In today’s marketplace most candidates we engage with are working two well trodden paths when looking for a new position – the online job boards such as Monster, Linkedin etc and company website’s or career portals; but are they missing a trick?
It is suggested by some commentators that as many as 70% of jobs are never advertised! The actual percentage number ranges quite considerably, but one thing we can be certain of is that many roles are filled through this route.
OK, roles in the public sector have (are supposed?) to be open to all, whilst private sector employers always have more freedom; whatever the sector there are still many hiring managers who prefer a recommendation or a targeted approach to wading through hundreds of applicants after posting an advert on the web.
We see examples of this all the time, even for roles where recruitment companies are involved or where there is a solid HR recruitment process that must be adhered to! If the hiring manager feels they have identified the right candidate, they will generally remove all obstacles to getting that person on the payroll!
So how do we tap into these opportunities? There are a number of different approaches that can be taken into consideration, but be warned, they require effort, planning, research and some cases getting out of your comfort zone. Choosing a different path from the masses is not easy – if it was, everyone would be doing it.
Organisation Referral Schemes
Many organisations in recent times have decided to use their own employees to push their recruitment campaigns; referral fees have been on offer for any employee who recommends friends, family or past colleagues who they then hire. Think about your own network, both past and present and be prepared to step up your efforts to find out who in your network may have access to the organisation / role that you want.
Good old-fashioned face to face networking can’t be ignored; it works! It works because it’s all about widening your own network and when your own network is larger it follows that there are more opportunities to be farmed. You may gain insight into a company that has an open opportunity, a possible opportunity or referrals and recommendations. Sometimes the power is a simple as someone “just putting a good word in” for you. More recently there has been a rise in online or social networking (more information below on how to get involved in social networking) but still it is not as effective as a face to face event.
Ask yourself, when was the last time I went to a project management event, seminar, conference or exhibition? If it’s been a while, your network will probably be a little on the small side or full of the same old faces.
Book on to your next event and be prepared; effective networking starts before you arrive. Make sure you have your business cards ready (if you’re not working, consider investing a few pounds on the business card machines available on the high street). If possible, see if an attendee list is available beforehand (you can plan who you would like to speak to). Remember that networking is a two-way street; it’s much more effective if you have something to offer a contact rather than just wanting something from them.
It’s also an opportunity for you to follow-up afterwards, so make sure you take that business card and make a quick note on the back (who they were and what action you’re going to follow-up with. Networking situations can be daunting for some; walking into a room full of strangers, not too sure who to approach or what to say. All I can advise is deep breath and open with the usual conversation starter; “what brings you here today.” The only other piece of advice is how to break away from a conversation; you don’t want to end up talking to just one or two people, the goal is to have as many effective conversations as you can. Around five minutes is a good time to break off, get a coffee and have a walk around to find your next contact.
You can target the organisations you want to work for directly rather than wait for the organisation to release vacancies; many line managers will look at the good speculative CVs they received directly before advertising a position. This approach works well when you have really targeted organisations well and you know they will need your kind of skills and experience in the future. Before commencing you need to be clear about who you are and what you have to offer; practice the 30 second pitch that tells anyone you come into contact with; who you are and what you can do. Don’t try to be everything to everyone – if it’s clear, concise and to the point you will leave the right first impressions.
You can approach this in a number of ways; draw up a list of 10 companies you would like to work for or draw up a list of 10 local companies (don’t overlook the SME market!) that interest you. Start researching them; start with the websites and press releases then hone your research to concentrate on the project management elements of their business. Start locating people on social media sites first like LinkedIn; look for HR contacts and project management line managers. Pick up the phone and call the organisation; start with HR department first and find out if they’re hiring or likely to be hiring in the near future. Try and find out the line managers details so you can follow-up directly.
Engage an Agent
Yes, that’s right! We hear about agents in all walks of life working on behalf of their clients, footballers, writers, actors so why not a PPM practitioner? Sometimes you may come across an opportunity that you can not progress as the hiring organisation will only deal with an agency. In these cases you need to turn the normal process on its head and select somebody you trust to represent you. Most recruitment agents would welcome you with open arms if you have a potential “in” with a client where they can make a fee for either permanent placements or a margin on a contractor. Choose carefully though, making sure that they can sell your value and will represent you for a fee that will not potentially blow the opportunity. Call round a few and have the discussion, who knows it may even open up other opportunities along the way.
The Invisible Candidate
Finally, there has been a whole book dedicated to hidden vacancies called The Invisible Candidate by Anthony Haley, it was published back in 2009 but I’ve still not read a book like it that gets close. The whole book is dedicated to tapping into hidden vacancies and details how to research, how to find the right people within organisations you want to work within, how to make that first call and right through to interviews, testing and the job offer. It’s a recommended read for anyone who wants to seriously tap into this hidden market but again be warned it requires time, effort and confidence as some of the techniques do, in effect, involve cold calling.
Tapping into the hidden vacancy market can take time and dedication; sometimes you might not hear back or feel like you’re making much progress but perseverance will pay off if you keep to a plan of action and keep the cycle of activity flowing.