Job Search Strategies: Which One(s) Should You Use & Why?

Job Search Strategies: Which One(s) Should You Use & Why?

When it comes to job searching, there are several tried-and-true ways to get your resume into a decision-maker’s hands. But which do you choose? That depends on several factors, from the types of roles you are pursuing to your targeted geographic areas to your industry and the amount of time you have available to job hunt.

Let’s look at the most common job search strategies to see which you would want to use and when.

Online Job Search

This job search techniques includes pursuing open positions via job postings on company or recruiter websites, LinkedIn, or job boards such as Indeed or SimplyHired and is arguably the technique that most job seekers use most of the time. It isn’t, however, the technique that is most likely to get you more interviews or more interviews faster.

Online job search as a technique has many problems. This method guarantees you a ton of competition for open positions and will take up a lot of your time since each application you complete can take anywhere from minutes to hours to submit. And if you take the time to tailor your resume (as you should), this adds to the amount of time you’ll have to invest in each role for which you apply. Then there are all the extra forms, assessments, and hoops each employer expects you to go through, not to mention the multiple background checks and drug tests each will require.

Use this technique if you’re …

  • In an IT or highly technical field such as engineering, finance, or healthcare. Richard Bolles, author of the perennially best-selling What Color Is Your Parachute, reports that this method works about 4% of the time for most career fields, yet produces interviews about 10% of the time for folks in these industries.
  • Not willing to try anything else in this post. I meet people all the time who are either quite reluctant to network or avoid it at all cost. If you honestly don’t want to try any other techniques and are willing to invest the time that it requires, then be honest with yourself and dive in. If you do, though, make sure you boost your odds of success by (a) tailoring your resume; (b) uploading your ASCII text resume rather than a MS Word version; and (c) linking your online resume submission with LinkedIn networking.
  • Not in a hurry to land a new job. Online job search only yields new jobs in short order for those seeking entry-level roles or those with a lot of turnover. If this is what you want or you need a Plan B job while you look for what you really want, this technique may work well for you.

Recommended resources:

10 Ways Online Job Search Can Be Disastrous for Your Job Hunt

14 Signs You Might Be Addicted to Job Boards & 7 Antidotes

5 Ways a Job Board-Focused Search Will Ruin Your Job Hunt


Recruiters/Headhunters/Executive Search Consultants

These terms are all used interchangeably and mean very similar things, the gist of which is that external recruiters help source candidates for their corporate clients who have openings to fill. Recruiters work for their corporate clients rather than you, though, so while you won’t have to pay them anything, you also cannot expect them to bend over backwards to court you. They’ll be in touch if they already know you or discover that you’re a great match to an open requisition they’re seeking to fill; otherwise you won’t hear from them.

Keep in mind that recruiters come in different flavors: retained versus contingency and internal versus external. The ones you’ll probably want to target, though, are likely to be retained external recruiters who work for themselves or in a recruiting firm. Internal recruiters work inside a specific employer which is a completely different ball of wax.

Use this technique if you’re …

  • A senior executive. While external recruiters place candidates into roles ranging from entry- to executive-level, it’s the latter who are the most likely to find this technique helpful. If that’s you, make sure you identify retained executive recruiters to contact, as they are the ones most likely to have the level and types of roles you’ll want.
  • Open to relocation. Most recruiters, though certainly not all, favor candidates who are at least somewhat open to relocation. If you can honestly say that you would do so for the right opportunity, then reaching out to recruiters might make sense for you.
  • Limited in how much time you can devote to a job search. A part-time job hunt can be conducted in as little as two hours a week if done so consistently, but even this limited amount of time is too much for some folks whose lives or work are simply too busy. In this case, submitting your resume to recruiters may make good sense.
  • Not in a hurry to land a new job. Because most recruiters already have a database stuffed to the gills with great candidates, it may take some time before you hear from them, if you ever do. You may need to submit your resume to quite a few recruiters in order to yield results with this technique, so consider using a recruiter database to do so.

Recommended resources:

The Single Easiest Way to Find & Outreach to Recruiters

7 Strategies to Get More Recruiters to Read Your Resume

4 Things You Possess Which Recruiters Value (Beyond Your Candidacy) & 3 Reasons Why This Matters


Spot Opportunities

This is a term that most job seekers have never heard of which refers to the happy accident of stumbling upon (or spotting) an unexpected opportunity with a company you may be interested in by following media mentions or industry news. Let’s say you’re interested in a sales management role with a technology firm and you come across an article or press release mentioning that company XYZ is launching a new product like something you’ve helped launch in the past. By customizing a Value Proposition Letter that makes the case for how you can help and sending that to the hiring executive likely to be in charge of this effort, you can potentially cultivate a need for your services that may result in an exploratory meeting or a job interview.

Use this technique if you’re …

  • Highly experienced in your field with an excellent and measurable track record. This technique only works if you’ve done before what the company is seeking to do, have the pertinent credentials to do so, and can point to measurable success in your past. If that’s the case with you, then this is a vibrant technique that may well open exciting new doors for you. But be aware that you may have to spot multiple opportunities for this approach to work.
  • Willing to do your homework. This technique requires you to either identify target companies whose news and social media you will follow without fail or keep a close eye on news and social media in your industry across a range of companies. You will have to research companies once you spot an opportunity in order to be able to craft an effective Value Proposition Letter.
  • Not in a hurry to land a new job. You can’t predict when relevant opportunities will become available, so this technique is best suited to those in passive job searches or those who are looking well in advance of their need for their next job.
  • Open to relocation. Unless your job hunt is focused exclusively or predominantly on a very large geographic area, most opportunities you uncover may require relocation.

