The Backstory

Conducting a job search is a pretty stressful and frustrating experience, as anyone who’s been through it can attest. Even more so if your job search is taking place while you’re unemployed or underemployed and under the gun (laid off, fired, company bankruptcy, what have you). After being laid off in the spring and having little success with a ‘normal’ job search through most of the year, I decided to get a bit crazy and break some rules. I decided to stop counting solely on recruiters and surfing job boards alongside the other 400 people who applied for that same position. Instead, I’d reach out directly to hiring managers in companies where I wanted to work. And I’d talk to them about business challenges they had and solutions I could offer. Then I’d ask them for a job, or for a referral to someone who could perhaps give me a job.

This would either go really, really well or end really, really badly. Enter, Project 200.

Project 200?

I associate a numerical goal/label with all of my personal and professional passion projects. Everything I do ends up being called ‘Project [Number]’ in Trello. Yep, I taskboard pretty much anything that has more than five steps or takes longer than a day. Sometimes, I even create a board for errands or apartment cleaning day. I’m a huge nerd like that.

Why 200?

This came from talking to a headhunter in the US who specializes in technical search. She’s built her business around representing jobseekers and profiling candidates to her network, instead of filling job orders from companies. She’s really good, but effing expensive (too expensive for me to retain, that’s for sure). She’s a numbers person, and broke it down for me like this:

“Count on 80% attrition at every step. That’s what I’ve seen when you buck the system and talk directly to hiring managers about business problems that you can help solve. Manage your expectations and stay positive… you’ll get a lot of rejection doing this, but it will work if you stick with it.”

So if this guideline holds water, I need to contact 200 hiring managers to get two solid offers.

  • = 200 x 20% (initial contact)
  • = 40 x 20% (calls / emails back expressing interest)
  • = 8 x 20% (interviews)
  • = 1.6 offers (let’s round that up to 2, I’m feeling optimistic)

Why two offers? Because I like choice. And leverage.

Marketers are in the business of increasing conversion through persuasion and targeted engagement. We’re a force for growth, right? It’s time to do something differently when you’re just another number in an applicant tracking system or another resume in a (digital) stack of 500. Or 671, one hour after posting in the case of this jobSo, let’s marketeer the shit out of this.

‘Modern’ applicant tracking systems strip out the visual awesomeness you spent hours creating, and flag you for review by an actual human only if you’ve used pre-selected keywords and semantic combinations a certain number of times. Oh, and your special layout formatting and carefully-selected typographical pairings (to make your resume attractive) messes with its ability to do that. Classic enterprise-level ATS software was built by engineers, not artists. Insert angry-face emoticon here.

My goal is to operate completely outside that dreadful ‘enterprise’ recruiting funnel. So for this campaign, I chose to go old school. Personal correspondence, hand-addressed envelopes, and a personalized letter of introduction that takes a stab at the hiring manager’s pain points.

All backed up by digital assets, of course. I’m not a savage.

Next Up: Scope + Planning [Part II]

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