Hire Away: 6 Ways to Position Yourself as a Desirable Job Candidate

April 1, 2019

It was almost too easy.

Many years ago during a period of unemployment, I attended a professional development luncheon sponsored by the local PRSA Chapter. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, I announced that I was seeking my next position.

Before the introduction chain reached the other side of the room, a principal of a local firm introduced himself and said he was hiring. We exchanged contact information and I emailed him my résumé. A few weeks later at a similar event, I found myself sitting next to a woman from the same firm. Fate, kismet — call it what you will. But the opportunity seemed meant to be. Indeed, I ended up working there for 11 years.

If only finding a job were always that easy. As a senior-level PR professional who’s been laid off numerous times, I also have many tales of my job-search woes, as you probably do, too.

For two different potential positions, I progressed through multiple rounds of interviews only to be told the job description had changed and I was no longer being considered. In one case I had a very complimentary telephone interview but later learned from my alumni association that the interviewer was a con artist trying to obtain credit card information (supposedly for membership fees that would later be reimbursed). 

Over the course of many job searches I began to realize that taking proactive steps to position myself as a desirable candidate — and letting others know I was looking for a job — would serve me far better than simply perusing employment listings and submitting online applications. Here are six ways you can likewise help yourself find your next career opportunity:

1. Network, network, network.

I found my last two positions through contacts I had made in the local PR community. One of those jobs came to me through the fortuitous experience described above, the other when two well-regarded agency owners recommended me for a position with their mutual client.

You never know where or when you might hear of a job opening, so network outside your profession as well as within it. The more people you stay in touch with (friends, neighbors, former coworkers, fellow volunteers, etc.), the better your chances of hearing about a job opening.

Just be careful not to come off as too needy or self-centered. As Forbes contributing writer John Hall wrote in an article about networking, “Give and you shall receive.” Before you ask anything of anyone, help them first.

2. Tell people.

There’s no shame in hunting for a job. It’s OK to tell people you’re looking, even in confidence to trusted individuals when you don’t want your current employer to know. Ask confidantes to keep an eye out for you, and promise to do the same for them. Over the years I’ve notified many colleagues of job openings I thought might suit them, and when the time came, they reciprocated the gesture.

If it’s public knowledge that you’re looking for a new position, then put the word out on your social media channels. You might be surprised by how many encouraging responses you’ll get.

3. Publish content.

Publish both owned and earned content. The former is easily done through your blog or LinkedIn profile, while the latter can be achieved by pitching and submitting articles to various media outlets.

Notice I didn’t confine this to professional articles in trade media. Write about your passions, experiences and opinions for publications interested in those topics.

During one job interview, the hiring manager surprised me by mentioning an essay I had written 12 years earlier, after my mother had passed away. He had found it on the website of a local publication, and we bonded briefly over the loss of our mothers.

4. Make presentations.

Another way to raise your profile when job hunting is to make presentations at professional and community functions such as luncheons, seminars and conferences. Provide value by sharing knowledge or case studies with your peers, or tips with community organizations such as chambers of commerce, student groups and civic clubs.

Besides helping you hone your public speaking skills, these types of opportunities can help you flex your professional muscles in the areas of proposal writing, researching and creating engaging presentations. I’ve presented on topics ranging from PR 101 and proofreading to crisis communications and preparing award entries.

Find topics related to your interests or personal brand and put yourself out there.

5. Increase your social media presence.

If you’ve published content you’re proud of, link to it from your social media accounts. Also follow, like, comment on, and share other people’s content that you find valuable. Do this for individuals and companies you admire, and for those you might like to work for one day. Participate in online forums, but always maintain a civil tone, even when you disagree with others.

6. Write letters.

In the electronic age, email messages can get lost in inboxes or be easily ignored. To make an impression, try writing letters to business owners or executives. Explain who you are and why you’re interested in them and their organizations. Ask for a simple informational interview at their office or a nearby coffee shop.

Many job openings are filled without ever being publicly announced — through referrals, internal candidates, previous applicants, etc. Companies love saving time and money by not paying for external job listings.

Consider sending letters to human-resources directors at companies where you’d like to work. Ask whether they have, or anticipate having, openings that match your skills and experience. Rather than include your résumé, offer to provide it later.

Promoting yourself as a desirable job candidate is like being your own publicist. Introduce yourself to people, develop and maintain relationships, add value, promote your work, and be gracious to those who have helped you.

Glenn Gillen, APR

Glenn Gillen, APR, is PR manager for WGU North Carolina. Email him at glenn.gillen@wgu.edu or find him on Twitter at @ggpr.


Katelin Davis says:

Great advice, Glenn!

April 4, 2019

Katie Laughlin says:

Awesome tips!

April 6, 2019

Tiara M Tucker says:

Thank you for this helpful and inspiring article, Glenn!

April 8, 2019

Jane Miller says:

Glenn, Are you guys hiring? Or do you know of openings in the Communications space? I'm putting your advice to practice! http://www.linkedin.com/in/janemiller

April 8, 2019

Donna S. Page says:

Thanks for writing this article. Great tips!

April 8, 2019

Nokubonga Tshabalala says:

This article is insightful and very helpful thank you for the advice.

April 17, 2019

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