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Make Employers Fight Over You

Alexandra Levit’s careers column last week in the Wall Street Journal tells about a 26 year-old job hunter in the commercial real estate field — hardly a growth industry these days — who got multiple job offers from employer prospects. This job seeker did nothing magical; he applied some of the lessons spelled out by Dave Jensen in his 20 February 2009 Tooling Up column, “The Cold, Hard Truth About Finding a Job in 2009”. But he took these techniques one step further and made himself look indispensable to the employers.

Making companies fight over job-hunters seems far-fetched these days. While some signs point to an upturn in the overall economy, the job market remains weak. Companies are retrenching — Doing More With Less as Jim Austin pointed out on this blog last week. As Levit notes and Jensen said earlier this year, some companies are hiring. But, as Jensen advised, job hunters need to expend a great deal more time and effort than in the past to find a job and use all of the job-hunting tools at their disposal.

Levit’s column last week suggests that these extra efforts to connect with potential employers do not go unnoticed by hiring managers, and can make job-hunters seem much more valuable. She encourages job-seekers to research prospective employers, using the Web and their own networks, to learn as much as possible about their history, corporate culture, financial performance, and recent developments related to the company.

Job-seekers should then use that intelligence in cover letters and resumes to show how well they would fit in with the organization’s plans and the value they would bring. “By the time the interview takes place,” Levit says, “they are able to have an intelligent discussion about the value they bring to the position, and the employer can easily envision them starting tomorrow.”

Another tip from Levit: You can create a “buzz” about your potential to the company. She recommends making multiple contacts in a company — such as the HR department, personal acquaintances, and the hiring manager — and letting these contacts know about the others in the organization with whom you’ve been speaking. In other words, get them talking about you, but don’t assume they would do it on their own.

In this tough job market, you must work both harder and smarter. But contrast these practices with extreme job-hunting and so-called bold tactics discussed in other WSJ stories, which aim to grab the attention of hiring managers. Now put yourself in the heads of executives hiring for responsible jobs that pay a decent salary and require the the trust and confidence of colleagues. Which strategy do you think will more likely get you an interview or a job?