Chadron State College
Chadron State College

Market Yourself

Noted job search resources agree that over 80% of professional and executive openings are not public knowledge. In other words, classified ads and employment agency postings account for fewer than 20% of available job market positions. The following marketing channels are recommended as avenues to consider when creating a comprehensive job search strategy.


It is often easy to arrange a meeting with an acquaintance since your credibility is already established. However, it is best to delay the meeting until you have a defined career objective. Even the most polished presenter can improve his presentation. Video taping a mock interview with a career guidance professional will often improve your effectiveness.

When contacting people you know, make certain your acquaintance clearly understands that you are not asking for a job, but rather want advice as to how you can best explore your options. When approached in this manner, your acquaintance is not threatened and will be more open and helpful. The person may know of potential positions and may suggest individuals with whom you should meet. Ask to use your acquaintance as a reference. Even if the person is unaware of openings, he/she will become familiar with your objectives and serve as an extra pair of eyes and ears on the lookout for opportunities which might benefit you.


This technique is the single best source for identifying "hidden" jobs. The theory is simple. Anyone in a position to know of jobs which meet your objective is a potential network target. As with acquaintances, you should not ask the person for a job, but rather request a short meeting to ask questions about the industry or company in which you have an interest. Keep the meeting short and remember that your primary objective is information.

Remember that you are asking a personal favor. You may be surprised at how open and helpful these network contacts can be. Use referrals from other people to open doors for you. Whenever possible, say, "So-and-so has suggested you may be helpful to me." These individuals may be asked many times for similar assistance. Respect their time and don't forget to say thank you.

Spot Opportunities

Particular situations that are especially attractive will come to your attention by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, professional journals and through other media. As you read, always be on the look-out for situations that could use your skills. Once an interesting situation is identified, take the initiative to follow up on the lead. Initiative is one of the traits most valued by employers.

Specific Targets

As you consider your options, there will be some companies, industries, agencies and school systems that are particularly well suited for your skills. These target employers should be researched to uncover any information that can help you present your skills as a solution to their needs. This research can include meeting with individuals for background information as well as tapping into the vast public information available in databases.

Executive Search

"Headhunters" represent an excellent source for quality positions, but the number of positions that they actually fill in a year's time is considerably fewer than most people realize. For example, a firm with 5-7 professionals might complete 50-100 searches in a year. Of those, only 2 or 3 would be filled with unsolicited résumés and yet they may receive 400 or 500 unsolicited résumés a week.

All search firms work for the employer and have little interest or concern in you as an individual--other than to see how well you meet the job specifications. To the extent that you can, never allow information to surface that could jeopardize their position with their client. For instance, to imply early in the relationship that you are talking seriously about another opportunity will usually eliminate their interest in you. They don't want to risk presenting you to a client if you may suddenly be unavailable.

firms are vulnerable to conflicts of interest. Their fee is based on a percentage of your package, so the more that you receive the bigger their fee.

Contingency firms, as the name implies, are only paid if they make the placement. As a result, they will tend to consider your credentials for more companies in hopes of making "a hit." As a rule, they will know less about the position and will be less willing to help you present yourself to your best advantage. Currently, contingency searches are growing at the expense of retainer searches.

Full retainer firms are paid up front prior to selecting the candidate and, in theory, do not have to fill the position to retain the fee. The rationale is that they are then freed from pressure and can concentrate on locating only that talent which completely meets the employer's specifications. These firms usually know a lot about the company and will share it once they are convinced that you should be presented to their client. They want to make a lasting marriage between you and the employer. The quality of their candidates and how well those candidates succeed in the organization is the basis of their reputation.

Usually full retainer searches are concentrated in senior management positions when a number of subjective needs exist and where confidentiality is most critical. The search firm and client will have developed specifications for the position and you will not be out of order to ask what they are.

Direct Mail

Direct mail is probably the most over-used and ineffective method of job search. It is perceived to be inexpensive and impersonal enough that the sender doesn't feel too rejected when it doesn't succeed. In reality, it is seldom effective except in cases where the sender's skills are very identifiable and in industries undergoing boom growth.

The often-quoted SUCCESS RATE OF 2% is probably over-stated; at best, it refers to responses, not interview opportunities. You should especially question the value of direct mail in any case where it is not addressed to a specific individual. It is most valuable when your response doesn't look like a form letter. The other rule is to keep it simple; this is not a case of more is better.

Classified Ads

It is not at all unusual for a small classified to attract over a thousand responses. Although many of these responses are obviously unqualified, even the most qualified individual can be overlooked in the screening process. In this situation, your cover letter and résumé constitute a commercial for you that must make a connection with the reader in 15-20 seconds or be rejected. In other words, it needs to be very obvious to the reader that there is a reason to read further. If it isn't obvious, there is almost no chance for consideration.

Employment Agencies

Private employment agencies recruit job candidates for employers on a contingency basis. Since the company incurs no cost to place the job order, it is usually given to several agencies to broaden the search effort. An agency may be a general recruiter or specialize in a particular occupation or industry. Agencies seek to establish a volume level of business. Most reputable agencies do not charge the job seeker a fee; it is paid by the employer. There is considerable variation in the professionalism of employment agencies.

Unlike executive search firms, a job seeker may visit any employment agency without an appointment, fill out an information card and be screened by a placement counselor. Many will routinely send your résumé to companies without your knowledge. Have the agency clarify its policy in this regard. Employment agencies rarely handle job openings over $60,000 per year, with the bulk of their assignments in the $20,000-$45,000 range. If this is a suitable marketing channel for you, contact as many agencies as possible for maximum exposure.

Job Fairs

Job fairs can be a viable channel, particularly in the economic growth areas. There are also special fairs for new college graduates. The organizer of the fair assembles a group of 10-50 firms in one place--for the purpose of recruiting new employees. This is a way for you to see several potential employers at one time and for them to save recruiting costs. Some fairs require advanced registration. They are usually advertised in local newspapers and at university career and placement offices.