Ask, seek, knock….

Frank Hutton

Is it me, or are there increasing numbers of social shares and online pieces about people finding it hard to get a response to a job application, company approaches or a phone call to a recruiter?

I’m hearing the cry: “I’ve sent out hundreds of applications but had literally nothing back. Help!”

I suspect that recruiters’ attitudes haven't changed. It’s likely that there are more people looking to move right now. Even people entrenched in a long term position have had enough and decided to move on. Many have not had a pay rise for a while and perhaps some have put up with unpleasant roles or bosses or company cultures for too long, and can take no more.

Well, if that’s you or someone you know, here’s my response: Ask, seek, knock.  ask, seek, knock

As a principle outlined in the Bible, it’s applied to how we should be seeking God. Ask (and it will be given to you), Seek (and you will find), Knock (and the door will be opened to you). It seems there’s a principle at work here: it doesn't turn up on a plate. We have to ask, seek, find. And it's true of job searches, too!

Let’s be clear, when a job advertisement appears, you are very unlikely to be the only person applying. The company looking for a person may or may not have a clear idea in their minds about the exact profile of the person they require. You may or may not match that specification (along with a fair number of others). You may or may not engage the person reading your application with your style and content. You may get to interview and someone else may well perform better on the day. Or the company may just change their minds and promote someone internally because it feels safer.

And when you involve a recruitment consultant on top of that, the chances of you being the ‘chosen one’ are even fewer, as their own prejudices, and the fact that they may not win the race to fill the role against other recruitment consultants, your CV may not even be seen by the client.

So I advise nearly everyone, where possible, to go round this frustrating, irritating and inefficient system. There’s almost a better chance of winning the lottery (that’s another discussion - I personally don’t play it!)

Instead, take the road less travelled:

Ask - contact companies directly to ask what skills they are needing right now, and see what kind of things they appear to be looking for from their website. What kind of values and character attributes do they say match their requirements? This is a great place to start. Even if you have the right experience and talents, would you be able to work there? Would you enjoy working there? Speak to people who work there now. Use something LinkedIn perhaps and approach people who do. Check out sites like Glassdoor (but take the negative reviews with a large pinch of salt; people can be bitter!).

Seek - see which companies or organisations spark your enthusiasm and excitement. Find Managers who are working in the right kinds of specialist areas for your talents/interests. Use LinkedIn for this - its very helpful, Or check out the company website, or even call the reception desk to see who is in charge of whichever is the most relevant section (not too senior unless it’s a small company - find the person who has the pain; whose days suffer for lack of the right people.

Knock - Approach some and ask what kinds of challenges they face currently, see if they might agree to speak on the phone for 10 minutes, or meet you for a coffee to help you with your research. Don't just ask for a job. Be in control. Be planned, Be calm. It will make them more likely to deal with you. Most Brits do not want to be embarrassed but they do love to help, where possible. Asking if someone has a job or work you can do can be embarrassing if they do not have any. They will feel for you and they will feel uncomfortable.

It is hard work.

This is not the easy route - then again,  writing hundreds of applications isn't either. These approaches do need to be individual, but the core of your offer and the approach can be consistent. And you must be persistent. Be intentional and keep on towards your goal. Try contacting people more than once. Try different avenues (email, phone, social media). Don’t give up if it hasn't happened in the first 10, 20 or even 50 approaches. Keep going!

And don't forget the power of your own network in all this - your friends (all of them), family (even uncle Fred knows people, you’ll be surprised), ex-work colleagues, the guys at the football club, the Zumba class or coffee shop. Be open, tell them you’re researching your options and the general type of skills you have (not characteristics - they already know you and value you) e.g. “I really like organising things, working on schedules and chasing people up. I’m good with people too and really focused on the task. My background in x, y and z  does open all kinds of doors that kind of stuff I guess.” Let hem have a copy of your CV if they want it, and ask them if they have something in mind if so.

Keep Asking, Seeking and Knocking, in a gentle, open yet persistent way, and you may be surprised at the results. It may be a job, it may be a contract or it may be a discussion that leads to an opportunity. But you do need to start asking, seeking, knocking. Start now!