How To Land Your Dream Job: 3 Proven Strategies That Get Results

October 9
9 min read

Is it time to find a new job? 

We’ve all been there. 

Maybe you want to jump into a different field, make more money, or maybe you’re just ready to take that next step in your career. 

Whatever the reason, your job hunt will probably begin online -- where 75% of all job applications originate.

And who can blame them, technology makes it so easy!

You jump on LinkedIn or Indeed, browse through the job postings, and start firing off resumes. 

But here’s the cold, hard truth: when you’re applying to jobs online, the odds are not in your favor.

The average corporate job opening receives 250 resumes. Of those 250 applicants, only 4-6 will even get to the interview stage. 

So, assuming you’re qualified, there’s roughly a 2% chance your online application will lead to an interview. And the probability of landing that job is even lower.

Those numbers sound pretty bleak, but I’m not citing them to discourage you. Instead, I want to show you a different way...a better way to pursue your dream job.

I graduated from college back in 2013 with a 2.58 GPA, a biology degree, and a job in healthcare that I absolutely hated.

I knew I needed to make a switch, so I set my sights on tech. I submitted online apps to 300+ jobs over the next few months and I didn’t hear back from a single one.

If I wanted to be successful with my switch, I had to change my approach. 

I spent the next 12 months finding and refining an alternative approach to job searching that allowed me to land job offers at Google, Microsoft, and Twitter without applying online.

In this article, I’m going to share the three most effective strategies that helped me make that transition.

These are the same strategies I’ve used to help thousands of job seekers land jobs at places like Amazon, Facebook, Salesforce, SpaceX, Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, ESPN, and a whole lot more.

Strategy #1: Stop Applying to Jobs Online

This advice may seem counterintuitive because online applications have become so ingrained in our mindset. 

You may have even felt like applying online is your only option. After all, the job post says to apply with a copy of your resume and cover letter, right?

Here’s the thing -- every other applicant is going to be hitting that ‘Apply’ button too. 250 of them on average, remember?

If you’re doing the exact same thing as hundreds of other people, it’s incredibly hard to stand out. Wouldn’t you rather do something that sets you apart from the crowd

Also, you need to consider how you’re allocating your time. When you’re applying to jobs online, you’ll spend a lot of time combing through job posts, writing cover letters, filling out forms, etc. 

We’ve seen that online applications have a very low probability of leading to an interview. If there was a method with a higher success rate, you’d obviously want to shift your time and focus toward that channel. 

But what other channels are there? 

Employee Referrals: The #1 Source of New Hires

Let’s take another look at the stats. 

Despite 75% of job applications coming through an online channel, 40% of hires actually come from an employee referral (and that’s a conservative estimate -- other data shows that it can be as high as 80%!). 

Employee referrals lead to more new hires than any other source. 

Source: jobvite.com

You’re probably thinking, “Sure, a referral would be better than an online application. But to get a referral, you need to know someone who works at the company.” 

Not so fast!

Just because you don’t know someone right now, doesn’t mean we can’t connect with them and build a relationship to the point where they’re willing to refer us in.

And if we start with a blank canvas, we can build relationships with anyone we want! 

People like the hiring manager or a potential teammate who can not only refer you in, but advocate for you throughout the interview process too.

In the next two sections, I’m going to show you exactly how to do that.

Strategy #2: Build Relationships With People Who Can Influence Your Ability To Get Hired

Building relationships is critical if you want to land a position at a top-tier organization. 

This concept should form the core of your job-hunting mentality. 

Don’t be another resume in a stack of hundreds. Be a proactive, memorable individual who engages with and adds value to the company’s team members!

Ok, but how do I do that?

To start, let’s clarify who you shouldn’t be targeting. Don’t try to network with recruiters and HR professionals. Those folks are already inundated with job-seeking emails. 

On top of that, HR teams don’t have much influence over the hiring decision. They can refer you for an interview, but they won’t be in the room when the final choice is made. 

Instead, you should focus on the people you’d be working with directly if you got the job. 

Imagine yourself in the role you’re going after. Who would your manager be? Who would be sitting at the desk next to you?

Those are the people you want to shoot for because they are the ones can actually influence your ability to get hired.

Imagine someone sitting in the room where the final decision is being made saying, “Look, I know [Your Name] -- I’ve been having conversations with them over the past few weeks. They bring tremendous value to the table, we can’t afford to NOT hire them.”

That would be pretty awesome, right?

How To Find Those Decision Makers

Now that we know who to target, we have to get out there and find them!

LinkedIn is going to be your best friend during this initial scouting stage. You can leverage LinkedIn’s search bar to find employees who are one level above the role you want. 

For example, let’s say you’re gunning for a Product Marketing Manager role at Uber in San Francisco. The rank above that would be Senior Manager.

So, head up to the main search bar and type, “uber senior product marketing manager san francisco.”

Source: linkedin.com

Boom! 

Now you have a list of prime networking targets to reach out to. Once you’ve identified your targets, the next step is to obtain their email address

When it comes to outreach, you can use LinkedIn messages as a backup, but I recommend email as the primary approach -- you’ll see better results and more responses.

