Stop Applying For Jobs Online And Try This Direct Outreach Approach Instead


As a career coach, I hear this a lot...

I've applied to countless jobs online and no one is getting back to me.

Let's assume the best case scenario. Your resume is perfectly drafted meaning that it has the right keywords and is easy to read and you have the right experience for the jobs that you are applying for.

Here is what you are up against when you apply online through an applicant tracking system:

So what does this all mean for you? If you really want to land a great job you have to get out from behind your computer and go talk to people.

3 Step Direct Outreach Job Search

Why is this approach so much more effective? Because as you can see by the numbers above only 1-2% of resumes ever make it into a hiring manager's hands. So your only other option is to connect with a hiring manager through a personal referral. And since most jobs are not even advertised that means they are being filled by people who come through the employer's referral network.

I'll use a recent example for a client I helped land a Director of Research role at a pharmaceutical company. He was a research scientist running a lab at a university and wanted a new job working for a corporation in a new city closer to his family. He spent about year passively applying for jobs online without any luck so he decided to ask for help by contacting me.

Step 1. Create a target list of companies where you would like to work.

Based on his background and experience we identified industries he was best suited for and then created a list of companies within each industry he wanted to work for. We created the target list by looking at job boards and doing general internet searches. For the companies that had an open job posting, we applied online and took it one step further by directly contacting someone in that department to set up an informational interview. For companies that didn't have an open job posting, we moved on to step 2 below.

Step 2. Identify people who do what you want to do

Once we created a target list of about 20 companies we used LinkedIn to identify people in roles he wanted to work in to set up informational interviews to learn about how they got their roles and what it was like to work for those companies. Our connection request looked something like this

Dear John, I am a research scientist at Harvard University and I came across your profile while looking for scientists at [name of company]. I'm interested in leaving academia and moving into the pharmaceutical industry and would like to connect with you to learn more about your experience and career path. Best, Greg

We had a hit rate of about 4 out of 10 people who accepted our connection request. So don't get discouraged when people don't get back to you. It is a numbers game so keep contacting more people. Of those people who accepted our invite, we made a formal request to speak with them that went something like this

Dear John, Thank you for accepting my request. As I mentioned, I would like to learn more about your career path and experience at [company]. Would it be possible to set up a brief 15 minute call at your convenience in the next week or so? I assume you are very busy so please let me know when would work for you. Best, Greg.

3. Ask for advice (not a job) from the people you connect with

It is important to treat this stage of the job search as the research stage and not the "asking for a job" stage. The reason being is that this person doesn't know you so asking them for a job is premature and you don't know if you want to work for this company yet.

So treat this informational interview as a way to get some valuable insider knowledge about what it is like to work there and how best to position yourself for a job there if it sounds like a great place to work.

Here are the types of questions you want to ask on an informational interview:

  • Can you tell me a little about what you do in this role?
  • What do you like about your role? / What do you find challenging about this role?
  • How did you get this role?
  • If I want to get into this type of role, what do you think is missing from my experience? What gaps do I need to fill?
  • If I want to get into this type of role, what do you think my strengths are? What would an employer value?

The benefit of this approach is that assuming your conversation goes well and you make a good impression,

  • You now have a great connection inside a company where you want to work and when a position opens up hopefully they will think of you and recommend you for the role. This means you get to skip the resume black hole and go straight to a real human being!
  • You just learned what makes you a strong candidate and what you have to work on to become a more attractive candidate.
  • You can now tailor your interview answers to highlight why you would be a good fit based on what you learned about the role and culture of the company.

As part of this direct outreach approach, my client contacted roughly 30 people. He re-connected with an old colleague who he had not spoken to in years. This colleague suggested that he connect with the head of HR at his company. My client emailed the head of HR and mentioned that his friend told him to contact her. This email led to a phone call which led to an interview which eventually led to a job offer which he happily accepted all without ever applying for the job online!

Within 3 months he had 30 conversations that led to 5 interviews and one job offer. Compare that to 1 year of applying online to countless jobs and not getting an interview, this direct outreach strategy proved to be a much more effective method.



If you would like a more fulfilling job but are not sure what you want to do next then sign up for a free copy of the Career Design Guide and learn the 5 steps to figure out your next career move.

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Mo Chanmugham, Esq., CPCC is a former entertainment lawyer turned career coach and the founder of MGC Coaching. He helps ambitious professionals who are feeling stuck gain the clarity and confidence they need to create more fulfilling careers. He also serves as the Senior Associate Director of Career Services at New England Law | Boston where he offers his career development expertise to law students and alumni.

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