The Internet occasionally buzzes with details about how people used “creative” techniques to land interviews. These “outside-of-the box” ideas include a variety of approaches. For example, you’ve probably heard of people renting billboards to try to attract attention from hiring managers. Some people have been successful after launching “hire me” campaigns on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks. Job seekers may win favor with they leverage a company’s own tools to stand out, such as one applicant who created a resume in her target company’s presentation software and tweeted a link to their CEO. (She got the job.) Another success story: a job seeker tracked her travels via various social media tools and shared them with the company where she wanted a job in social media. Keep in mind, the reason these stories make the rounds online is because these successes are unusual; they are the exception, not the rule. Most people don’t land a job because of a billboard or as the result of one, well-placed tweet.
How can you land a job in a difficult market? Especially if your target job doesn’t lend itself so well to using these social media tools, or your target company doesn’t make software or applications you can use to create a resume? You can still stand out from the crowd.
Demonstrate your expertise. The best way to attract attention is to consistently demonstrate your expertise to the community of people who have the authority to hire you or the ability to refer you for jobs. How you do that depends on your audience. If they engage on social media, identify the most active communities and sub-communities. For example, if LinkedIn is their gathering place, but the conversation mostly happens in one or two LinkedIn groups, you need to join and participate in those groups. If your targets don’t use social media, but they are active in local or national organizations, societies or groups, you need to get involved there, too.
Look for opportunities to speak at association meetings, join committees and pitch in during in-person events. Post comments in online groups and start new discussions to demonstrate that you know what is going on in your field. You may be surprised to find that both in-person and online engagement can lead to crucial referrals that land you interviews for previously out-of-reach jobs.
Offer to help. If you’re thinking, “Great, but the kind of job I want doesn’t really have organizations or associations, and no one is online.” You can still help yourself access interview opportunities by putting yourself in places where you may meet people who know someone who can help you. The best way to get help is to be the first to offer to pitch in. Are you looking for a job at the school your child attends? If you actively volunteer and show that you’re easy to work with and willing to do anything for the team, it’s much more likely that the administration will have you in mind for the next job – or even consider creating a job for you. You want to be a cashier at the grocery store? Make a point to get to know the cashiers who already work there. Be the customer everyone loves to serve. Ask to speak to the manager to compliment the holiday display, or to make a helpful suggestion. (Don’t be critical, but if you really have a great idea, share it.) When people know who you are and have a positive feeling about you, landing interviews will be much easier.
Identify a problem and suggest solutions. Use your networking and research to figure out some key problem areas for your target companies. Tactfully create some suggested solutions based on what you’ve learned, and send them to someone with the authority to recommend you for a job. (It’s best to make some good networking contacts first, so you aren’t sending unsolicited information out of the blue.) If you can hit the mark with your ideas, you could shore up an invitation to interview.
Talk about them. No, idle gossip isn’t likely to land you an interview, but you can sometimes attract attention from companies by mentioning them online. For example, if you have a blog about best places to shop, and you run a post featuring a particular retailer, it’s possible (even likely) that organization will learn about your flattering post. When you apply for a position, you could have a leg up on the competition. Similarly, if you post kind comments about a business via your social networks, and use their handles (names) in your updates, they’ll notice, and possibly remember you.
Always try to think creatively when you’re looking for a job. Even if you’re not the most creative or outgoing personality, you can sometimes stand out favorably in small ways, such as by writing a thank you note after a networking event, or by sending a link to an article you think a new contact will enjoy. Keep focused on going above and beyond what’s expected in all of your interactions, and you are more likely to succeed.