Recommended resources:

6 Ways to Show, Not Tell Your Career Impacts

So, You Have a Great Connection with a Target Company. Now What?


Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is the catch-all phrase we use to describe those activities you engage with in your career that demonstrate you are on the cutting edge in your field. These activities may include things like authoring articles, blog posts, or white papers, giving industry presentations or public speaking, or facilitating training events.

Use this technique if you’re …

  • Already a thought leader. If you’ve already engaged in thought leadership, you can leverage it on LinkedIn and in social media to bring visibility to your candidacy. You would, of course, need to include your past thought leadership activities on your resume and LinkedIn profile if relevant, but you could also excerpt content for use in social media posts or in LinkedIn articles, status updates, or Group posts. This job search technique is a superlative one for boosting the visibility of your career brand and helping recruiters and hiring executives to stumble upon your thought leadership “breadcrumbs.”
  • Aspiring to be a thought leader. If you haven’t yet done any of these activities but want to, start with the low-hanging fruit such as LinkedIn status updates or Group posts. You don’t need to have any content already developed for those activities. The trick here is to make sure that your thought leadership activities support your brand and lead people to your social networking or social media account(s). From there, these visibility boosters will help funnel interested parties directly to your email or phone number.

Recommended resources:

5 Ways Thought Leadership Benefits Senior Executives

3 Ways Thought Leadership Will Help You Get Discovered on LinkedIn


Company Targeting

Company targeting sounds like it refers to the act of going to the websites of targeted companies and looking for or applying for open positions, but that’s not it at all. Rather, this job search technique is a form of networking. Company targeting involves first identifying a list of employers you wish to target, then creating or expanding your networking connections in those organizations so that you can leverage them to get your foot in the door and set up a networking meeting.

Use this technique if you’re …

  • Only targeting one to a few geographic areas in your job hunt. While you can use this job search strategy even if you’re open to relocation and not picky about where you end up, it’s easiest to implement if you have a one to a few select targets. Concentrating your connection-building on fewer companies streamlines tracking and multiples your networking efforts.
  • Hoping to land a job with one of the top companies in your industry. If you hope to join a specific company or are aiming for employment with an industry leader or well-known organization, watching for openings and applying online will engender massive competition. Pursuing these organizations through company targeting is much more doable and much more likely to lead to how-might-we-leverage-your-experience-discussions.

Recommended resources:

4 Steps to Building a Relationship with a Hiring Manager Online & 4 Reasons Why You Should

Ditch Your Resume: 9 Ways a Bio Can Enhance Your Job Hunt

Refurbish Your Cover Letter to Open Employer Doors


Networking

If company targeting is a form of networking, this broader term describes all your efforts both offline and online that involve connecting with people or attempting to leverage connections to get an interview in an organization. One example is referral networking in which you build connections inside a company, then approach current employees in order to request their referral of you to hiring managers or HR professionals inside the organization. But networking also includes your job search prospecting with people you know, your attempts to connect with key influencers, your messages to hiring managers, and your connection-building within your industry or preferred geographic areas.

Asking people you know for job leads yields opportunities about 33% of the time, while knocking on employer doors, though gradually declining as an option, still yields success about 47% of the time according to Richard Bolles.

Use this technique if you’re …

  • Extroverted, skilled at networking in your profession, or willing to stretch your introversion. Whether you are actively building out or expanding your online network, trying to combine networking with online job application submissions, or attempting to source information about companies, influencers, and hiring managers, networking is THE technique to employ.
  • In an active or passive job hunt. Regardless of your job search circumstances and career goals, networking is such a powerful technique that you almost certainly cannot afford to overlook it. Increasing numbers of employers are using employee referrals to help them identify prospective candidates, so it makes sense to network with these folks in order to win their internal recommendation of your candidacy.
  • Open to face-to-face networking. Local in-person networking is still important. While it takes longer to build an offline network, if you already have one, it makes inherent sense to leverage it in your job hunt. If you have a large family, many local connections, or an active presence in community activities, associations, or civic organization, face-to-face networking will offer you unique pathways to showcase your career brand. If you are also willing to attend regional job seeker or networking events, you’ll expand your penetration of your local market.

Recommended resources:

12 Ways to Network Face-to-Face, Part 1

12 Ways to Network Face-to-Face, Part 2

What’s Wrong with Your Job Search Networking?

Deconstructing a LinkedIn Networking Request: 5 Problems & 13 Solutions


While there are more ways to land a job, these are the most common and well-known techniques that serve a wide variety of professions well. With which ones are you most experienced? Which ones are you currently using and why?

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About Cheryl Lynch Simpson

Cheryl is a Career, Job Search & LinkedIn Coach and Master Resume Writer. She has helped clients in >35 industries on 6 continents and has earned 24 global resume writing nominations and awards.

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