In a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, James D. Eubanks, research analyst, and David G. Wiczer, economist, set out to figure out why, in spite of the fact the recession ended five years ago, the level of unemployment remains high. They wanted to see if it had anything to do with the techniques job seekers were using to look for employment.
And, in fact, it did. What they found revealed some interesting, but not particularly surprising, conclusions that were highlighted in an article published early this year.
The two researchers analyzed data gathered between 1976 and 2011 from the Current Population Survey, a survey of households conducted monthly by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In this survey, unemployed respondents are asked “What have you been doing in the last four weeks to find work?” and given a variety of choices as answers.
According to the survey results and authors’ calculations, the most popular job search method was contacting employers directly which was used by 65.7% of respondents. The second most popular method was answering ads, done by 25.8%, and contacting public employment agencies, done by 22.5%. Because job seekers could use more than one method, the figures total more than 100%.
Not only was contacting employers the most popular method, but it also was more effective than any of the others. More effective than employment agencies. More effective than networking with friends and relatives.
Again based on the Current Population Survey and authors’ calculations, they estimated the probability that a job seeker would gain employment using the various methods. During the first month of unemployment, the probability that those who contact employers directly will find a job is 46%. The probability for those placing or answering ads is 42% and networking with friends or relatives, 40%.
As time progresses, the probability that one method will work better than another gradually converges, and after one year they’re all about 20% effective, with only roughly a 2% difference from each other.
What you can do
This study once again confirms what we, at Jails to Jobs, have found to be the most effective job search technique – contacting hiring managers directly.
We recommend putting together a list of 100 employers who have the types of jobs you might be interested in. You can set boundaries like how far you’re willing to commute and the size of company you want to work for.
But don’t ignore the smaller employers. Depending on the type of work you do, you may want to concentrate on them. Companies with fewer than 250 employees hire nearly 75% of all workers in the U.S., and their hiring managers may be easier to get in touch with, since small companies are often less bureaucratic.
The list you compile should have the name of the company, its address, telephone number and the name of the hiring manager for the company or the department you would like to work in, if you can find it. Department managers, who usually function as the hiring managers, are sometimes listed on company websites or you might be able to find them by searching LinkedIn.
Pick up the phone
After you have your list together, the next thing to do is pick up the phone and call.
If you don’t have a name, tell the person who answers the phone, “I am trying to find out the name of the person who hires in (department). I want to send them a letter. How do you spell their last name? What is their official title?” If they’re not sure, ask if they have a company directory handy and can look it up. Also try to get the person’s email address if at all possible, by saying “By the way, what’s that person’s email address?”
Wrong extensions can often help direct you to the right person. Dial extensions starting with 1 or 2 and ask who is the hiring manager for whatever department you would like to work in.
Avoid human resource departments. They support hiring managers during the selection process but don’t typically decide who gets hired. Their primary purpose is to screen you out.
Call – email – call – call
If the hiring manager answers the phone, you can give them a 15-second scripted message selling your strengths and saying you would like to get together to find out about opportunities at their company. Even if there are no job openings, it’s good to meet with a hiring manager, because they may know of a job in a different department or another company or know about you for the next time a job comes up in their department.
These days, however, most busy people can be difficult to get a hold of, so you will probably be leaving a voice-mail message. When you do, tell them you’ll send them an email – if you’ve been able to get their email address.
When you send the email explaining that you would like to set up an appointment to come talk to them, also include a resume, if you have a good one, or a JIST card, which just has your contact information and a short listing of your abilities and strengths. A JIST card is perfect for someone who has gaps in their resume or doesn’t have an extensive history of employment.
If you don’t hear back from them by phone or email in a couple of days, call them again. If you don’t hear the second time, wait for a week and try once more. If that doesn’t work, move on and continue calling others on your list.
Just walk in
Visit any employer, factory or office that interests you. Be friendly to the receptionist or whoever you meet when you walk in and ask to speak to the hiring manager of the department you’re interested in. It would be best if you called ahead to ask who that would be, so you can ask for that person by name.
If they’re willing to meet with you, talk to them about your skills and ask them for advice. If the hiring manager isn’t there, ask to talk to someone else in the department. Just have a brief chat, about five minutes. This may establish a valuable contact. When you call the hiring manager later, you can mention you met their colleague and are interested in learning more about working at their company.
A numbers game
Looking for a job is a numbers game. The more contacts you make, the more people you call, the more resumes or JIST cards you send out and the more interviews you go on, the greater your chance of finding someone who will be happy to hire you. If you look at it this way, you’ll be more likely to keep on calling than to get discouraged. Experts say that it is actually your job search activity that will sustain your spirit and keep you going until you find a job.
We’d love to hear success stories from people who used this technique. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
$10-$20 can make a difference and provide funding to send job search books to prison and jail libraries and expand our tattoo removal outreach.