consider is targeting specific organizations that are of interest to you. Ideally, you have someone who can ‘open the door’ for you. But if you cannot find anyone to give you a referral, you will have to take it upon yourself to make the first contact
Step 1 – Set a target list
Many people believe that the largest employers have the most jobs, and while this may be true, many are also going through consolidation to control costs and may not be adding staff. Don’t overlook small to mid-sized employers. Although these companies are not as well known, they can be a much better source of employment for you.
There are many online business directories that will give you leads about companies to contact. Start with the membership list from your local chamber of commerce or board of trade.
There are also numerous “lists” of companies that you can review. Here are a few that might help:
Step 2 – Conduct research
Good research will help you develop a better understanding of the key issues and challenges facing the company. You need to know this information so you can customize your letter and also prepare for the face-to-face meeting you are hoping to have.
As a guideline, most employer’s challenges fall into one or more of these categories:
Growing their revenue
Expanding into new markets, products or services
Battling their competitors
Strengthening their financial management
Dealing with human resource issues
Building relationships with stakeholders
Ask yourself: How can my skills, experience and qualifications help my target company deal with these challenges?
Step 3 - Communicate
Direct your letter to the appropriate hiring manager – not the human resource department. For example, if you are an accountant, you should send your letter to the controller or chief financial officer. The reason for taking this approach is that the hiring manager will be aware of staffing needs before the HR department and will have a much better handle on their requirements.
The names of most of these people are found on LinkedIn.
Here’s a twist: You should think about mailing or hand-delivering your letter, not emailing it. Almost no one sends mail anymore – which is why you should do so. If you do the opposite of what everyone else does, you will stand out.
Follow-up with your contact about five to seven days after mailing your letter. This will allow enough time for the letter to be delivered and read. If you wait too long, your name and letter will no longer be fresh in their minds.
Your follow-up should also take a route almost no one else takes – a telephone call! What you will say, and how you say it, is important and requires pre-planning and lots of practice before making it.
One thing is certain: you have to speak with an air of confidence and without hesitation. Practising your call technique helps.
This script will have to sound natural. If the person you are trying to reach doesn’t pick up and your call goes to voice mail, be prepared to leave a concise 20 – 30 second message that says who you are and why you are interested in meeting with them.
You want to quickly recap your background and say why you are interested in their company. You should also add that you realize there might not be a job available now and that you would still like to meet with them for a few minutes, if they have time.
End the call by saying that you will call them back in a day or two. Never ask them to call you back as that will put the ball in their court. It is unlikely they will return your call.
One final thing that you have to anticipate is that a large number of these employers will refuse to meet you. While this may be hard on your ego initially, you will start to develop a thicker skin and not take this rejection personally. Remember: job searching is a numbers game. The more people you call, the more interviews you will get.
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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 25+ year career, he has interviewed more than 15,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @@Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.