– Find out who is hiring. – Submit a great resume along with a killer cover letter. – Follow up in a couple of weeks and ask for an interview.
This has never worked for me.
What has worked has been the uninvited interview with the hirer. Not the Human Resources gatekeeper, but the CEO, chief pilot, or the director of operations. Emphasis on “uninvited”. At the end of the interview, I have a resume to hand to the hirer.
For those of you who are unbelievers, I have done this for the last several jobs that I have gotten. My business is Private Military Contracting. The contracts change often. Some change every year. So, I have had to move from job to job more often than a normal worker. This is what I have learned.
Don’t wait until you hear that a company is hiring. By the time that the word gets out or an ad is posted, the decision has already been made. Often, the ad is posted just to fulfill legal responsibilities. Instead, find a growing company that you would like to work for, and then go after the top guy in the department. The one who will make the final decision.
It is easier if you already know your business. If you are a geek, you can make that computer sing. If you are an accountant, you count with the best. But if you are young or changing fields and lack experience, crank up the confidence and emphasize your personal references, loyalty, integrity, and trainability. But even if you are the most experienced in the world, you will still need to make some preparations.
Number One: Be employed. Don’t be needy for a job. It’s a killer. Even if the boss never asks you about your employment status, your bearing and tone of voice will be screaming out: “I really need this job!”
I have been a pilot since 1980, and many times I have been unemployed as a pilot. But I have always had a job when I have gone to a big interview. I have worked construction, mopped a convenience store, and walked the beat as an armed security guard. That way I had an income, even if it was meager. You must be able to hold your head up and truthfully tell the interviewer that you have to give your current employer notice before you can come to work. Many bosses use this as a test. If you will jilt your current employer, you might leave him in the lurch, too.
Number Two: Find a way to get to your target. Of course, one must first find this target. That means research, and it might involve travel. The first time that I used this strategy was 1987. I wanted to get a pilot slot with a specialty airline owned by the CIA. After repeatedly sending resumes, I called and asked to talk with the chief pilot. This is the conversation as best as I can remember:
“Yes, son, I’ve seen your resume and you don’t have the experience we’re looking for. You’re too young. Call me back in a few years.” “Couldn’t I come out there and talk with you?” “No. I am really busy this week.” “Thank you, sir.” I hung up and immediately called his secretary. “Dawn. This is Dave Johnson again. The chief pilot said that he’s too busy to see me this week. Can you schedule me in sometime the following week?” “Yeah. How about next Tuesday at 10 o’clock?”
Nine days later I got on an airliner and flew halfway across the country. At 1000 I walked into the chief pilot’s office.
“Hello sir. My name is Dave Johnson.” “What are you doing here?” the chief pilot said. “I have an appointment to see you at 1000. Check with your secretary.” “How did you do that?” “When you said that you were busy all week, I asked Dawn to find a day that you were not busy, and I came over to see you.” “Well, you have some gall.” He checked with the secretary, and I was scheduled for an hour. I got the interview. The end of the story is that I got the job.
In 2002, I called about a pilot job with the State Department. The HR department told me that I was to wait for them to call me back. Instead, I drove 600 miles to a secure military base. The guards wouldn’t let me in, so I called from the gate to see if the chief pilot would see me. He did. I got the job.
In 2005, I could not get to the Director of Operations for a company I wanted to work for. I knew him socially, but just barely. He was to meet with one of my friends at a local bar. As planned, I walked in about a half hour after they arrived, and my friend invited me over to their table. The Director of Ops cringed knowing that I was going to ask him for a job. I wanted to in the worst way, but I knew that it was not the right time. I had one beer, talked about sports, and left. I never mentioned anything about work or getting a job. As I got up to leave, he pulled me close and invited me to come up to his office Monday morning. I got the job.
What is the point of these stories? Research the company. Go directly to the hirer. Avoid HR until you are hired and you need to get an ID badge and fill out a W-4. Even when the company is not hiring, get in and get the interview. The boss might make a position for you. Or you will be the first in line when something opens up.
By doing so, you differentiate yourself to the boss. You prove that you are resourceful, that you take initiative, and that you will solve problems. These attributes are highly prized by the big guys. Never give up.
D. Alan Johnson has been a private military contractor for over 24 years. I write about my adventures in my novels and a job guide to the contracting world. Visit my website http://www.dalanjohnson.com to learn more about PMC’s.