Happy young woman sitting at her desk working and answering a phone call
ATD Blog

A Different Way to Find Your Next Position

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Are you looking for your next position? Are you doing what everyone else does? That is, only looking online and applying, then waiting for a response, which often comes in the form of a rejection email or even worse—no response. What a discouraging and depressing way to land your next position.

Every day, I speak with people who think the only way to find their next position is to look online, which is a passive approach. Instead, consider this process logically and ask yourself these questions:

  • Why would you only apply online through the human resources department if you aren’t looking for an HR position?
  • Why wouldn’t you want to speak with the hiring manager and the decision maker in the department where you wish to work?
  • Why wouldn’t you want to learn more about the position to see if you’re the right fit before you spend a lot of time completing the application?

You’ve heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Applying to jobs exclusively online to be rejected again and again falls into this definition. So do something different that is proactive, and quite frankly, a lot more fun.

Here’s the process that I recommend for my clients, which sets them apart from all the other applicants:

1. After finding a position that looks like a fit, go to the company’s website, find their phone number, and search for a person who’s in the department where you want to work.

2. Have your résumé in front of you, and make the call. Ask to speak with the person you’ve found from the website, and you’ll either be transferred to them, or you’ll get a voicemail. Either way, you can say, “Hi ______, I was doing some research, found your information, and saw that you are looking for a [fill in the title]. I’d like to make sure that the position is still open. I’d also like to speak with you for a few minutes to learn more about the position and to determine if it’s the right fit prior to applying.” Who wouldn’t want to speak with someone first for a few minutes before reviewing a résumé? This action shows that you’re resourceful, action oriented, and persevering—skills that most managers want in an employee.


3. Once you’re speaking with the decision maker, ask questions to learn more about the company’s challenges and needs and why the position is open. This initial conversation (if the position fits your skills, experiences, and interests) may lead to a telephone or face-to-face interview.

Also, I’m a very big believer in conducting an informational interview, one of the most effective tools you have when making a career change. Think of it as your career exploration process. This is a meeting that you will set up to learn more about the careers and businesses of other people. It’s important to remember that the meeting is only 15-20 minutes long, in which you will be asking questions, so the other person should do most of the talking. This is a critical point because too many people think that you are “tricking the person to meet with you” and that you really just need a job. This is absolutely not the case with informational interviews. If you go into the meeting with the mindset that you have an ulterior motive, then you have wasted your time and that of the other person.

Most people love to help others, and if you explain that you are seeking advice, the majority will be more than happy to give it. Moreover, you have paid the interviewee a compliment by inferring that they are an expert—someone whose advice you value.
As mentioned earlier, it’s better to listen more than talk, though you do want to find out about any shortcomings or issues and where things may not be working well. Knowing the areas in which the business needs assistance will help you suggest where you can be of service.


So what keeps you from picking up the phone to make the call? One big roadblock is the belief that you can only speak with people you know. Another roadblock is the fear that the person will not speak with you because they don’t know you or that you are not important enough. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you approach the informational interview as a means to seek advice, people will help you.

The challenge is to meet people you don’t know, as this is where some of your most productive relationships begin. You will gather advice, develop lifelong relationships, and learn about opportunities you never knew existed.

If you want to change the way you search for your next position, call people and have a conversation. Think about this—you’ll have to speak with your boss and peers on the job, so why not have an initial, real conversation that may lead to a fulfilling career?

Learn more about conducting a successful informational interview.

About the Author

Marilyn A. Feldstein, the founder and president of Career Choices Unlimited, is certified as a Job and Career Transition Coach, a Professional in Human Resources, and an administrator of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator instrument. She has more than 20 years of experience in all aspects of career management. Marilyn has been active in ATD for many years and served on the Program Advisory Committee for ATD's International Conference & Exposition in 2014 and 2015. Additionally, she has provided career coaching at ATD's International Conference & Exposition for more than five years, and is familiar with the career issues talent development professionals face. Marilyn is a contributor to multiple resume and career books, including Find Your Fit (ATD Press). She also has published articles in TD magazine and is the author of the ATD Infoline “Defining and Leveraging Your Professional Value.” She earned a master’s degree from Penn State University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida.

Sign In to Post a Comment
I agree with this approach in theory, but in the public sector, such as public educational institutions, circumventing official processes is more difficult.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Good article. I do have a response to your rhetorical question, "Who wouldn’t want to speak with someone first for a few minutes before reviewing a résumé?" The answer is someone who wants all incoming applications must go through the applicant tracking system (ATS) so that their information, including EEO/Affirmative Action data, is captured in first-come, first-served order. A candidate who tries to circumvent the formal process could later claim discrimination if not selected for the role.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Excellent Strategy Marilyn. Personal contact is best when possible.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.