In Through the Side Door

If you’re not scoring many interviews by applying for jobs and forwarding your resume to HR, try more creative means to get the hiring manager’s attention.

Got your eye on a specific job? Don’t want your resume to get lost in the shuffle? There are ingenious methods of getting an employer’s attention through the side door.

Instead of sending your resume and job application through the human-resources department, you might want to catch the employer’s attention by flashier means. Establish yourself as an industry expert that the company simply can’t ignore or live without until they’re the ones asking you for your resume.

If you have a target company in mind (or a few), these techniques might make you stand out from the crowd of resumes waiting to be reviewed by the HR department. To learn some of the successful techniques that have worked for job seekers, Ladders spoke to career coaches who suggested innovative ways for their clients to stand out and interviewed job seekers who won the attention of hiring managers by unconventional means.

The techniques described below won’t work for everyone, warn those who shared their stories. Every job seeker and job is different. What’s the common denominator? In each case, the professional “showed off skills in an area the person really wanted to be in,” said Susan Berg, Ph.D., author of ” Choose on Purpose for Twentysomethings.” Instead of copying exactly the approach of others, she recommended job seekers examine why the technique worked and try to find a technique that does the same in your particular situation. “There are no magic bullets. This is about hard work, knowing what you want, and being willing to take risks and be persistent.”

Chime In: the print version

Debra Benton, an executive coach and president of Benton Management Resources Inc., recalled a client who wanted to work for the governor of Colorado.

“Resumes went nowhere; networking wasn’t working either,” she said. “So we developed a series of letters to the editor of the Denver Post about issues my client was an expert in and that was of interest to the governor’s office. In the letters, we addressed some projects my client had executed (or) completed. We also included thought-provoking approaches to issues of interest to the governor.

“Long story short, (the governor’s) people called to have him come in and discuss his expertise, which ultimately resulted in him getting offered a job on the governor’s staff.”

Chime in: the online version

Blogging is another way to present yourself to the world, if you’ve got something worth saying. Mitchell York, a career coach with The Five O’Clock Club, had one client — an expert on international marketing strategy and PR and a former journalist for NBC News — who did just that.

“I thought it was a good way [for him] to connect with people he’s interested in and to reconnect with people he’s known,” York said. “That has proven to be the case. He’ll write a post, and he’s incredibly interesting and engaging…. He’ll send a link to the post to someone in his network who has interest in what he’s writing about, as a way to reconnect with someone and as a way to expose his expertise to new people (as well as) to get people to forward what he’s written. It really shows what he knows about to a wider circle of people. I’ll link to them, retweet them and send them out to my network.”

If you don’t have something worth saying, this approach can backfire, of course. But as York suggested, blogging is a good venue for professionals with a point of view in the area of interest that relates to their job search. “If you have content that’s valuable, it can be a great way to get consulting assignments and freelance work and to just enhance your networking for more meetings with people,” York pointed out. “And meetings are what lead to job interviews, and that leads to jobs.”

Who can resist a FedEx package?

Executive coach Rich Gee directs his clients to bypass recruiters and HR departments by directing their attention to the actual hiring managers.

“They initially reach out to these higher-ups by writing them a short, introductory letter, where they never mention that they are looking for a position,” he said. “I have them FedEx the letter to ensure that they receive it and that they actually read it. They then follow up with a direct call to introduce themselves and ask for a lunch/coffee.” One client did this with a CEO, a CMO and a GVP in the financial sector. When Gee’s client followed up with phone calls, all three were expecting his call and agreed to his lunch invitation. During the conversations that ensued, each one of the executives said the same thing: “You were smart to FedEx the letter. E-mail gets trashed. Mail gets tossed. FedEx gets READ.”

Ask for informational interviews

As Chris Perry neared the end of his MBA program last spring, he told us, he was pursuing brand-management opportunities in consumer packaged goods. Unfortunately, he said, while he had marketing experience, he had not previously worked in brand management and quickly discovered how challenging it was to break into the industry.

He started reaching out to brand managers at companies he was targeting via LinkedIn and requested brief informational interviews to discuss their companies and careers. During the calls, he said, “we would both have the opportunity to share our backgrounds, which helped us make an initial connection.”

At the end of each call, Perry would frame the challenge he was having breaking into the industry and ask his subject how she got her foot in the door and what she recommended Perry do to pursue opportunities successfully. By not asking for a job and instead making a connection first, offering a “problem” and the opportunity to help him solve it, Perry had a number of professionals ask for his resume to send around so that their teams could help him out.

“One such request led not only to an invitation to an official interview, but eventually to my current role,” said Perry, who’s working as a career-search and branding expert at CareerRocketeer.

Network like mad

Here are three more networking tips from Abby Kohut, president of :

  1. If your target company is public, buy one share of its stock. That makes you eligible to attend the company’s shareholders’ meeting. Then go and hob-nob with the executives.
  2. Volunteer for the charity to which your target company donates time or money. Attend events that the charity hosts, and try to meet the executives.
  3. Go to happy hours at the bars near your target company. If the company’s large enough, someone will probably be there from the company. Make friends.