Finding Their Email Address

When you have a name, figuring out their corporate email address is usually pretty easy. 

That’s because most companies assign employee emails with a universal convention. There’s really only a handful of conventions to choose from. 

Here are 3 of the most common corporate email formats:

  • {firstname}.{lastname}@company.com
  • {f}{lastname}@company.com
  • {firstname}@company.com - common at smaller startups

If you want to avoid the guesswork, these handy tools that can help you determine the email convention:

VoilaNorbert - This convenient email lookup tool has a pricing plan, but new users get 50 email searches for free.

Hunter.io - This tool is similar to VoilaNorbert, but with one advantage: you don’t need to register to begin searching for emails! There are daily limits on free searches, but it’s still very effective.

When you think you’ve got it, you can head over to MailTester to confirm whether or not the address is legit. 

If it comes back ‘Valid,’ you’re good to go! If not, LinkedIn is a great backup.

Reaching Out & Building The Relationship

Now that you have their email, it’s time to reach out and start fostering a connection. 

You should NOT discuss the job opening during these initial interactions. That can be a big turn off and will totally kill your chances of getting replies.

Instead, the goal here is to get the person on the phone and learn more about their team’s current goals, challenges, and initiatives.

This is a “long game” approach—and it’ll pay big dividends down the road. Learning as much as possible about the team’s present goals/pain points will dramatically increase your chance of getting hired. More on that to come.

Before sending the email, do some research on the person you’re contacting. Look for articles they’ve published or social media posts related to their business. You can use that information to personalize your email.

Here’s an example of a personalized outreach email to get the conversation started:

Subject: Quick Question

Hi Quinn,

I hope your week is going well! I recently came across your blog post on the new product marketing tactics you’ve been using to drive user growth—fascinating read.

I hope you don’t mind me coming out of the blue, but I saw that you have a great deal of experience with product marketing at Uber. I’m really interested in that space and I’d love the opportunity to pick your brain/run a few questions by you (given your extensive marketing knowledge).

I’m sure you’re very busy, so please don’t feel the need for lengthy responses. If you do have a few minutes to chat, I’d be very grateful.

Best,

Austin

Again, the purpose of this meeting is to learn more about that team’s current goals, challenges, and initiatives. Pay special attention to the challenges. 

Above all else, make sure you ask this key question:

“What is the biggest challenge your team is facing right now?”

When you understand the team’s biggest challenge, you can propose tailored solutions to address that challenge. In other words, you can proactively add value.

Adding value is an essential component of this job-seeking approach. It’s the secret sauce that’ll make you stand out from the crowd in a very powerful way. 

Strategy #3: Deliver a Value Validation Project

This final piece is your chance to hit a home run. A Value Validation Project (VVP) is a deliverable that allows you to sell yourself and showcase your talents on your own terms. 

It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your value and tie your abilities to the company’s current needs.

A big downside to resumes and cover letters is that they only focus on your past.

If your experience doesn’t “check every box” (or you don’t position yourself well despite being qualified), there’s a good chance you’ll be overlooked right off the bat. 

Even if you do get in the door, you’ll spend the entire time defending your experience instead of focusing on the future.

On the flip side, a VVP will grab people’s attention for several reasons: 

  • It’s a unique tactic that very few other candidates are using
  • It shows how much thought and effort you’re putting into this opportunity
  • It illustrates the immediate value that you’ll bring to the team

Creating a VVP starts with deep research. Listen to the company’s earnings calls, read articles on Seeking Alpha, search for interviews with execs on YouTube, etc.

The more information you can arm yourself with, the better. 

Next, consider the challenge(s) you discussed with the team member from Strategy #2. Start brainstorming different ways you’d approach that problem. Once you’ve come up with some solid ideas, you’ll want to package those into a final presentation (your VVP).

The format that usually works best is a deck (PowerPoint) that follows this formula:

  1. Hook (i.e. a compelling title that’s laser-focused on the challenge). 
  2. Introduce the main idea, where you got it from, and provide some evidence. 
  3. Overview of the concepts/case studies you’re going to share.
  4. Walk through all the concepts in detail.
  5. End with an ‘About Me’ slide that links to your resume, LinkedIn, etc.

At its core, a Value Validation Project says, “Let me show you why I’m the best person for this role by demonstrating that I understand what you’re trying to accomplish. I understand XYZ initiative, I understand what the challenges are, and here are the ideas/mindset that I would bring to the table if I came on board. This is why you should hire me.”

Going The Extra Mile

By now, you’ve probably realized that these strategies aren’t quick, easy “hacks.” This methodology takes a lot of effort—and that’s the whole point. 

Remember, these roles receive an average of 250 resumes coming through those online portals. If you’re serious about landing a great job at an industry-leading company, you’ll need to separate yourself from the pack.

This approach is all about going the extra mile. 

If you want something you’ve never had, you need to do things you’ve never done. You need to go above and beyond, doing what the other 98% won’t even think to do. 

This notion isn’t limited to searching for a job—it applies to work and life in general. Great success comes from great effort, and relentless perseverance will be rewarded in the long run.

Now what are you waiting for? Go get after it!

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