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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 5:00 pm | Partly Cloudy 56º


Paul Burri: A Different Kind of Marketing Problem

Try putting these basic principles to work when looking for a job

I’m sure glad that I’m no longer in the job market, especially in today’s economy. But I can certainly appreciate what it must be like to be looking for employment right now.

Thinking about it recently, it occurred to me that a job search is in many ways a marketing problem, but in this case you’re trying to market yourself. So perhaps some basic marketing principles apply.

I have always maintained that marketing can be distilled down to two basic steps. Step 1: Identify your target market. Step 2: Figure out the most cost-effective way to reach that market.

So how does that apply to a job search? First of all, it implies a proactive approach rather than the passive approach of looking in the classifieds or on Craigslist (which 765 other jobs-eekers are doing). Give some thought to which companies need the experience and job skills that you have to offer. It may seem obvious, but if you’re a hairstylist, an electronics manufacturer may not be the best place to look for a job. So you need to carefully identify your target market. That’s Step 1.

Step 2 is a lot more difficult, especially since you need to make contact not with the company but with the specific person within the company who does the hiring or interviewing. Start by Googling the company to learn as much as possible about it. What are its products or services? How long has it been in business? What problems does it have (especially the ones that you can solve)? Where is it located? Does it have branches in other cities? Who is the head of the human resources department? Who is the head of the department in which you would work? The list goes on.

Obviously, the more you know about the company, the better you can emphasize the skills you have that would match its needs. Keep in mind that the company may be having problems that it doesn’t clearly recognize — problems with which you may be able to help. If you doubt that companies have problems they aren’t sure about, think about why so many of them hire consultants to come in and help identify and solve their problems.

Once you have targeted a particular company and a particular decision-maker within that company, try to get an interview with that person. Having been there myself, I know that often means getting past the “gatekeeper” who is probably the person’s secretary or personal assistant. The conversation most likely will go something like this:

“I’d like to speak to Mr. Johnson, please.”
“May I tell him who this is?”
“My name is John Jobseeker.”
“May I tell him what this is about?”

Now here’s where it can get tricky. If you say you’re looking for a job, chances are you’ll be referred to the human resources department or to the company’s Web site to fill out an application. So what I used to do is somewhat sneaky but very effective. I would say, “I’m not really sure. I’m returning his call.” That implies that Mr. Johnson wants to talk to you rather than the other way around. Believe me, it really works.

Now, when you get to talk to Mr. Johnson, you do not — repeat, do not — ever ask him for a job. Instead, say something like this: “Thank you for taking my call. I have some experience and job skills that companies like yours can surely use.” Then quickly list some of your experience that you think he would be interested in. Also mention your experience at solving some of the problems that your research indicates the company might be having. Continue with, “I was wondering if you could recommend some companies in your field that could use someone with my experience.”

Note that you have not asked Mr. Johnson for a job. Instead, you have asked him for his advice, his recommendation for another company — possibly a competitor — who could use your skills and talents. People like to be asked for their advice; you flatter Mr. Johnson when you ask him for his advice.

And understand this. If Mr. Johnson knows of a need within his company, he will not send you to someone else — and especially not to a competitor. Instead, he will surely say something like, “Perhaps we could use you. Why don’t you come in for an interview?”

Good luck on your marketing enterprise.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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