Outside the box

What exactly is guerrilla job hunting?

To the jaded hacks at @work, it often seems there are as many job-search experts as actual people looking for jobs. While some of their counsel is terrific, it’s rare to find an expert whose advice is novel and tangible. So much career counseling tends to be one or the other — or neither.

But “Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0” manages both. Subtitled “1,001 Unconventional Tips, Tricks and Tactics for Landing Your Dream Job,” it’s loaded with original ideas for job seekers stuck in a rut. To land a job in this economy, say the authors — marketer Jay Conrad Levinson and recruiter David Perry, along with contributing author Kevin Donlin — you need to jettison all the vague pabulum you’ve been fed and go insurgent. That means being aggressive, nimble and creative.

“If the tried and the true is working for you, hallelujah,” says Perry. “But I’ll bet you it’s not. Not right now.”

So, instead of sending a standard-issue resume the old-fashioned way and waiting for the phone to ring, illustrate it, pack it inside a Starbucks coffee cup, send it second-day delivery and a half-hour after you receive the delivery confirmation, call the person and introduce yourself.

That’s the point of guerrilla marketing — separating yourself from the herd.

It’s something Perry has plenty of firsthand experience with, as head of an executive search and recruiting firm based in Ottawa. Dubbed the “rogue recruiter” by the Wall Street Journal, he’s made a splash — and built a highly successful business — with a take-no-prisoners approach to getting his man that’s led him to incorporate such tactics as posing as a waiter at a company Christmas party to get to an executive he was trying to poach.

To learn the finer points of “guerilla” job hunting, @work spoke with him and Donlin about how the best job seekers make employers come to them, why cover letters aren’t gift wrap and how, in the world of business, sometimes no doesn’t really mean no.

What exactly is guerrilla job hunting?

Perry: It’s where you achieve conventional goals by unconventional means. So a guerrilla marketer achieves their goals by doing exactly what employers pay billions every year to send employees away on conferences to learn — to think differently.

Donlin: You zig while everyone else is zagging. Look at what everyone else is doing — then consider doing the opposite. An easy example is e-mail. Everybody e-mails their resume. Everybody complains there are no jobs. Maybe e-mailing your resume to employers shouldn’t be your only means of contact.

How would you describe the typical way people go about getting jobs?

Perry: Mass panic.

Donlin: Ass backwards.

What’s their mistake?

Perry: You’re supposed to start a job search with absolute clarity: who you are, what you want to do, three skills that you want to sell and who you want to sell them to. Most people don’t do that. They put together a resume. They look in the newspaper. They look on the job boards and they just fire on all cylinders. The problem is, when you’re hunting with buckshot, it creates a lot of damage. You’re not actually going to land anything.

What else can you do?

Donlin: The biggest mistake is to go for jobs instead of employers. And to look for advertised jobs, instead of having jobs created or offered to you that are unadvertised. Because as anecdotal and other evidence tells us, anywhere from 75 to 80 percent of jobs are not advertised. And the so-called hidden job market has gone even further underground because of the recession. Jobs are just not being advertised, and if you’re chasing after the advertised job market, you’re just like 100 penguins going after 15 fish when there’s another 85 fish right below the waterline. If you just dive down, you’ll find them.

How do you make employers come to you?

Perry: The easiest way to be found is go to ZoomInfo, which is the largest database of professionals in the world, and make sure your profile — who you are, what your title is, where you’re working — is in their database. Because thousands of recruiters and hiring managers go there every day. If I need a blond-haired, blue-eyed lawyer in Massachusetts with a bachelor’s in civil engineering, I can make that request and it’ll tell me who they are.

The second key is to be on LinkedIn. And you have to establish a network. There’s a very easy way to do it, and that’s to set up your profile and then go to toplinked.com and become a “LinkedIn Lion.” Lions are open networkers. Then send invitations to the top 50 LinkedIn lions — and they’ll all accept; it’s automated — and you’ll have instant access to their network. You can go from zero contacts to 14 million inside of 24 hours.

If you’re ambitious, set up a Facebook profile. The first place a lot of recruiters go after we’ve looked on ZoomInfo is Facebook. If you’re not there, you’re invisible. Guerrillas first and foremost set up their profiles so they can be found, because it’s a heck of a lot easier to let the phone ring than to make it ring on the other side.

Is it true you can advertise your services on Facebook?

Perry: For about 25 bucks, you can run an ad campaign targeted at a specific company. For example, you could look for an accounting job inside KMPG in New York. So only people at a managerial level in KPMG in New York would see your ad. And you only pay when people actually click on the ad. It’s literally microtargeting.

To do it, just go to the bottom of your profile and click on advertising.

How can you improve your resume?

Donlin: We’ve found two elements produce drastically better results: graphics/logos and quotes. The graphics and the logos can be logos from a company’s Web site, or pictures of awards you’ve won or products you’ve worked with — a graphic representation of your experience. They can go in the left-hand column. And they work because people would rather look at pictures than read.

What we understand as marketers that most job search experts don’t is that people buy based on emotion and then use logic to justify it afterwards. This is why beer commercials feature the Swedish bikini team. It’s all about getting your attention. It’s the same with resumes. We had a client who was an engineer who’d worked on the Dodge Viper, and at the top of his resume was a candy-apple red Dodge Viper. That got attention, and if you can do that you’re halfway there.

Below those graphics in the left-hand column, we include two or three quotes. These are testimonials, and can come from clients or managers. It’s Marketing 101.

What about cover letters?

Donlin: The average cover letter reads like an IRS tax form. Actually it’s less exciting. With that in mind, the best advice is to study any good sales letter. What you’re doing is trying to sell an employer on hiring you, and you can’t bore anyone into hiring you.

Two principles: One, turn all the “I,” “me,” “my” into “you,” “you,” “you.” Rewrite any sentence that starts with “I am looking for a position” and recast it as “You will benefit from my 10 years of experience.” If you look at any good sales letter, all the language is “you, you, you.” It’s Sales Copy 101.

Two, you can simply boil your whole resume, your whole candidacy, down to one sentence. Put it in a P.S., because a P.S. always gets read. You can find one in any good sales letter, but in almost no cover letter.

For example, you can say, “P.S. Call me today to learn how I saved $89,433 by changing vendors 30 days ago.” Include a quote or your most provocative statement in your P.S., and your letter will improve dramatically.

You say no doesn’t always mean no from a potential employer. How so?

Perry: For the last 30 years there’s been turnover, attrition every year at about 20 percent a year, and there will be for the next 20 years. What that means is that any company with 100 people is going to turn over 20. The math’s real simple.

So if somebody says “no,” it just means “not today.” It means your timing isn’t right. So how do you get around that? You do your homework and find out what the company’s needs are and what your accomplishments are that can satisfy their needs. If you put that in a cover letter and you put together a one-page guerrilla resume which visually shows the employer what’s in it for them, it won’t generate a “no.” It’ll generate a phone call that says, “Geez, I wish I could hire you, but we don’t have any openings.” Which leads to an interview.

One of the first things we tell clients is, “You’ve probably kept track of all the companies that have rejected you in the last month. Do a guerrilla resume and do a cover letter and send it to those 10 companies.” I’d say at least 50 percent of the time, they’ll get an interview.


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