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How to research companies and get in touch before they advertise

by Marya Jan

According to Richard Nelson Bolles, the author of this controversial bestseller and the world’s most popular job search book according to Amazon, ‘What Colour is Your Parachute?’ the five worst ways to look for a job are:

  1. Looking for employer’s postings on the Internet (4-10% success rate)
  2. Mailing out resumes to employers on random (7% success rate)
  3. Answering ads in trade journals or magazines in your specific industry (7% success rate)
  4. Answering local newspaper ads (5-24% success rate)
  5. Going to private recruitment agencies (5-28% success rate)


What else is there to do? Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the controversial nature of the advice. That being said, Bolles knows what he is talking about. He has led the job search field for more than 40 hours and is a MENSA member, graduate from Harvard and holder of Masters and three honorary doctorate degrees.

He says there are better ways to look for jobs that have a much higher rate of success. The best of which is, to get in touch with an employer BEFORE they advertise a position. Taking a proactive approach is the key.

So the question then becomes how do you do that? How do you identify and contact companies when you have no idea of whether there are any openings at all. Isn’t that a bit like cold calling?

Yes, it is. And it is the best strategy for you to employ before you run out of time and energy to continue.

Discovering Leads

Asking your contacts

Who is your contact? Any family member, friend, a member of the community, staff member at career counters or a career counsellor at the college where you graduated from, is a contact. Get in touch with them and ask them one simple question:

Do you know of any jobs at the place where you work – or elsewhere?

Bolles says this method has a 33% success rate. This means, out of every 100 people who are looking for a job, 33 will find one, as compared to 7 on average in other cases mentioned above.

Meeting local businesses face to face

This is traditional cold calling. Knock on the doors of every company’s office, business centre, organisation headquarters or shop you are interested in working for or are a patron of. It doesn’t matter if they are advertising a vacant position or not. Do it anyway.

This method has a staggering 47% success rate. You can increase this to 87% if you take a more targeted approach.

For instance, you might identify the ideal businesses or companies to work for, and then either start calling them or meeting them to check whether they might be interested in hiring somebody like you.

Discovering superior information via Job Boards

Information is power.

What separates you from other players in the job hunting market is the level of in-depth knowledge you have regarding your industry, market trends and the companies you are targeting.

For basic information (like what the company has done or what is it about) you might look at Google, companies’ websites and directories. However, the information that gives you the edge is the one that tells you where the company is going.

What you want to be looking at is the number of jobs a company has available. This clues you in to the fact that the company is expanding and investing more.

More specifically, you need to find out which companies are hiring, and one really useful tool to identify your target list is the job boards. But you are not looking at the jobs advertised per se. For every job there are hundreds of applicants and your odds are pretty depressing.

What you want to be looking at is the number of jobs a company has available. This clues you in to the fact that the company is expanding and investing more. If there are jobs in sales, there are bound to be jobs in other departments like marketing, production, manufacturing, customer service and IT. By catching on to something like this means you can start your networking process earlier. Way before others are aware of this turn of events.

Make a list of those companies that have a lot of jobs open. Rank them on the actual numbers. Make a target list of 40-50 local companies

See what sort of jobs are open and then try and understand the hiring organisation’s goals. These could be increasing revenue or reducing expenditure. By gaining insight to their goals, you are in a much better position to anticipate the types of jobs that will become available in the not too distant future.

Make Contacts on Social Media

If you have personal contacts inside an organisation, that’s fantastic, but more often you won’t. You then need to make contacts within the company. You can go to specific networking events or meet people on LinkedIn. Don’t expect them to divulge sensitive information straightaway. You need to earn their trust first.

Do not ask for jobs. Do not come across like a job seeker. Your aim is to sniff out opportunities. Use this knowledge alongside the knowledge found on job boards.

Discovering Trigger Events

Trigger events is a term coined by Jill Konrath author of Selling to Big Companies and SNAPSelling.

A trigger event is simply a big event or change within an organisation (or in that organisation’s industry) that creates a work related opportunity for you.

Here are some examples of great trigger events.

  • Positive or negative financial announcements
  • New funding received
  • New product or service announcements
  • Expansions into new markets
  • New strategic initiatives within the organisations
  • New management or ownership
  • Layoffs, downsizing, rightsizing
  • Pending or recently enacted legislation
  • Landing a very large or prestigious new client
  • New partnerships, relationships or affiliations
  • Job openings

Some of the great sources for trigger events are:

  • Industry articles
  • Trade Newsletters
  • Business publications
  • News magazines/articles
  • Google Alerts
  • Local paper or business chronicle

Set Up Google Alerts

When you sign up to Google Alerts with specific queries and keywords, you get specific email updates on those searches. You can set these up for specific companies or organisations to find out what is being said about them, monitor developing news stories and announcements, and listen in to the conversations happening around those terms. You can also adjust the frequency as daily or weekly to suit your needs.

Go to Company Specific Message Boards

You can do a search on company specific message boards like Vault. These will help you get the inside scoop on career paths and employers that catch your interest. You will be able to find more information regarding a specific job or find out what are the company hiring processes. You will see people discussing what you can expect to be paid on a particular role and what sorts of checks to expect.

Look at The Company’s Social Media Accounts

Start with the company’s website. This is usually the best source of information. Do they have a blog? Check out their updates, best get on their mailing list and receive the newsletter. Blogs often give you excellent information about their culture as you will find many employees updating it periodically.

Many companies have a robust presence on Facebook or Twitter where they make announcements regarding products, news and overall culture of the companies. They sometimes post job openings on their fan pages. Keep an eye on their social media activities. What are they tweeting about? What are they saying on their Facebook page?

They sometimes post job openings on their fan pages. Keep an eye on their social media activities.

On their LinkedIn pages, you will find relevant information as to how many employees the company has, who left them and who joined, how much they grossed in the past year. When you follow a page you get update on if they have new jobs or who else is following them.

You can actually look at their competitors’ websites for the scoop on what’s happening in their sector.

Check out their press releases and marketing material

The company issues press releases to bring the best foot forward. It can be useful to go through and discover any leads.

Look at their annual financial reports

Under the investor information, you will find loads of useful information like how well the company doing financially. Be sure to check out data on their affiliates, partners, business strategy, and target market profiles.

You can also check out public libraries for another good source of company information. Any information that you get your hands on, that is not yet made public is gold and bound to get you some solid leads. Go out there and start looking.

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