Job Search Strategy: Referrals or Online Applications?

 In Job Search Tips

You may have read multiple suggestions by career professionals to prioritize networking in your job search and try to be the referred candidate (as opposed to applying online). Both approaches are valid, if you are clear and strategic in your job search.

Applying as a referred candidate

If you are a referral, chances are you are one of the few candidates the employer is considering seriously. They may be looking into your profile to identify your value (vs. quickly screening candidates out among 200+ applications received). Perhaps you have a connection in the organization who is advocating for you. Perhaps you are the only name on their mind when a new role opens up. The role may never even get announced on job boards because the employer prefers to save posting and candidate selection costs. In other words, as a referral, you are competing on your value.

Applying online

If you are an online applicant, you have more competition and your cost to the company plays a role. A job ad receives anywhere from 50 to 300+ applications. People in the same pool with you have similar qualifications, and the employer may be able to choose a candidate who can accept a lower salary or deliver more value for the same salary. When you apply for job ads online, you want to make sure that:

▻ you meet most/all of the job requirements

▻ your career documents reflect the match accurately

▻ you follow up with a decision-maker to get noticed.

Setting clear career goals

Both of these methods are valid, as long as you have clarity about your career goals.

✔ You will spend 140-180 hours per month at work. What kind of work do you love to do so that it does not always feel like work and you don’t risk burnout?

✔ People in your organization will be as important to your job satisfaction as the nature of work itself. What company culture do you want to work in? What is your ideal team like?

We all have to compromise on something, but I recommend that you start with your Plan A.

Once you have defined the best role and company culture for you, start your search. You will see that eliminating options will be easier, and this is what I want you to do more often. Home in on the jobs you really want to land, grow in, or sustain over the next few years – for stability and satisfaction. Getting interviews and jobs will be easier if your selection is strategic.

If you don’t get one of the target jobs on your carefully curated list, you can get another one – comparable or better – instead of settling for less. The interviews and applications that did not result in a hire, may be pleasant networking opportunities (do follow up!).

Job search checklist

1.     Create a list of 10-30(+) target companies (or client groups).

2.     Network with current and past employees (in various roles) at these companies.

Past employees may have more freedom to inform you about the company culture. Current employees may share information about current needs, problems, and projects.

3.     Ask your existing network if anyone knows employees at your target organizations.

4.     Schedule several informational interviews with people in your target roles.

5.     Research these companies and create a spreadsheet with key data.

6.     Check the Career pages on these companies’ websites.

Some jobs may be announced only on company websites – for various reasons, including to limit the costs of placing ads and screening candidates.

7.     Identify networking groups affiliated with your target employers – online or in-person.

Look into Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, association forums online, association meetings/conferences, or various community events. Join a couple of channels where your target employers (or clients) are most likely to be present.

8.     Join professional associations and network with the associations’ leaders and members.

9.     Consider contributing expertise as a volunteer advisor. This can be a short-term, one-time project to help the organization with one of its problems.

10.  On a regular basis (choose the right occasion), send short and specific introductory messages via LinkedIn or email; try inviting people to have a conversation (phone or video).

11.  Choose several niche and general job boards and sign up for email alerts. Find out which associations in your industry have the best job boards and use them as a member.

12.  View every relationship as a collegial place of sharing ideas and offering value – not simply asking for information or help. Keep notes and keep identifying the best places for you to work.

Reprinted from a LinkedIn article “Job Search Strategy: Referrals or Online Applications?”

About the author:

Tanya Mykhaylychenko provides resume writing and career strategy services for executives. Connect with her on LinkedIn for networking tips and ideas on executive career development.

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