7 Unorthodox Job Search Tips

by Salary.com Staff - Original publish date: April 27, 2015

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Are you looking for a job? Then you've probably heard a lot of the same, recycled advice.

"Use your network," "do what you love," and "make sure you do your research." Look, those aren't bad pieces of advice. They are the building blocks of a successful job search, and the kind of common sense tips on which you need to build a solid foundation when you're a job seeker. But if you've been doing all of the basics and still not getting anywhere, perhaps it's time to think outside the box.

The following is a list of things to do that goes beyond the basics. They're not exactly ground-breaking by any stretch, but they might nudge you just far enough outside the box to the point you start thinking about things a little differently. Good luck.

7. Become a Loyal Fan

Here's a story about someone right here at Salary.com.

A few years ago, we noticed someone on social media doing great work with our tools and data. He would routinely make tutorials about how useful our Salary Wizard is, or run comparisons with our Cost of Living calculator to show people in real time how this information could help them. He was not an employee and we weren't paying him, but he tagged us in everything he did and we began to take notice. When the time came to hire new writers, guess who was on the top of our list?

If you target a company you know you like and would want to work someday, even if there are no current job openings you make yourself known by becoming a fan and letting them you know you understand and appreciate what they do. It gives you a huge leg up when something does open up.

6. Don't Apply Immediately

You're browsing LinkedIn for jobs and BOOM -- there it is. The perfect one. I know this might sound a little crazy, but hold off on applying.

Yes, that's right. Don't apply immediately. I understand it's difficult because LinkedIn has that feature that tells you exactly how many people have applied and it keeps increasing every single time you refresh the page and everything in you is telling you to apply NOW NOW NOW before it's too late. But just breathe. There are good reasons to hold off.

You need time to do your research. Google the company and make sure, to the best of your ability, it's a good culture fit and a place you want to work. Read through the job responsibilities one more time and make sure you're actually qualified for the job. Check out what it pays and whether that meets your requirements. And then, most importantly, take all of that information and use it when you're tailoring your resume and cover letter to this particular job. Because make no mistake, you should be customizing those two things for each and every job to which you apply.

5. Find the Top Decision-Makers

All the career advice articles tell you to find out who the hiring manager is and form a connection. But why not aim a little higher?

These days, when senior executives and even CEOs are readily available on Twitter and Facebook pages, why not go for it and approach upper management in a proactive and engaging way? Let's be very clear, this is not a call to inundate company officials with tweets, emails, or calls. Do. Not. Stalk. But if you can find a topic or some common ground with a key decision-maker at the company to which you'd like to apply, you should in a respectful manner. Then, when you do send in your resume for a job opening, perhaps your new contact can have the hiring manager fast track it for you or even serve as a reference.

It's worth a shot.

4. Listen, Don't Just Sell Yourself

This one really shouldn't be unorthodox, but unfortunately that's where we're at nowadays when it comes to being a good listener.

There is so much pressure and an emphasis on always saying the right thing and having an answer ready to go, that we forget to listen -- and I mean really listen -- to what the interviewer is saying. Put yourself in the interviewer's shoes for a second. You're probably going to see dozens, if not hundreds of resumes and sit through many job interviews asking candidates the same questions and often getting stock answers back. And since job interviews are stressful for most people, a lot of the conversation is going to be forced with rehearsed answers being parroted back.

Try not to be that person. If you actually take the time to listen to the person talking to you instead of waiting for them to finish as you think of the thing you're going to say next, you might actually strike up and honest to goodness conversation with a genuine back and forth. And trust me, after going through dozens of interviews like a zombie, you're going to remember the person who took the time to listen to you and have a real-life conversation.

3. Target Specific Companies, Not Job Openings

If you're waiting for job openings before you get started, it's already too late.

First, find some companies for which you'd really like to work. Take some time and scout them out, find people who work there and try to include them in your network. Read up on the company and see what it's making news for at the time. Then use social media to talk a little shop with people there and come up with solutions, with no expectation of reward. I know that sounds counterintuitive to a point, but once you hone in on a place you really want to work and a job opening does come up, you'll be ahead of the game.

Also, even if the job opening doesn't fit you exactly, since you already have a preexisting relationship they're more apt to create a hybrid position for you that is more tailored to your strong suits.

2. It's Not Always About Following Your Passions

I know advice columns are usually filled with "do what you love" and "follow your dreams." But not this one. Not quite, anyway.

I mean hey, if you can follow your dreams and it leads you exactly where you want to go doing a job you genuinely love, then bravo. You are one lucky person, because for most people, it doesn't work like that. For instance, you might have to take something entry level that you don't really care for, if it fits your long-term plan of getting to a job you truly love and want to do. But more importantly, the simple truth of the matter is you might not even know what you're passionate about yet.

A whole bunch of workers out there started doing something that might've been outside of their comfort zone at first, but eventually they began to love it. Usually those jobs start with one set of job responsibilities and then shift over time until the person in them has created their dream job. You don't know what you're passionate about until you try a bunch of things.

1. Let Your Guard Down

This one can be slightly controversial because it goes against much of what we're supposed to do in job interviews.

We're led to believe it's absolutely vital to have all the answers to every question that is or could conceivably be asked during a job interview. To hesitate is weak, and to display any crack in the veneer of self-confidence is to lose. However, if you stop thinking of it as a battle and more like a learning experience, you can get out of that habit.

For instance, let's say you've followed earlier advice to network with people already at the company long before there's a job opening. Then, during the interview, you reference something that person did as a learning moment for you which you applied at a previous job. Although it wasn't originally your idea, you've now let your guard down enough to tell your interviewer you've done your research on the company, you have internal contacts, and you're open to new ideas. Those are positive traits hiring managers look for when filling job openings.

Time to Negotiate

Getting noticed is one thing, but negotiating a starting salary or a raise? That's a whole other story.

The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.

Good luck.